Marco Antonio Quiroga was brought to New York from Peru at the age of three by his mother, who was fleeing an abusive husband. In Queens, Quiroga’s mother taught him to live in the shadows. She taught him that revealing his status as an undocumented migrant would put the whole family in jeopardy.
So when Quiroga realized he was gay, he was already practiced in keeping secrets.
“That was a big struggle for me,” he says. “I had to hide myself from society and I also had to hide the fact that I was gay because I could lose the only support system I had in this world through my family.”
Quiroga's work as a national organizer for Immigration Equality, an LGBT immigrant advocacy group, draws heavily from his experiences "coming out" as both undocumented and gay.
He decided to come out as undocumented in college when he started organizing DREAMers in a movement to demand the right to higher education. Coming out as undocumented exposed him and his family to Immigration Customs Enforcement, but for Quiroga the risk was worth taking.
“It was still much more of a taboo being an undocumented immigrant than being an LGBT identified person,” Quiroga said.
The DREAMers organizing efforts paid off when President Obama issued an executive action deferring immigration removals of young undocumented immigrant students.
Understanding the fear of living in the shadows is central to Quiroga’s work. Many LGBT immigrants have stories about how they were harassed, abused, and brutally assaulted because of their sexual identity back home.
“For many LGBT immigrants, deportation can be a death sentence,” Quiroga said.
“The shadow you live in consumes you,” Quiroga said. “I would rather take the risk than living the way I was living.”
Kristofer Ríos is a producer with Univision Documentales and a visual journalist at Fusion. Kristofer has a Masters in Science in Journalism from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He loves music. And he loves his dog Peanut.