Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A fight worth fighting- one same sex Binationals couples story

Below is a story of Cozie_way - a same sex binational couple. We are crossposting it from her blog with permission. Their story is not dissimilar from other same sex binational couples! We need congress to act now with the passage of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) as well as pass Comprehensive Immigration Reform that includes LGBT Families!

It started out so innocently. We were two people who met online by sharing the same eccentric love for the band My Chemical Romance. We both had a fan site dedicated to them on MySpace. Somehow the discussions turned into flirting but it was still very cryptic and unclear as to if it was in actuality flirting. I had been out of my previous relationship for over a year, a relationship which had lasted for 6 which had caused me a great deal of disillusionment. I had no ill will towards him but in order to help me recover from the sadness I became incredibly obsessed with My Chemical Romance, which had led me to create the fan site. Katie had been single as well for a little while after going through a much more devastating break up with her ex-boyfriend. So here we were two women finally being OK with being single but suddenly finding ourselves flirting online. It was harmless enough especially since I lived in California and she was thousands of miles away in England.

I don’t easily become attracted to anyone and I’m not the kind of person who falls in love at the drop of the hat, but I found myself thinking about her all the time. We still only spoke to each other online but I would have butterflies in my stomach waiting for her to go online every day. It was the highlight of my day and I was thankful she was willing to stay up so late to wait for me to get off of work to talk since we did have an 8 hour time difference. Then one day we decided she would fly out here to California to visit for a week. It was becoming surreal. Could this be happening? I kept wondering if she was beginning to have feelings for me but I didn’t have the courage to ask. I tried to convince myself that she did since I couldn’t find any other reasonable explanation for why she would travel so far and at the high price of airline tickets just to visit someone she barely knew. I must have spent weeks trying to make my apartment and myself presentable. I wanted everything to be perfect.

Even up to the moment we met at the airport in San Francisco, the butterflies continued to stampede my stomach and my nerves were manic. Then the moment when I saw her beautiful face and her engaging eyes in person I had fallen deeply in love. It may sound cliché to say love at first sight but that was what it was and that is what I feel everyday even now, three years later, when I come home and see her.

During the past three years Katie and I have developed a loving committed relationship despite the many obstacles we have faced in just trying to be together. Within the first six months of our relationship Katie spent thousands of dollars in airfare to fly back and forth to the US to be with me.

In the Spring of 2008 Katie came over on a 3 month visitor’s VISA which gave our relationship a sense of normalcy. We mostly lived off of my salary since Katie was unable to work while in the United States but we made the best of it since at least we were together. But once again, we were forced to say goodbye, unknowing the next time we would be able to see each other again. The heartache of consistently saying goodbye to the person you love with the uncertainly of knowing when you would be reunited again is devastating. Every time we had to say goodbye became harder and harder. My whole body would hurt from sadness and life seemed meaningless without her beside me.

Katie was able to return to the United States for a short visit again in December 2008 which added more debt to her bank account. It is important to point out that neither one of us are wealthy by any means, but our situation was uniquely special in the way that Katie had a savings nest egg where I unfortunately was practically living paycheck to paycheck despite having a good paying job.

After much discussion and debate Katie and I decided that she would try to come over the United States under a student visa. As a 27 year old college graduate the prospects of returning to college was not Katie’s preferential method of returning to the United States but with limited options it seemed the only one available to us that would allow her to remain in the United States longer than three months. We learned quickly that this would be a challenging and an expensive expedition. A great deal of research went into finding courses and a college that would be suitable for Katie’s interest and then we were informed of the how much International students must pay to attend the college.

She attended a local Community college where US citizens pay only around $20 per unit, but charges over $200 a unit for International student who are required by law to have at least 12 units per semester. In order to be accepted to the college, an International student must also prove that that have at least $10, 000 dollars saved in the bank to ensure the student does not become a burden to the state. Then there are the hundreds of dollars that must go into obtaining the Visa through an official embassy. Once we were able to fulfill the entire requirements I flew over to the UK, spending over $1000 for an airline ticket, to travel back with Katie to the United States.

Over the year while Katie attended college, we lived on a limited budget as once again only I was eligible to work. Living as a two income family would have put us in a better position to live more comfortably but since the laws forbid Katie to work while on a student Visa we were forced to live by minimum means. After bills and rent we were forced to live on an extremely tight budget but once again, being together was the most important thing. This is not to say that this did not cause a great stress and anxiety in trying to survive. And as the summer after her first year arrived, we were forced to make the decision on whether or not we could afford to live another year in this economical climate, especially with the realization of the cost of another school year as an International student.

Katie and I now had to make another difficult decision that would temporarily separate our family. Katie is set to return to the UK mid September 2010 which breaks my heart more than I can express. As it is now only weeks away the impending separation causes every muscle in my body to clinch with agony. I am constantly fighting back the tears as I try to focus at work or as I look at her from across our living room. Where does one pull the strength from again and again.

Over the past two years I have been fortunate enough to be involved with an organization called Out4immigration. It was through their guidance and support that I came into contact with other same sex bi-national couples who could relate to Katie and my situation. They have helped me realize that our situation is not an isolated situation but one that is faced by tens of thousands of couples in American, not to mention the many couples who chose to leave America to live in a country that has immigration Visas for same sex couples. With my volunteer work with Out4immigration I have had the opportunity to educate people regarding the work needed to change America’s immigration laws so that families like mine aren’t forced to choose between love and country.

In both houses of the United States Congress we have a proposed bill, The Uniting American Families Act, which would change the language in current immigration law to include United States citizens in a same sex bi-national relationship that want to sponsor their partner for immigration purposes. We work tiresomely in contacting Congress people in hopes that they will co sponsor the bill so that it can be brought to a vote by both houses.
In working to urge California’s State Assembly to support the bill, I was one of the speakers at a hearing in the fall of 2009. Through my and other bi-nantional couples testimony, we were able to encourage the Assembly and California’s Senate in becoming the first state to officially support the Uniting American Families Act.

While working on reaching out for support, I learned so much about the unfairness of our laws including those that show more opportunities for a heterosexual person who wishes to sponsor a Mail Order spouse provided that they have met in person at least once in the last two years.

Despite my diligence and devotion in working towards changing the laws, it does not change my current situation of having to say goodbye to Katie one more time. Being apart from the person you love because your country does not recognize it is inexcusable. Our situation isn’t about whether or not our country should legalize same sex marriage, it’s about just being able to be together in the same country. It is about allowing families to stay together and not being placed in a situation where they have to decide whether or not to leave everything and move to a new country or to live here illegally with the fear of being deported and torn away from their partner and in many situations, their children.

Katie and I have many things to decide but we know that we will not let anyone tear us apart. We have spent an immense amount of energy, time, money and tears in order to be together and we will continue to fight to be together. When I think back of all the potential obstacles that could have kept us apart I am incredibly proud of the dedication we have shown to our relationship. In a day and age were uncertainty of the future faces all of us, one thing can be certain, love cannot be destroyed.

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