Today, the Dreamers won.

President Obama announced a few hours ago that he will issue a directive giving Dreamers – undocumented immigrants who came into the country as children, and who are currently under 30 – two years of deferred action (making them safe from deportation) and permission to work.  This includes nearly all of the youths who have been at the forefront of the fight against HB87 here in Georgia, and those who have been fighting for legalization across the country.

The Dreamers did not win because they signed online petitions and made phone calls – though they certainly did flood immigration officials with phone calls whenever one of them was placed into deportation proceedings. The did not win because they wrote well-researched op-eds about the impact of deporting these young people who are American in everything but legal status – though they certainly did get the message across, eloquently and well.

They won because they put their bodies on the line.   

Starting in 2010 with the first Coming Out of the Shadows week of action in Chicago, undocumented youths completely changed the immigration debate by publicly declaring themselves to be undocumented.  Taking a cue from the LGBTQ movement’s emphasis on coming out, the undocumented youths in Chicago replaced data and legal arguments with their bodies, themselves.

The undocumented youth movement escalated through the next two years, conducting protests where their arrests put them at risk of deportation.  This past week, starting in Denver and spreading across the U.S., the undocumented youths occupied Obama campaign offices and went on hunger strike.

Faced with the spectacle of fresh faced youths wasting away in his campaign offices, Obama did the right thing.  He caved.

There are significant flaws in Obama’s directive, and more importantly, this fight is about twenty years from being over, but there’s no doubt that by moving themselves from being online to being on the street, Dreamers won this round with a solid left hook to the heart.

What’s this got to do with queerfit?  We all sign petitions, make phone calls, forward emails, submit comments, and hit “disagree” on FOX 5’s online polls.  Well and good, but even gooder is to remember that nothing worth winning has ever been won by retweeting.  Every significant protest in history has been a protest of the body.

In 2006, on May Day, millions of undocumented immigrants across the country came out of hiding and took to the streets.

In 1992, ACT UP threw the ashes of loved ones who had died from AIDS-related illness on the White House lawn.

In 1989, an unknown man stood in front of an approaching column of 17 tanks in Tiananmen Square and refused to move.

In 1969, queers and transfolk at Stonewall Inn refused to submit to a police raid and incited a riot.

In 1961, more than 300 Freedom Riders in Jackson, Mississippi deliberately broke the state’s segregation laws and were sentenced to prison terms in Parchman Farm Prison.

In 1955, Rosa Parks sat in the front seat of a Montgomery bus and refused to move.

In 1934, longshoresmen up and down the west coast walked out on strike, and spent the next three months in street battles with police.

And so on.

It is decidedly uncomfortable to put your body in protest. Getting arrested is frightening. Getting beat up is painful. Confronting an elected official on his/her home turf sends your heart pounding.  Just showing up, in person and in living color, can be distressing.

What we do at queerfit is willingly and repeatedly make our selves intensely uncomfortable, in order to make ourselves stronger.  Put another way, we’re practicing being uncomfortable in our bodies.  That, in and of itself, is not going to change the world for the better. But it will help get us more comfortable with the discomfort that’s required to change the world for the better.

Let’s get physical. Let’s get uncomfortable.  Put your shorts & shoes by your bed before you go to sleep tonight, & we’ll see you tomorrow!