November 05, 2007
Dreaming of being disrespected
Posted by: Chris
There's an interesting thread over at Andrew Sullivan's blog about the disrespectful treatment that gay couples, even American gay couples, receive from passport control officers when arriving in the U.S. First to weigh in was conservative gay author Bruce Bawer, who lives in Norway with his partner:
Every time that my partner and I fly to the US and I have to fill out a customs declaration form, it galls me to have to write "0" under "Number of family members traveling with you" given that my partner is, in fact, under the law of Norway, not only my family but my next of kin. So on one recent trip, I wrote "1." At passport control in Newark, the woman asked me where the other member of my family was. I explained that he was a Norwegian citizen and had therefore gotten in line with other non-US citizens. She asked what our relationship was. I explained that we were domestic partners. She spat out, in a vicious tone: "THAT'S NOT FAMILY!" I replied, in a civil tone, "It is in Norway." She said nastily, "Well, it's not here," and, grabbing a pen, changed my "1" to a "0." Not wanting to jeopardize my partner's chances of getting into the country, I chose not to argue with her.
Then Dan Savage chimed in:
I feel for Bruce Bawer ...but try coming back into the US from Europe with your partner and your adopted child. DJ is, as you know, a quick kid. He spends a lot of time around adults, he's not oblivious, he can read adults. And we go to Canada and/or Europe at least twice a year. I can't tell you the number of times we've had passport and/or customs officials literally and audibly scoff when we tell them DJ is our son -- you know, that "uusssggghhhh" sound people make when they're told something they don't believe or are offended by, a cross between groaning and clearing your throat.
Savage and his partner reacted by teaching their young son that, "These people work for George W. Bush, and that George W. Bush doesn't approve of gay families, and he hires assholes that feel the same way."
I don't see the point in teaching their child the double-evil that some people hate his parents, and the implicit lesson that he should hate them back, but c'est la vie. Andrew points out that disdain for gay couples and those with HIV is U.S. immigration policy of long-standing; it's disrespect written into law.
Without taking anything away from any of the above, I would add that for a whole slew of "love exiles" like my partner and me, it is but a distant dream to be treated with disdain and disrespect by U.S. passport control. Checking "0" on "Number of family members"? Sign me up, so long as he isn't turned away.
I can't tell you how many times I've even played out the fantasy in my mind, imagining my partner and me boarding a flight to the U.S. — together. We actually find ourselves smiling longingly anytime we're at an airport and see an American or Delta or United Airlines plane.
Now three countries (Argentina -> Brazil -> Canada) removed from ever being together in the U.S., I would add that passage of the Uniting American Families Act, along with repeal of the HIV ban, are the first steps toward a gay-friendly U.S. border.
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