Friday, July 29, 2011

What Kind of Fresh Gay Hell is This? (OR Why are you in Germany, Snooker?)

Today I received an email from Democrats Abroad (the overseas branch of the US Democratic Party). In it was a warning that discussed how the consulate services would change for people wanting to bring foreign family with them when they move back to the U.S.

In that letter was a simple text which caught my eye, "We have a long-standing commitment as Democrats Abroad to simplifying the path to citizenship and legal permanent residency for non-American spouses and close family members".

Uh huh... and gay and lesbian spouses?
Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot?

I did a little Googling and found not so much as a
news piece on how DA is supporting legislation in the House and Senate right now... the Uniting American Families Act of 2011.  

OK, so I don't regularly pump money into the DA, but I do support them occasionally. Upon reading this email, I am struck by the notion of  "What have you done for me lately, DA?"

I'll give DA a break because actually there are relatively few people/organizations who care about my plight. But before I delve deeper into my special situation, perhaps you should know more about it. Let's go to bullets, shall we?
  • Fell in love with a German girl in 2000
  • She came to visit me in the States often in 2001 and 2002, I also visited her in Berlin during these years
  • Tried to legally have her move to America starting in 2003 with a student visa (no other legal methods available - university is free or cheap in Germany, but we are willing to pay for the education if it means we can be together).
  • Based on the fact that she had entered the country six times in the past two years she was considered a "risk of overstay" and denied a student visa which also cancels her out of the visa waiver program forever... she can't come to America for at least year because of this denial. 
  • Shortly after the denial she pays more money for the privilege to go to the Consulate - armed with proof that she intends to return to Germany - to appeal the denial of both the student visa and the visa waiver program.
  • She met with the same woman who had denied the original request... you guessed it, denied once again. (K**** ******, if Sweet No ever sees you on the street, she won't be such a Sweet No anymore.)
  • On the other side of the Atlantic, I tried Lambda Legal Defense who told me that if either she or I had a penis, this would all be really easy... but gays can't petition to bring their future spouses to America... Sorry Snooker.
  • Found out that the states which have recently been allowing gay marriage have nothing to do with our situation. Immigration is at the Federal level, and thanks to the Defence of Marriage Act, (DOMA) the feds (and the other states) don't have to recognize any homosexual marriage performed in those states, not to mention other countries. Sorry again, Snooker.
  • Tried a shyster immigration lawyer who was happy to take my money and petition "da gubermint" for us, but to no avail.
  • Sweet No goes back to the American Consulate in Berlin after her year banishment from travel to America and meets up with a nice guy who seems to sense her desperation and takes pity on her, issuing her a 10 year "B1/B2 visa", allowing her to travel to the States again, and with much more lenient travel restrictions (maximum length of stay 6 months instead of the normal 3 months). 
  • Happy Dance... but still, it doesn't REALLY keep us together.
  • Sweet No wants to work and be a contributing member of society, just coming in for VISITS is simply frustrating. Of course entering and overstaying illegally are not even up for consideration. 
  • In 2004 I got sick and tired of watching my girl walking to airport security through the tears in my eyes and decided to move to Germany to be with her. FuckYouWashington
  • Sold everything, gave up my career, said goodbye to friends and family in preparation to leave.
  • 2005 the cat and I leave the "Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave" to be in Germany which accepts my love of a woman. Germany also allows me to have a "separate, but equal" civil partnership with Sweet No. Immigration is pretty much the only benefit of the Lebenspartnerschaft, but it was a good thing in our case. (Thankfully the Greens keep making another go of equalizing this situation in Germany, maybe some day they will get lucky.)
  • January of 2005 we signed our civil partnership and had our - yes, we share a birthday - birthday on that same day. Great birthday present, no?
  • Because of her special visa we are rather lucky, she isn't under suspicion as are many others in our situation. If foreign same-sex spouses come to the United States accompanying a U.S. citizen, (even for a short visit of the U.S. citizen's family), U.S. Immigration might deny visa privileges to the spouse out of fear that they will be tempted to overstay their visa dates to remain in the country with their spouse (perhaps even challenging the anti-gay marriage laws as we are LEGALLY partnered in another country). Thus, gays and lesbians (especially politically active ones) have been known to be turned away at the gates.
  • Wish us luck, that visa expires in just a few years. (update, she was given the same visa again, so no problems there)
In the end I had to face lots of the same problems as other "love exiles". I had to give up my career and move far away from my family. This is being felt even more now that my Mother is dealing with declining health and I would like to be there for her. But as it is, if I need to be in the U.S. for a longer period of time, I have to choose between being with my wife or being with my American family. It's really rather unfair, and it makes me into a second-class citizen... one who STILL needs to pay American taxes even though I don't live in the country. 

So where are you going with this, Snooker? 
I really don't know. It is just that something has been awakening in me lately.

Political cartoon by Darrin Bell
Political cartoon by Darrin Bell
Those who came before helped to blaze the trail for me and others like me to be openly gay, often at great personal sacrifice to themselves. Those pissed off queens turning the tables on police during a scam raid on the Stonewall Inn in the late '60's and starting the "Gay Revolution" are a fine example.

Barbara Gittings and her friends stood up and said that they wouldn't take being considered second class citizens - and worse yet, mentally unstable - during the '60's (which lead The American Psychiatric Association to officially declassify homosexuality as a mental illness in 1974 - but it wasn't until 1992 that the World Health Organisation followed suit). The good people of GLAAD and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force have done so much to further the cause. And who could forget Harvey Milk and the work he did for the community before being gunned down himself.

Let's not forget the organizations working tirelessly on this very topic:
Immigration Equality Action Fund
Out4Immigration
Love Exiles Foundation

So what are you doing, Snooker? is a question I often ask myself. Yeah, I'm living pretty well, but only because I ran. I am part of a US binational same-sex couple who had the money and ability to simply move away from the situation and now the whole anti-gay thing doesn't have so much of a grip on me.

This has reminded me of a book I have recently seen advertised, "Torn Apart - United by Love, Divided by Law" by Judy Rickard. Perhaps I should just order it now, proceeds go to organizations working to overcome U.S. immigration denial for same-sex binational couples. (tick, tock... time passes... cue shot to a clock with moving pendulum) OK, the Internet has worked its magic. The book is probably whizzing my way right now. It was even available at Amazon.de.  

But what about the others? What about those folks left behind who would like to have the same rights as the supposed "normal" people in our society? What about those kids right now who are counting on my generation to do our part to further gay civil rights to benefit their generation? UGH, that is a terrible weight to bear. But I say here and now that I will do more towards this goal. I DO still have a vote in American politics (my wallet feels it, even if I sometimes don't), I DO still have a voice in what happens. Perhaps I just need to raise that voice a bit more often.

Any suggestions how I can do that?
post signature

10 comments:

cliff1976 said...

I am glad you posted this, although simultaneously sad and frustrated your behalves.

I'm attending the Democrats Abroad fundraiser at the Wiesn (a.k.a. Oktoberfest) this Fall in Munich, and I will ask about getting more involved (even from over here in Regensburg) in order to get topics I consider important pushed up toward the top of the agenda.

I have explained to my mom that I sure don't feel motivated to return to the U.S.A. with the political climate of George W. Bush and Aftermath. She counters that, justifiably, with a question about how it'll ever get better if the unsatisfied voters are not active in the struggle for positive change.

I don't envy the choice you are forced to make.

Hugs from Regensburg,
Cliff

The Honourable Husband said...

Snooks,

Don't get me started...

Activism or escape? Activists in exile are often the most potent.

If you want to support activism on this issue, perhaps the IEAF is worthy.

http://immigrationequalityactionfund.org/

Much to share on this subject when we next speak.

Love to you and No.

sarah1976 said...

Hi Snooks and Sweet No,

I forget that you are essentially exiled from the U.S. due to discrimination. This makes me indescribably sad, because even though I live in Germany and love it here, I am an American, through and through. I hate feeling shame for the unjust practices in which my country engages.

I love you both dearly (you too, HH and Master Right!), and if there's anything we can do to make a difference - petitions to sign, representatives to contact, etc. - please let us know. It's shaming for all Americans, gay and straight, to force others into what is essentially a life of political asylum, to just have a normal life with the person you love.

Maria said...

Change is alarmingly slow. And yet, I have friends who have the audacity to say things to me like: "Well, just think1 Just 30 years ago, everyone hated gays and now you are like everyone's favorite choice of a friend! Look at that guy on Will and Grace! He was so funny!"

Seriously. I have had this said to me by a marginally good friend. Seriously.

Goofball said...

I had no idea that they even stop tourist visa etc if you've visited to often. What a paranoia


so how does it go for non-gay couples that do not have the intention to marry ....can they still be together? (not saying that that would be good, just trying to understand whether the discrimination is between non-married couples (and you're not even allowed to marry) or truly even more aimed at gay couples).

And if Sweet no first got a job & a green card? Would she still be blacklisted?

Snooker said...

@ Cliff
Your Mom is a smart one, eh?
I will also get more involved in DA, it should be interesting.

@ HH
I'm looking forward to the conversation. WEBMU?

@ Sarah
(((HUG))) Thank you!

@ Maria
I'm just so tired of WAITING!

@ Goofball
It wasn't a regular tourist visa, she was asking for a student visa.
As for non-gay, boyfriend/girlfriend only, that doesn't work. It is pretty much marriage only. The straights could "invite" a person who will eventually be the person they are getting married to... then there is a certain amount of time they have to get married... but I have no idea how long that time is.
As for No getting a Green Card, it would have been a lottery situation with not much chance of wining or she would have needed a company to sponsor her which would have been expensive for the company and not really possible since she was just starting higher education... she wasn't really qualified for much, let alone something sooo special that a company would go out of their way to hire her.

AstroYoga said...

One sign that things may be heading more towards equality in the US was the new paperwork for reporting the birth of a child abroad. In 2009, the forms required a father and a mother. In 2011, that form has changed to list two "mother/father/parent" for a child.

I think the rpeal of DOMA will be on the agenda in the next year, but who knows.

The Honourable Husband said...

Wasn't that impressed with Torn Apart, Snooks. What say ye?

Snooker said...

@ Astro Yoga
Ah yes... bureaucracy is the dipstick by which we measure change. :)

@ HH
The book wasn't incredible, or mind-blowing my any means. It was simply a series of stories of people living lives just like you and me...
All in all, I am happy that the stories are getting out there.

sofie said...

I must start off that I agree with this post, in fact I found your perspective interesting, valuable and very relatable.
Now I am making an effort to make a comment because I'm a fan, who's hurt that a blogger I enjoyed posted such an appalling and insensitive statement:

Your bio stated:
"So many do-nothing, lazy people crossing the borders illegally to suck from the American teat, and I can’t get my highly-trained, hard-working girlfriend to America."

I was APPALLED. I will respect your views on Immigration Issues, however I unreasonably assumed you were a progressive liberal because we're lesbian.
Reflect, are you an American sucking on Germany's teat of socialized healthcare and taxes, liberal civil rights, and benefits? Are you a lazy do-nothing who crossed Germany's border, or are you a highly-trained, hard-working girlfriend?
I am just reminding you to not make such generalizing claims, especially since you are (or once was) a foreign immigrant in Germany.