Gay and Undocumented: Some, Like Dagoberto Bailón, Must Come Out Twice

Dusk is falling quickly as Dagoberto Bailón steps forward and stands in the middle of a circle of people gathered outside the state Capitol on a Friday last October. He asks those around him if anyone would like to go first. It's National Coming Out Day, and Bailón assures them this is a safe space.

He looks around and sees that most people are staring everywhere but at him and some have even taken steps back. He shakes his head and mutters that he'll go first. After a deep breath and a quick look at the sky, he says, "My name is Dagoberto Bailón, and today I choose to come out of the closet as an undocumented man and a gay man."

For a second, the people around him stay silent, but loud clapping soon fills the space. Once it's gone, people step forward and start coming out, one by one. Bailón, meanwhile, looks at each of them proudly. It has been a successful event for Arizona's Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project.


See a slideshow to accompany this story.


For most people, coming out of the closet is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For Bailón, it had to be done twice.

The first time happened in 2006 when voters passed Proposition 300, a measure that forbids students who cannot prove their lawful presence in the United States from getting financial aid or classification for in-state tuition. Bailón was a freshman at Phoenix College. The news effectively meant he had to leave college. Bailón immediately knew he wanted to join the fight for the education of undocumented students, but doing so meant publicly admitting his immigration status.

With almost no hesitation, Bailón became one of the hundreds of "DREAMers" who took to the streets and Internet to tell the world they were undocumented and unafraid.

The second time happened almost four years later. It was a Tuesday evening and his parents were watching telenovelas at the family's home. They had been wondering why their son kept pacing outside the room. By 9 p.m., Bailón had made up his mind. He stood in front of his parents and told them he was gay. Eneida, his mother, immediately burst into tears. Ranferi, his father, kept shaking his head, saying, "Don't be playing."

Each time, Bailón would respond, "I'm not playing."

That night, Bailón fled his home and ended up at a park. There, he cried for hours. The tears were not out of sadness, he says, but out of a sense of freedom that for the first time in almost 25 years made him feel light.

A year later, in 2011, Bailón joined Arizona's Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project. The chapter was just starting. Today, there are more than 70 members locally and nine chapters nationally.

"I think when we talk about immigration reform, we tend to overlook intersections," Bailón says. "I believe QUIP points out those things we don't really want to talk about. I think it's important as humans we start learning and embracing the different identities we have."

For Dagoberto Bailón, these days that even means appearing in drag as Melissa.


Born in 1986 in a town of 300 people in the state of Guerrero, Mexico, Bailón spent the first six years of his life in a town where the only technology available was one phone and a black-and-white TV.

"It's something out of a movie," he says. The townspeople, who were either related to him or thought of themselves as family, knew everyone else's business.

Among those 300 lived Amancio, Bailón's uncle and a transgender woman. Bailón does not know her transgender name, as he never thought to ask, but remembers her as young and flamboyant. Amancio was an off-limits subject to all in the town, most of whom were Catholic and conservative. In the town, the word joto, a pejorative term for a gay man, replaced Amancio. It soon became Bailón's greatest fear to be called that.

"I just remember somebody told me, 'If you keep acting like that, you are going to end up like your uncle,'" he says. "I knew that nobody really liked him so I didn't want to end up like him. After that, I paid attention to every move and to every detail to make sure I was acting manly."

When Bailón was 6, he and his brother left for America. A year earlier, their mother had come to the United States to work and be with the kids' father, but she missed her children so much that she called for them, despite the obvious risks.

To get to Arizona, Bailón had to walk for more than seven hours. He describes it as an expedition. Coming from a town with tropical weather, the red landscape of the desert was fascinating.

On the other side, Bailón's mom and dad were waiting for them. Before then, the couple had been living in Atlanta but moved to Arizona so that the brothers' trip would not be as long.

While the kids had grown up with their mom, Eneida, it was another story with Ranferi, their father. He had never spent time with his sons, and the introduction was awkward. Bailón remembers seeing a man who looked just like him and not getting used to the idea of calling him dad until a few months had passed.

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39 comments
robert_graham
robert_graham

He should be "coming out" in Mexico, not here! HE'S ILLEGAL!

donnied1
donnied1

Timely story! Great job...

saddayforaz
saddayforaz

I hope AZ loses the super bowl 2015 in Glendale,

IS Super bowl a BUSINESS?  are football players coming out of the closet?

Take the super bowl somewhere else, AZ is too small minded , too back words.

They will never be progressive .

downtownbrown
downtownbrown

What does he want? a medal? Oh just a free pass to citizenship and all the benefits he didn't earn.  Sale!

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

Who gives a rusty rat's ass?  Hard up for things to write about?  Pushing an agenda?


Fedra Poppen
Fedra Poppen

Just read the piece today, if you re going to make negative comments please go somewhere else, I just can't imagine the hardship of going through all this, as a parent and a Hispanic myself I was very touched with this story, it's ridiculous to think about deportation when this is his home country, he didn't choose to come here, very easy to turn your head the other way but it is harder when you put a face in the issue, I really hope there's a positive outcome for Dagoberto, I really wish him the best. Great article!

armandocdll81
armandocdll81

Does that mean we get to deport these losers twice? 

dkessler4
dkessler4

I am sick of the intolerance and hatred that is perpetrated in Arizona by religious causes anchored in our legislature.  It's time that we all got together and took care of the bullies on the playground...


Don't forget kiddies, you can't spell CRAZY without R-AZ.  Vote democrat the first chance you get for a tolerant Arizona.  

mrh0202201091
mrh0202201091

WELL IF YOU WOULD GET OFF THE COMPUTER EVERY ONCE IN A WHILE AND GO TO WORK...THEIRE WOULD 'NT BE A NEED TOO FILL YOUR JOB NOW WOULD THEIR.

Da_Coach_K
Da_Coach_K

First, Mexico send us the illegals who take their checks and send them to Mexico.
Now, they send us their queers too.

Jim Thomas
Jim Thomas

only need to deport him once thow!!!

jerseypeer
jerseypeer

Thanks, and God Bless. I know some pretty awful hetros, why are they any better than the alternative lifers? Let everyone not hurt anyone, but maintain law and order, period!

jerseypeer
jerseypeer

There are a lot of sickos on this site. Its the ILLEGAL part that's the crime, dummies. What do you care what he does behind doors, sickos!

Eric Selin
Eric Selin

seriously? undocumented is enough for me, ship it home. "come out twice?" I'd settle for get out, once.

john043012
john043012 topcommenter

It must be a slow Week at M.C.S.O.

Kenny Benally
Kenny Benally

Kinda erks me that they're glorifying him coming into this country illegally.

Bubba8989
Bubba8989

"My name is Dagoberto Bailón, and today I choose to come out of the closet as an undocumented man and a gay man."

Turn the dogs loose.

Dan Mercado
Dan Mercado

His sexual orientation is irrelevant: come to this great country legally, or GTFO. Comprende?

DNichols
DNichols

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu is probably frothing at the mouth over this article?

fishingblues
fishingblues topcommenter

"... if you re going to make negative comments please go somewhere else..."    Golly Pop, in your bigoted world,  can people only make comments that YOU agree with?  

armandocdll81
armandocdll81

@dkessler4  In the meantime, kiddies, if you're feeling a little ashamed of the fact that your lawless parents smuggled you across the border  a good remedy for your woes would be to man up and return to home. That way NO ONE can accuse you of being an document-challenged euphemism! 

dkessler4
dkessler4

@mrh0202201091  You must have gone to school in Arizona.  You don't know where the caps lock is and you can't spell...

lisalisanoneya
lisalisanoneya

@mrh0202201091  Yep that is funny how they can take the spotlight off what they themselves are doing.And i thought freedom of the press in the constitution meant fair and balanced coverage. Not side with one segment of the community over the other.

danzigsdaddy
danzigsdaddy topcommenter

@jerseypeer  everybody is entitled to their own lifestyle, as long as it doesnt hurt anyone. it may not be the lifestyle for me, but then again my lifestyle isnt what they prefer either. good for you for taking the high road

armandocdll81
armandocdll81

Big applause - now take your bow and go home!

armandocdll81
armandocdll81

A six-year old is not a six-year old forever.  Hopefully that child matures a little as the years go by and realizes that his parents broke the law to misappropriate a life in America that was meant for someone else - someone with ethics, skills and respect. 

mrh0202201091
mrh0202201091

@lisalisanoneya @coachwkr1   The Reality is. That many migrants are threatened to be killed if They do not comply with the demands of kidnappers.And unfortunately sometimes that means torture for them and there Familys.WHILE MANY HERE ARE LAUGHING AND THINKING THIS IS A GAME. IT is not a game to those that know the truth.

yourpoprock
yourpoprock

@dkessler4  And you can't spam repeatedly without looking as pathetic as you do dkessler...

dkessler4
dkessler4

@mrh0202201091  Anybody that wants to can stop the hatred and intolerance in the legislature in Arizona that characterizes mrh0202201091.  Get all the kids together and lets thump the bullies.


Remember you can't spell CRAZY without R-AZ. Vote democratic for a more tolerant Arizona where everyone including our legislature and the attorney general have to obey the law.

 
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