Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Pete F.'s Story: Speaking Out for the First Time

[Out4Immigration has members all over the world. We encourage you to tell your story about the challenges of being in a same-sex binational relationship and how you are coping with the broken US immigration system that refuses to recognize our relationships. Today we have a guest blog post from Pete F., who tells us what it felt like to speak out for his rights, our rights, for the first time. We hope it will inspire more people to get active!]

Guest post by Pete F.

My name is Pete and I live in Connecticut. My partner is Chinese and lives in China.

Earlier this month I had the privilege of meeting my Congressman, Chris Murphy (D-CT), and spoke to him about the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA). Congressman Murphy initiated the meeting by reaching out to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) asking them to gather together leaders of the LGBT community in Connecticut to talk about issues that are important to the LGBT community in the state. They wanted people to talk about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT), the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), the Student Non-Discrimination Act, and of course UAFA.

HRC had reached out to Tom Tierney from Out4immigration who reached out to me, knowing that I lived in the Congressman’s district. I was asked to speak about UAFA because I am in a bi-national same-sex relationship. I've never done anything like this before. I was definitely nervous. But over the phone, Tom helped me with a draft of the statement I planned to read, and on the day of the meeting, Congressman Murphy arrived and introduced himself to each of us who were there to speak. He is friendly to our cause and was relaxed and approachable. This was a good thing – because instead of letting me just read the statement about UAFA that I had prepared, Congressman Murphy asked me to simply tell my story.

Luckily, having spent so much time practicing my statement I had a good grasp of what I wanted to say. Yes, I know I left some things out. Yes, my presentation wasn’t as polished as it would have been had I been able to read from my prepared statement. However, the most important thing is that the Congressman heard my story; he heard OUR story; and seemed to understand what we are up against. He said that he would review UAFA again. He did not make a commitment to sign on as a cosponsor, but, with luck, he will. I’ll be able to follow up with his staff person for immigration in the future to see what he has decided.

I came out of this meeting with the following thoughts and feelings:
•I had an overwhelming sense of pride to be in the company of the other activists who spoke that day who are standing up for themselves and for us.
•Congressman Murphy is a friend to the LGBT community who understands and sympathizes with what we are up against. He spoke easily and knowledgeably about each of the topics. At the end of the day, my impression is that he clearly "gets it."
•If we don’t ask for the support of our leaders in federal, state, and local government, we won’t get their support. Congressman Murphy said that there are so many bills introduced that it’s impossible to assess and cosponsor them all, even though many of them may have merit. If we bring UAFA to the attention of our representatives in Congress and the Senate, they will have reason to review and possibly cosponsor.
•It’s not easy to open yourself up to an experience such as this. I felt many emotions: I felt anxious, vulnerable and exposed. But I also felt proud, welcome, and, in the end: satisfied.
I did my best at this meeting and next time I think I will be able to do even better. I urge you to get involved if you are able. Keep signing Out4immigration’s weekly letters to Congress at Change.org. That is so very important and so easy to do. (You can even uncheck the box so no one can see your name online.) Get a friend or loved one to sign them too. Keep telling people about UAFA. Keep telling your stories. Keep writing and calling our government leaders. We are the only ones that can make our lives what we want them to be.

[Thank you, Pete! Do you have a story to share? Please email kathy@out4immigration.org - because these stories will be featured as guest blog posts, they need to be 650 words or less. We know that's not a lot of space, but we can work with you to edit them to still be effective. We have no more powerful tool to raise awareness than our stories. Please think about sharing yours.]

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