Thursday, January 31, 2013

Our Story: Kati and Esther

Exile - and then, a Miracle!

Esther was one of the first people I met when I moved to Chile to work as a campus pastor. She worked for the same collegiate ministry though in another country (her home country of Paraguay)—but somehow we just kept seeing each other at conferences, camps, and trainings. After about the fourth time we’d seen each other in six months or so, we realized that we were feeling something more than just friendship.

Our first obstacle was that of our faith, and the religious community we were a part of. That was a struggle in and of itself!  However with much time, study, prayer and weeping, we came to a place where we realized that there are other perspectives on God, the bible and faith, wherein LGBT folk are truly considered children of God exactly as they are.

As we came to realize that, it was easier for us to imagine a future shared life together. But where and how?  At the time, I was living in Chile and Esther in Paraguay. We discovered the Diversity Visa Lottery that year and Esther entered, already dreaming of how it would be when we moved to the States “next year”.  

Kati and Esther's life in exile has a happy ending. Esther won a green card the Diversity Lottery.

Esther didn’t win the visa lottery that year.  I ended up living in Paraguay on a tourist visa for about six months while Esther finished her thesis for her Psychology degree. Then, since there was no practical way for me to live in her country and no way at all for her to live in mine, we went the ‘third country’ route.  We had discovered an LGBT community of faith online based in Buenos Aires, Argentina that welcomed us, and it was a good option for several reasons.  It was still fairly close to her family in Paraguay, it was easy for me to find a job there as a native English speaker, and Argentina had a truly welcoming immigration policy (perhaps it’s no surprise that they now also have same-sex marriage and one of the most progressive gender identity laws in the world). 

We stayed in Argentina for three years and found a church, made good friends, worked, studied, ate and explored. While I have no regrets, about that time, what I remember is that I was constantly aware that it was not my choice that had forced us to seek somewhere to reside outside of our own nations.  It was the laws of the United States that made it so that I had to choose between living in my country or living with my spouse.  

While I chose my spouse - this choice had consequences many Americans forced to live in exile face  I truly missed my home and felt like so many things were out of reach to me since we couldn’t be there. I couldn’t go back to school.  I couldn’t seek work in a field of interest to me (while in Argentina, I had to work in whatever job would take foreigners). I couldn’t visit my family easily in times of need (Argentina is farther away from America than you might expect and tickets aren’t cheap).  We were restricted from making a home in MY home, and that broke my heart. As an exile, I was still dutifully paying U.S. taxes. You can say that added to my frustration and depression of being unable to live in my own country with Esther!

Our only hope of getting to live in the States together seemed to rely more and more on Esther winning a green card in the Diversity Lottery. She dutifully applied for it each year. We knew the odds were stacked against us, but we continued to hope. And, one year it worked! It actually worked! 

From the day Esther got her email notification that she was a ‘selectee’ and could start the process, to the day we set foot in the U.S. with her resident alien visa only took about 9 and a half months—truly light speed compared to other immigration processes. We still look back on that lottery as a true miracle.  There was no reason it should have worked for us and it really didn’t have to—but it was the only thing that could have saved us.

Comprehensive Immigration Reform MUST include LGBT families! The fate of each one of us cannot possibly rest on a lottery, that in the end most people won’t win.  Our families deserve the same rights as every other U.S. citizen’s family, no matter in what corner of the world we find love.

Are you a same sex binational couple?  Do you have families / friends affected by this issue?  Please contact us at if you are interested in sharing your story.

No comments: