To Northern Arizona University student Miché Lozano, 23, both the LGBTQ community and the immigrant community have something in common: a fight for respect and human rights. To Lozano, immigration reform would help protect a vulnerable population, including those immigrants who also identify as LGBTQ. One of Lozano’s goals is to someday work with Mariposas Sin Fronteras (“Butterflies Without Borders”) in Tucson, a group that provides bail for LGTBQ undocumented immigrants who have been detained. “The organization is really cool; they help a lot of people,” Lozano says. “Some of these people that they’ve helped have these stories about how awful detention was for them and [have] shared the deeply personal and terrifying experiences they endured.
It’s even worse when you’re also a minority within a minority.
“It’s bad enough that you’re an immigrant in a strange new country, where you don’t know the common language, and you’re living in constant fear because of how the government treats you,” Lozano says. “But it’s even worse when you’re also a minority within a minority. A lot of transgender people who are undocumented get put into the wrong gender prison areas. If you put a transgender woman in with a bunch of heteronormative machista dudes in the prison, they’re going to have a bad time.”
Listening to the experiences of those detainees left a deep impression on Lozano, an LGBTQ advocate who intentionally uses the gender-neutral pronouns “they” and “their.” “I would like to use my privilege as a documented American citizen to help people who aren’t, who don’t have that privilege.” Supporting immigrant rights runs parallel to supporting LGBTQ rights, Lozano believes.
Lozano was born in Mexico and was brought to the United States legally at age two. The family settled in hot, arid Yuma, Arizona, and Lozano grew up with a feeling of being ambicultural. “My family came into the States for work,” they recalled. “I remember going back and forth between the two countries. My mother and father were field workers in the fields of lechuga (lettuce).”
Today, Lozano studies conservation biology and environmental science at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff. There, Lozano is a member of the school’s rock climbing club and also volunteers at the Flagstaff Climbing Center as an instructor. Lozano is also a certified Wilderness First Responder.
Lozano says many immigrant Latino families aren’t so enthusiastic about nature. “They work so hard to have a roof over their heads, so they think, ‘Why would I want to go camping and live like a homeless person?’” Lozano says. Lozano tries to help the community better appreciate the environment by serving as an ambassador for Latino Outdoors, a nonprofit that gives underrepresented groups a chance to explore the outdoors. Part of this work is community outreach and battling preconceived notions of what can happen when people go outside. “A lot of people I’ve met don’t want to go hiking because they’re afraid of getting lost, or encountering wild animals, or getting bit by something. It’s just all these negative stigmas. They don’t know that it’s not as dangerous as they’ve been led to believe.” Working as an ambassador, Lozano also provides opportunities for self-growth by blending multiple passions: social justice, environmentalism, conservation, wildlife-appreciation, and exposing people to nature.
Lozano realizes that U.S. citizenship can actually help people ease into new experiences, like getting outdoors, since those who lack legal permission to be in the United States fear detection from authorities. “I’m an immigrant myself,” Lozano says. “I have the privilege of being documented. That is a huge privilege that gives me many advantages that undocumented people don’t have. I think that it’s miserable that people are unable to live their lives fully and completely free.”