• Gay BlogAds

  • Gay News Watch

  • Chris Tweets

  • « The South Falls Again | Main | With Dems like these... »

    November 11, 2006

    The Boy From Ipanema

    Posted by: Chris

    (A quick note — I've never been too comfortable writing about my own life; in a decade as an editor I wrote maybe a dozen columns that were personal. But that's supposed to be one of the liberating things about blogging, so forgive me the indulgence.)

    Euheart_1 OK, so he's from Belém, not Ipanema. But Ipanema is where we met, and that's where he is now. As for me — just three days back in Washington and the distance is already beginning to take its toll. 

    At the risk of throwing a pity party for one, can I ask why this has to be so difficult? Despite annoying claims from self-help authors and Bible-thumpers, there's no manual for life, and even less so for relationships. Then throw in some uniquely modern problems that my own relationship struggles with.

    The whole idea of long-term, committed same-gender relationships tried en masse is an entirely novel concept. And rather than be embraced for trying to settle into stable households, many of our (former) friends, family, and fellow citizens condemn us for it.

    The idea of commitment has no doubt come more naturally to the lesbians than us gay men. Credit the horrific HIV pandemic with helping so many to finally see the advantages of hearth and home over being a ho, and then doubly credit growing acceptance and coming out at an early age with improving our odds for success.

    Just as new and unique is the long-distance relationship, at least tried by so many, enabled by cheap long distance and discount air carriers. The last five years have really revolutionized things; the Internet and new technology have made national borders seem as irrelevant to the heart as crossing a state line. I like the take from my friends at Love Exile, a group of gay Americans forced to live abroad to be with their non-American partners:

    The world is getting smaller and smaller; more and more people travel the world, where they make friends and meet lovers who sometimes become partners.

    That's what happened for me and the Boy in Ipanema. And so far so good — actually, so wonderful — almost two years later. But as anyone with long-distance history can tell you, there comes a point — that fish-or-cut-bait point — when growing as a couple means finding a way to be together for more than just visits, whatever the duration.

    We forestalled that inevitability for a long time, thanks be to Skype! Even so far apart, we chat online throughout the day and talk by Internet telephone every night. With the latest Skype version, we're even able to see and talk live, in real-time by webcam.

    Still, decision-time arrived and I never gave serious thought to anything but relocation. Bringing him to the U.S. is impossible with our incredibly restrictive immigration laws, and I'm not even talking about the anti-gay ones. My American friends are amazed to learn he's never once visited me here, or been to the U.S., or even spent more than a weekend in an English-speaking country. But such is life in post-9/11, xenophobic America. (Don't tell me immigration would be such a hot-button issue if Canadians were sneaking across the border instead of Spanish-speaking, dark-skinned Latinos.)

    Of course, if we were a straight couple, those immigration woes would magically disappear. U.S. law requires only that we've met a single time for a "fiancé visa" allowing a visit here to marry, with permanent residence (green card) to follow. There's even an exception for that single requirement if we could prove economic hardship or a cultural background that frowns on husband-wife face-time pre-nuptial.

    Not so for gay relationships, where becoming involved with an American can actually make it more difficult for the non-American to get a visa, even as a tourist, because our government suspects the foreign lover won't go home before the time expires.

    So here we are, almost two years later. Still together despite the usual relationship throes, completely different backgrounds, a huge initial language barrier and even a brutal beating by seven thugs for holding hands in the street. Back in Washington, I hope to quickly sell my condo and my car and most of my possessions, so I can get back to Rio and Ipanema Boy.

    Win This week, I allowed myself the quick fantasy of the new Democratic-controlled Congress slipping gay partnership rights into the coming immigration reforms. Thinking about that prospect tonight, I remembered how Democrats reacted when they gave Republicans a "thumping" in another midterm election, way back in 1974. (OK, so I was a precocious 9-year-old political junkie.)

    Nim "W.I.N." buttons made popular by President Ford to "Whip Inflation Now," got turned upside down by his Democratic opponents: "N.I.M.," they said, "No Immediate Miracles."



    TrackBack URL for this entry:


    1. Alan on Nov 11, 2006 12:01:38 PM:

      Chris - My book group today will be discussing Radclyffe Hall's "The Well Of Loneliness" written in 1928. Besides the sadness of the ending I found particularly sad the following passage because it is no less accurate nearly 80 years later:

      "And what of that curious craving for religion which so often went hand in hand with inversion? Many such people were deeply religious, and this was surely one of their bitterest problems. They believed, and believing they craved a blessing on what to some of them seemed very sacred - a faithful and deeply devoted union. But the church's blessing was not for them. Faithful they might be, leading ordinary lives, harmng no one, and yet the church turned away; her blessings were strictly reserved for the normal."

      Good luck with your Boy From Ipanema and my your heart be as powerful as your mind.

    1. Boynton on Nov 15, 2006 1:20:21 AM:

      Your situtation is sad but the way you frame it raises all kinds of questions.

      First of all, while it may well be that this situation occurs for a growing number of people, I wonder if this isn't a problem the monied experience more than the average person. How many people can afford to cultivate a romance with someone living on another continent and jet around the world, say to Amsterdam, for holidays?

      I'm just saying: You knew what you were getting into. The average American couldn't even afford to develop this kind of romance--much less move abroad without a job. HOw are you supporting yourself? By blogging? I doubt it.

      This doesn't minimize the injustice, but we do have to prioritize our struggles. Yours sounds like one of the well-to-do. And that is typical of the way you saw life during your tenure at the Blade.

      Second, there is a sense underlying all your writing about this that your boyfriend should move to America. Why is that? Granted, one should have the choice, but you haven't really explained why its more desirable for him to move here than for you to move to Brazil.

      Third, the feminist logic of making the personal political has been pretty much buried. Where gay marriage has been legalized there has been no big rush to tie the knot with the state's approval. Your Rotello-esque argument (and you should credit him) pertinent to AIDS and monogamy and marriage is ideological and has been repeatedly blown to bits by comparative studies of heterosexual marriage. Please, in any case, stop generalizing your own decision to the rest of us as an ethical imperative to support marriage.

      I sincerely hope you find happiness in Brazil. But it's your choice and, quite frankly, you are very very lucky -- priveleged -- to be able to make such a choice.

    1. Citizen Crain on Nov 15, 2006 3:41:47 AM:

      So the prioritization of basic human rights begins and ends with economic class and the battle of privileged-ness? Your single-minded focus on my supposed privilege, though you know next to nothing about my life, completely ignores my boyfriend's. What if, growing up in the Amazon, he and his family have been denied all sorts of opportunities that you and I both take for granted?

      Does that entitle us to a greater point total on your under-privilegedness scale? In fact many binational couples I know include one partner whose economic background is much less privileged than the other.

      You acknowledge that we ought to have the choice to live in either country and then you question why we might choose the U.S. Setting aside the question's arrogance, what makes you think the preference to live in the U.S. over Brazil is mine and not his? Do we get more "under-privilegedness" points if he's the one who wants us to live in America?

      And explain this "you know what you were getting into" approach. I assume it applies as well to any gay person who comes out in the workplace, knowing there are no laws to protect him/her. They know the risk they're taking. And the same holds true of those queer couples who hold hands in the street -- getting bashed for it isn't right but hey, they knew what they were getting into. And let's not forget women who dress scantily. I mean, they're not asking for it, but they know the risk they're taking, right?

      Your neo-Marxist argument is really nothing more than an attempt to measure the worth of human lives according to their supposed privilege and reduces the value of our choices to a biased analysis of our socioeconomic class. Talk about your "buried" ideologies. Did you miss the last half of the 20th century?

      Of course there is an inevitable prioritization within any movement, but economic class is by no means the only possible measure. The scope of a particular harm would be one; its severity would be another. Workplace bias and hate crimes may affect more people than immigration rights, but the general issue of legal recognition for gay couples (including immigration rights) affects every gay couple in one way or another. (Except of course the most privileged, who can hire lawyers and paper their way to semi-equality. Does that give reverse-privilege points to legal recognition as a gay rights aim, since it will benefit the less privileged the most?)

      What's more, the lack of immigration rights inflicts a truly unique injury: You can find another job; a basher can be sentenced under traditional criminal law. But our immigration law literally forces couples to choose between their country and their partner.

      Ultimately, legal recognition for same-sex couples involves extending to them the same rights and responsibilities enjoyed by opposite-sex couples. It's a claim of basic fairness that cuts across socioeconomic class, and even more so than workplace bias, hate crime laws or military service, is at the heart of what the movement is all about.

    1. Boynton on Nov 15, 2006 4:19:49 PM:

      I see that my reply has mysteriously dissappeared. Surprise.

    1. Citizen Crain on Nov 15, 2006 4:32:31 PM:

      I don't know what you're talking about, Boynton. Your original reply is still right there, above my response. And the only other comment you've posted is this two-sentence conspiracy theory. Was there another?

    1. Augusto on Nov 16, 2006 12:07:16 AM:

      Boynton, the lack of equality in immigration laws harms gays, rich and poor, in many ways.

      Gays are not allowed to sponsor their foreign partners/spouses for a visa, and to me, that amounts to your government telling you that you are not good enough to bring someone into your own country. You are not a full citizen. I think that gay immigration makes the issue of "second class citizen" clear, like few other issues.

      I don't know how that fact doesn't get to you. Even if you think a foreigner will never fall in love with you and you will never allow yourself to fall in love with a foreigner (which is pretty much impossible to guarantee, given the contemporary circumstances which Chris spelled out), wouldn't you like to at least have the possibility of bringing your loved one into the US?

      There are only 17 countries out there that allow gay immigration. What if your loved one is not from one of them. What if your situation is a little better and it would make more sense for your foreign partner to join you. What if your foreign partner knows English and your culture already, and you know nothing about the other country. What would be the easiest thing to do? What if you want to alternate countries for family reasons?

      You should know that a lot of Americans get into a relationship with a foreigner when the foreigner is in the US temporarily, to study and/or work for one, two, three years...The trend of having foreign workers and students in the US translates into a tremendous source of economic and social benefit for the country. Those students / workers go back to their countries and replicate what they learned, and it then becomes easier for US businesses to transact with those individuals and the companies in which they work. Many countries have belatedly followed suit (like Australia, the UK and Canada -- do you see the language pattern?). The trend has only increased over the years and I do not see why a country would defect from that winning strategy.

      It happens that some of those foreigners will fall in love with an American. It happens to straight people all the time.

      Also, I would think that the issue of gay immigration is a no brainer, and I cannot understand why countries haven't ceased with the gratuitous violence of separating people.

      We, the gays, need to be united. We need to work together to end discrimination.

    1. Boynton on Nov 17, 2006 12:10:21 AM:

      No, I wrote a lengthy reply after being termed a "neo-Marxist" and it did not post. I should have learned long ago to write a post in Word before trusting it to these systems.

      It is typical of you to generalize a disagreement into an ideological stance. Whether you realize it or not -- and it's not convenient, I understand -- it is possible to point out that your story reeks of privelege without waving the Manifesto. But then, you're a neo-oligarch -- *eyeroll* -- and I'm betting you know nothing more than the invective use of Marx's name.

      As I said: You are very very lucky to have the resources to move to Brazil, Mr. Crain. That is what makes your self-annointment as a petulant poster child for this issue annoying. I say petulant because, if you're going to write personal material, you better learn to lay all your cards on the table. Anyone with a brain is going to wonder: How is this guy going to make a living? From blogging? Didn't he just lose his job? Is he rich? If one can't ask these questions without being called a "neo-Marxist," it's really a good thing you are not directing reporters any longer.

      Augusto, I of course think -- and said so -- that the immigration laws are unfair. I travel internationally a lot. In fact, I'd prefer to be living in Europe but it's a fantasy that the laws in many countries aren't unduly restrictive in all kinds of ways. In fact, the EU is worse than the US is some ways.

      Speaking of which, my second partner was French. In order to get him residency here, we had to enroll him in school--secure a student visa. This was well before 9/11 and was a common method of establishing short-term residency. And then there was the marriage of immigrational convenience. And then there is disappearing in self employment with an American partner. I have no idea whether these loopholes have been closed more tightly. Probably so.

      In the big picture, I just don't see this as a priority concern -- just as I've never seen gay marriage generally as a priority concern. I don't subscribe to the Rotello bromides Mr. Crain echoed -- that marriage is going to stabilize gay society, reduce HIV infection and make lesbians wear hypoallergenic makeup.

      I think people should be able to marry whom they want and emigrate where they want. But Mr. Crain and his sterotypically nicknamed Boy from Ipanema aren't going to be apart. They are going to be together. It's a happy ending, compared to many, isn't it?

      A good friend of mine in DC lives with his Japanese boyfriend. I've never asked how they swung it, but my friend is not allowed to leave the country -- can't visit Japan -- because the the feds decided to make an example out of him after he illegally reproduced some copyrighted material. It was a felony conviction. He can't vote and he can't leave the country -- and he had lived most of his life in the UK, where he met his boyfriend.

      I'm just saying in my neo-Marxist way: this is part of a much larger puzzle. In actuality, it's Mr. Crain who is the reductionist.

    1. Citizen Crain on Nov 17, 2006 1:09:17 AM:

      Boynton writes: "You are very very lucky to have the resources to move to Brazil, Mr. Crain. That is what makes your self-annointment as a petulant poster child for this issue annoying."

      It is annoying when successful people complain about their lives, isn't it? What the f**k does Michael J. Fox have to stutter about in TV ads anyway? The man is rich and famous. And civil rights violations? Why the hell am I complaining? I quit a lucrative law practice to go into gay journalism, so clearly I must be independently wealthy. And now I've quit a company I spent 10 years building to leave the country and be with my partner. I do sound like a "petulant" rich bitch, don't I? I should just count my blessings and go practice my Portuguese.

      Is that the message, Boynton? Because that's what I'm hearing. If you aren't class reductionist you certainly come off that way, dismissing an important gay rights issue with your anecdontal assumptions about my net worth. It ought not be a "priority" unless from your armchair view you can be satisfied of an economic hardship — preferably one that disadvantages the already-disadvantaged.

      I think you're flat wrong about whether legal recognition for gay relationships, along the continuum from domestic partnerships to marriage, would have a stabilizing impact on our lives and society generally. That's at the core of why every country in the world marries its heterosexual couples, but I guess they're all similarly delusional.

      Even if you don't accept there'll be a broader social benefit, winning legal recognition of gay relationships is at the core of the gay rights movement because it is the most direct and fundamental way the government discriminates against gay people. We might wish we had the government's help preventing anti-gay bias in the private sector, or providing extra punishment for bias-based crimes, but the unequal treatment of same-sex couples is discrimination by the government itself.

      If you're unmoved by the social benefit of marriage and untouched by the denial of rights and benefits, then at least the unjust treatment by your government ought to get your attention.

      In fact, Boynton, can you tell us what gay rights issue DOES move you — besides the plight of your friend's Japanese ex-con boyfriend?

    1. Kevin on Dec 13, 2006 1:50:50 AM:

      God almighty, Boynton. Lighten up. It's not a privilege to "be able" to move to Brazil. It's a fucking tragedy that one has to, not because it's the best thing to do, but because it is the only way to be with the one you love. Trust me - moving to Brazil is not some marvelous dream. It's frightening. It's sad, especially for those back here who love you very much (and they don't have the resources to visit you often, or even call you as often as they do here). It's risky. And it shows a kind of commitment to love that I think deserves praise. Frankly, if you want to get into sweeping, nasty finger-wagging, one could ask you why you're so cold-hearted as to throw a reductive socio-economic punch at Chris when you didn't have the guts to move to Europe?

    The comments to this entry are closed.

    © Citizen Crain - All Rights Reserved | Design by E.Webscapes Design Studio | Powered by: TypePad