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  • February 15, 2010

    Will you help me and my Valentine?

    Posted by: Chris

    Shirley tan jay mercado immigration equality gay binational couples

    "We heard a knock at the door. I was still asleep when they came in."

    "They picked my mom up. They put her in handcuffs, and they put her in a van. We kept on asking questions.

    "Why is this happening to our family?"

    Watch how Shirley Tan's twin sons describe the morning that U.S. immigration police came to the Pacifica, Calif., home she shares with Jay Mercado, her American partner of 23 years:

    Because they are both women, Jay cannot sponsor Shirley for citizenship the way that heterosexual Americans can sponsor their spouses, whether their relationship is long-term or the sight-unseen, mail order variety.

    Shirley and Jay and their family tell the story as part of a new documentary from Immigration Equality, released on Valentine's Day to illustrate the plight of an estimated 36,000 binational couples, including my own. We shared tears, not kisses, on V-Day yesterday, and our conversation was over Skype, not a candlelit table.

    For me and my partner, and for the tens of thousands of couples like us, please take a few minutes to watch this brief excerpt, then visit the new Immigration Equality Action Fund website and find out what you can do to help.

    (Photo of Shirley Tan and Jay Mercado and their twin sons via San Francisco Chronicle).

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    January 29, 2010

    Opening the door to non-monogamy?

    Posted by: Chris

    Male couple monogamy
    Many gay marriage advocates will no doubt feel on the defensive when they hear about a new study showing many long-term same-sex couples that enter into marriage do so with notions about monogamy and fidelity that differ significantly from the mainstream:

    A study to be released next month is offering a rare glimpse inside gay relationships and reveals that monogamy is not a central feature for many. Some gay men and lesbians argue that, as a result, they have stronger, longer-lasting and more honest relationships. And while that may sound counterintuitive, some experts say boundary-challenging gay relationships represent an evolution in marriage — one that might point the way for the survival of the institution.

    New research at San Francisco State University reveals just how common open relationships are among gay men and lesbians in the Bay Area. The Gay Couples Study has followed 556 male couples for three years — about 50 percent of those surveyed have sex outside their relationships, with the knowledge and approval of their partners.

    That consent is key. “With straight people, it’s called affairs or cheating,” said Colleen Hoff, the study’s principal investigator, “but with gay people it does not have such negative connotations.”

    The study also found open gay couples just as happy in their relationships as pairs in sexually exclusive unions, Dr. Hoff said. A different study, published in 1985, concluded that open gay relationships actually lasted longer.

    Many who are hostile for religious reasons to any legal recognition for gay couples will of course point to this sort of research to argue that gay couples are unique from heterosexual couples and not entitled to the same government support and protections.

    Not so, at least so far. Gay couples who marry in Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Iowa or (soon) the District of Columbia will have to accept the same legal restrictions on monogamy as heterosexual couples do. Criminal prohibitions on adultery aren't really at issue; they are almost certainly unconstitutional after the Supreme Court's Lawrence vs. Texas sodomy ruling, which outlawed the criminalization of private, consensual sex between adults. But come divorce time, adultery can be used to leverage better monetary settlements and in some cases achieve a better verdict from the court.

    Male couple Still, politics and legal impact be damned, let's address the issue head on: Does the monogamy standard to which the vast majority of heterosexual married couples aspire make sense for gay couples as well? I've tried for years to spark a discussion within the community about monogamy and open relationships, based on the differences within our relationships not because we are gay, but because we are men.

    We are part of the first generation ever to try en masse to make male-male romantic/sexual relationships into long-term commitments. We do ourselves no favors by allowing the politics of the gay marriage fight to censor that conversation.

    How many relationships do you know that have failed over this issue, whether because of cheating or disagreements over whether monogamy should be our standard? Do you really believe that gay men could tackle this whole monogamy thing if we could legally marry? There are thousands of gay male couples in Canada, Massachusetts, the Netherlands, Spain and South Africa who would beg to differ.

    I think we could use all the guidance we can get from studies like this one, preferably not limited to San Francisco, and the advice of professionals and those who have successfully navigated these waters in their own lives. It's high time we acknowledge there are meaningful differences between how two men (or two women) interact in a relationship and how a man and a woman interact. Are those differences of legal significance? Absolutely not. But in terms of interrelationships? Absolutely.

    Men are from mars women are from venus gay men are from uranus There's a reason why sitcoms, dramas and watercooler conversations about relationships usually devolve into the differences between men and women. They matter. Remember "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus"? Well, Gay Men Aren't From Uranus but a Mars-Mars relationship is different in ways it is worth our time (and the political heat) to explore.

    And yet the problem most of us have is an information-deficit, without many role models and limited to our own personal experiences and the anecdotal evidence of friends in making these incredibly important decisions. Especially given our trailblazing status as a generation of gay men, I think we can use all the help we can get, especially from broader studies of relationship experiences, the advice of professionals and the sharing that comes from conversations just like this one.

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    March 16, 2009

    WaPo endorses UAFA

    Posted by: Andoni

    AA WaPo

    In another good sign for the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), today the Washington Post ran an editorial endorsing this legislation.

    UAFA (S. 424, H.R. 1024) seems to be on a roll. It's up to 90 co-sponsors in the House and 15 co-sponsors in the Senate. Some of you have commented that this blog is all UAFA, all the time. That's not really true, but I try to update folks when appropriate because this issue is very important to many readers.

    This issue is not your typical immigraton issue. It's not about illegal immigrants. This issue is about US citizens and for US citizens. It would simply grant a gay citizen the same (think equal) right that a straight citizen currently has to sponsor their foreign born partner to live in the US. That's all it is -- it's a citizenship right. Often times people hear the word immigration - and immediately start thinking on the wrong tangent.

    Immigration Equality is the LGBT organization trumpeting this bill in conjunction with lead sponsors Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Cong. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).

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    March 15, 2009

    Prohibition and gay rights

    Posted by: Andoni

    AAA prohibition

    History repeats itself. That is the theme in Frank Rich's wonderful Op Ed The Culture Warriors Get Laid Off in today's New York Times.

    According to Rich, we are entering a new period where the public has again tired of the anti-science, let me impose my values on you crowd. After the major economic downturn we have experienced over the past year, the culture wars are a luxury we can no longer afford. The same sort of cultural reversal happened in 1933 during The Great Depression.

    In the period leading up to the Depression fundamentalists pushed for Prohibition and anti-evolution legislation - succeeding on both counts. The Depression ended all that nonsense. In the period leading up to today's great recession, the fundamentalists peddled an anti-gay, anti-stem cell research agenda and also succeeded broadly.

    Now history is repeating itself. Anti-stem cell research was reversed last week by President Obama with only a whimper from the religious right and public opinion is showing majority support on most of the crucial gay rights issues - employment, the military, and our relationships.

    We need to take advantage of this moment in history. FDR demonstrated that a president can lead a nation to reform on cultural issues when the country's mood changes. Obama should follow that example. As the saying goes - it is his moment, it is his time.

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    March 13, 2009

    Will he or won't he?

    Posted by: Andoni

    AAA Barack
    The New York Times says President Barack Obama is in a tough spot with regard to whether he should allow the federal government to provide health insurance benefits to partners of same sex couples as two California federal appeals court judges ruled yesterday.

    The Office of Personnel Management has instructed insurers not to obey the judges' order because of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). And of course religious conservatives such as Gary Bauer, president of American Values, are threatening (in an almost gleeful manner) that if Obama provides these benefits it will reinvigorate the conservative coalition. To complicate all this further is the fact that Obama's designated, but unconfirmed, new director of the Office of Personnel Management is M. John Berry, a gay man.

    The judges' ruling was not the result of of a lawsuit but as part of a ruling as employers resolving employee grievances.

    I don't think Obama is in as tough a position as the Times says he is. He should simply say this is not about marriage, it's about equal pay for equal work. The partner benefits are part of the pay package for federal employees and the federal government cannot and will not be part of discrimination that pays some employees less than others for the exact same work. He can even say, "Let me be clear about this" so we know he means business.

    There really is no other way to provide equality, because the insurance package is more than just the money involved to pay for the partner's insurance; a major benefit is the access to that insurance as well. In most instances the partner would not be able to buy this good insurance on their own.

    Unfortunately, the IRS will tax this insurance benefit as income, which is patently unfair, but that's a different matter that is best left to fight about on another day.

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    February 23, 2009

    Dustin Lance Black, award winning speech

    Posted by: Andoni

    If an Oscar were given for best acceptance speech while receiving an Oscar, Dustin Lance Black would win my vote. Black, who won the Academy Award for for Best Original Screenplay for "Milk," brought tears to my eyes with a brief description of his own personal struggle of being gay in a hostile world, then gave hope to millions of young gays by paraphrasing Harvey Milk, asking them to love themselves and assuring them that very soon they would have equal rights federally across this land.

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    February 17, 2009

    ABA endorses UAFA

    Posted by: Andoni

    Separated families

    The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) keeps rolling along. The good news is that yesterday the American Bar Association (ABA) House of Delegates approved a resolution supporting UAFA. It was the first time UAFA came up before the ABA body -- and it passed on the first try. This is just one of many influential organizations that have now endorsed UAFA.

    UAFA was re-introduced on Thursday by Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) in the House and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in the Senate. Just three days after introduction UAFA already has 81 co-sponsors in the House and 16 15 in the Senate. These impressive numbers will continue to increase, but we can help them increase faster if we contact our Senators and Congresspeople.

    Congress begins anew every two years, so UAFA had to be reintroduced and as a result was assigned new legislation numbers. In the House it's now H.R. 1024 and in the Senate, S. 424.

    If you want UAFA to continue its momentum, we need to keep calling our elected officials and ask them to co-sponsor this legislation. Explain why it's so important for you. Tell your legislators that it's the fair and equal thing to do. Multiply your effect, by getting your relatives and friends to call and write as well. This year I got my three nices and sister to lobby their Senators and Congressman, as well as all my "fiends" on my email lists. If we all enlist our friends and relatives, this bill can be passed this year.

    Here is a web site to find your elected officials along with contact information, in case you don't know who they are. If UAFA is to pass this year, we all need to get working.

    UAFA would allow the US citizen half of a gay couple (where other is foreign born), to sponsor his/her partner to live in the United States. This is simply granting gay couples the same right to sponsor their partner that opposite sex couples have.

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    February 06, 2009

    It's UAFA time again

    Posted by: Andoni

    Binat 2

    Immigration Equality has just announced that the Uniting American Families Act of 2009 (UAFA) will be introduced into the House of Representatives by lead sponsor Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) on February 13. Because it's a new Congress this legislation must be re-introduced anew.

    Last year this bill had 118 co-sponsors. The goal is to get all those co-sponsors back and then some, to make a good showing when the bill is introduced. So action is necessary. Please find out the name of your Congressperson, then call them by going through the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224- 3121 and ask your representative to co-sponsor this legislation. If your Congressperson was a co-sponsor last year, ask them to become an original co-sponsor this time by calling Congressman Nadler's office by February 12 to add their name.

    Here's the spiel when you talk to your representative:

    "The US government discriminates against gay and lesbian binational couples by not allowing us to sponsor our foreign-born life partner for immigration. Because of this, we face the terrible choice of separating from the person we love or leaving our country. As Americans, we should not have to choose between family and country. Please co-sponsor the Uniting American Families Act of 2009 before February 12. Thank you."

    It was very encouraging to see Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese reference UAFA in today's Washington Blade as one of the legislative priorities they hoped to work with President Obama on and see passed in the near future.

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    February 04, 2009

    Gays -- still criminalized

    Posted by: Andoni

    Loving gay couple

    If you thought the Supreme Court decision declaring the anti-sodomy laws unconstitutional ended the criminalization of gays for simply loving another person, think again.

    For gays in relationships, here is something not very pleasant to think about, especially now when tax problems are haunting a number of high profile public officials. Married straights can legally pass an unlimited amount of money, financial help, assets, benefits, services, etc. from one partner to another. Gay couples, however, cannot. Gay couples (and because the federal government does not recognize such marriages, even gays married in MA) can only pass $11,000  worth of cash, financial support, benefits, etc. from one partner to the other. Anything more than that is a taxable event (either as a gift tax on the donor or income tax on the recipient). And if you don't pay the taxes, it's a crime.

    So the simple act of loving another person and doing for them what any straight married person would do for their partner can make you a criminal.

    This is especially pertinent in these hard times when one partner may be totally supporting the other.

    In a heterosexual marriage where one partner stays home and is supported by the partner who works, there is no tax problem. Such a situation can easily produce more than $11,000 worth of benefits moving from the working partner to the non working spouse. The value of mortgage or rent payments, food, car, insurance, clothes, utilities, etc. can easily surpass $11,000. Gay couples, however, in the exact same scenario, are breaking the law by taking care of their partner and not paying taxes on those benefits.

    Is this fair? Absolutely not! But it's true.

    There is a striking parallel here to the situation of old when in some states heterosexual sodomy was legal, but gay sodomy was not.

    This potential tax problem doesn't only occur with stay at home partners. It can also happen when both spouses begin a relationship sharing expenses equally, but then one gets sick or loses a job.

    Would any prosecutor or an IRS agent pursue gay couples for this type of tax violation or am I describing a non problem? Well for most of us the sodomy laws were non problems as well, unless of course you had an overzealous prosecutor who wanted to make a name for himself or score a political point. And at a time when government appointees are getting extra tax compliance scrutiny, it may only be a matter of time before a gay appointee faces this situation.

    The basic problem, just as with the sodomy laws, is that anyone at any time can bring this infraction up to use against you.

    A second problem is that this is not good for the psyche. Knowing that society's rules say that when you form a family and do the same loving, supportive things that a "recognized" married couple does, but your loving actions are illegal, this is not a great feeling. In fact, it's a terribly depressing feeling.

    For the most part, breaking tax laws won't get you jail time, you simply have to pay the penalties and back taxes. But, just like after a plea bargain for a sodomy solicitation charge, it sure can short circuit a promising career in a hurry -- just ask Tom Daschle.

    Do any of Obama's gay appointees have the type of tax problem I describe? I don't know. But the very fact that some schmuck has the ability to use this unfair part of the tax law against any one of us at any time should give all of us pause. In fact, it should give us motivation to fix this problem fast.

    This tax predicament is just another good reason why our relationships should be recognized at the federal level as soon as possible. And if we can't have that, Congress should pass a targeted bill that addresses this couples' issue in the tax code. The best solution, however, is gaining the 1100+ federal benefits that opposite sex couples have all in one bill, not 1100 separate bills.

    No gay couple that I know pays gift taxes or income taxes on net transfers of money or financial benefit from one partner to another. We are all potentially vulnerable at any moment if someone wants to make an issue of it. Just as the sodomy laws used to hang over our heads, these tax laws are also waiting to be used against us. We should move to fix the situation as soon as possible.

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    November 26, 2008

    ENDA vs civil unions

    Posted by: Andoni

    EuropeIt's been two weeks since I first noticed and reported that we have a tremendous opportunity to take a giant leap forward in civil rights by passing a federal recognition of civil unions law. Chris has elaborated on this proposal here and here.

    I was prompted to think about this by all my religious conservative relatives who called me after the repeal of same sex marriage in California (Prop 8). They said they could not support marriage for us, but certainly believe our relationships should be honored equally and that they could support civil unions. These are strong religious folks supporting civil unions. They are (sort of) fair minded people, but hung up on the "M" word. Unfortunately, that's the reality of what's holding us back. No amount of education is going to change these people's minds. We have to wait a generation until they die before we get a strong majority in this country supporting same sex marriage. That's 10 to 20 years.

    Whereas now we have about 48% percent of the population who support marriage for us and 50% who oppose it. But of the 50% who oppose, 30% are homophobic and oppose most gay rights, whereas 20% are only hung up on the word marriage. That makes a very convincing majority that would support recognition of our relationships as civil unions -- right now. This 68% support corresponds with the 66% support Chris cites. That's about the same percentage of support HRC claims for a non inclusive ENDA, in its questionable best case scenario poll. Of note is that the House of Representatives passed the non inclusve ENDA with only a 56% support level --- which is probably a more realistic number for support of the non inclusvie ENDA. For the trans inclusive ENDA, the percentage falls to below 50%. They could not get a majority of the House to pass a T inclusive ENDA last year.

    So here is the problem with our current strategy. Our national organizations such as HRC and our political leaders such as Cong. Barney Frank and Tammy Baldwin have made it clear that the next time the only version of ENDA will be the T inclusive ENDA (the one that has less than 50% support). Furthermore, I've been told that Hate Crimes and a T inclusive ENDA will be the first two bills we bring up. And to make matters worse, many leaders are telling me that these will be the ONLY two gay bills brought up before the 2010 midterm elections. Duh?

    So a T inclusive ENDA has less popular support than a civil unions bill, yet our leaders are hell bent on ENDA. Our leaders are so fixated on ENDA, that they cannot see when there is clear sailing in front of us in another possible direction where we can make huge gains. You know we are making progress on recognition of our relationships when a key member of the religious right, Michael Medved,  says he supports civil unions for us. A civil union recognition bill (just don't call it marriage) is an easy sell to members of Congress as well. I bumped into Congressman Hank Johnson two days ago and described such a bill and it only took him two seconds to ask who was sponsoring it because he wanted to be a co-sponsor. Our leaders have been perseverating on ENDA since 1994, regardless of other more fertile opportunities that may be at hand.

    We are so asleep at the switch that there isn't even a federal  recognition of civil unions bill being written to be introduced, even though President-elect Obama says this is one of his civil rights priorities.

    My suggestion, introduce both a T inclusive ENDA and a civil union recognition bill and see which gets the most co-sponsors. Do polling and see which has the most popular support. Pass Hate Crimes first and then decide on a whether a T inclusive ENDA or civil unions goes next. Choose whichever one can get through. But for heavens sake don't allow ENDA to hang up all other legislation. If it doesn't have the votes, move it aside and go for another bill that has support. Don't block the path for all other bills because ENDA is stuck.

    Let's become smarter and more creative with our legislation. We should not use the same thinking that we've been using for 15 years that has gotten us nowhere.

    The above map details all the European governments that recognize same sex relationships in one way or another. Here is the key. Below is the the map and key for all the states that honor same sex relationships. Federal recognition of civil unions could change the lower map to one of light blue from coast to coast. And I would bet that this is easier to do than a trans inclusive ENDA at the moment.


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    June 03, 2008

    Sullivan on the "Gay Diaspora"

    Posted by: Kevin

    Airplanedeparting Urged on by what one reader called a "gaping hole" in the New York Times' coverage of the same-sex marriage issue in New York, Andrew Sullivan has been sharing reader mail on how the California marriage decision, and subsequent actions by New York Gov. David Paterson on gay marriage, has raised the hopes and inflamed the anguish of families affected by bi-national gay relationships that are denied U.S. federal legal recognition of any kind by the Defense of Marriage Act.  (As is well-known to readers of this blog, Chris and I fall into that category of families as well, as we both were forced to move to Brazil to be with our partners.)

    A sample:

    Heterosexual citizens have the right to marry foreign partners and bring them legally into the country with the right to live and work and even seek citizenship. Homosexual citizens don't have that right; they must either choose another citizen as a partner or leave the country in order to be with their foreign partners. I know this issue intimately because both my children have foreign partners. My heterosexual daughter was able to marry and give her foreign partner the right to live here. My homosexual son can't do that, and his partner isn't even allowed to enter the U.S., so he has no choice but to live in his partner's country. The people who claim to be protecting families are not doing anything to protect mine. Instead, they've torn it apart. I wish the Times would cover that aspect of the gay marriage issue because there are thousands of American families affected by it," - a mother of a gay son, commenting on the story on Governor David Paterson's decision to treat gay citizens married in other states no differently than straight ones.

    I've written about this on my own blog, and Chris has championed the Uniting American Families Act, which would allow gay Americans to sponsor their foreign born partners to immigrate legally to the United States.  We do what we can.  But once you make the decision to spend your life with someone (i.e. marry them, whether it's recognized or not as legal), you jump with both feet off the curb and you don't look back.  Sometimes I feel that if I put too much energy into fighting to change the policies of the United States, I'd not be tending to my life as it is today, and my relationship would suffer needlessly.  You end up putting your life first; it's why you did all this in the first place.  And it makes you an inconvenient player in the political realm.

    Reading the excerpts of Andrew's reader mail has been an emotional experience.  It's mostly because (and I'm surprised to realize this) most of us who live this life in exile don't spend a lot of time talking to each other about how hard it can be at times being separated from home.  We tend to focus on adapting to life out here instead.  You do your best when you're on the phone (or on Skype) with family and friends back in the U.S. to focus on the good stuff, and share the good news.  You try to buck yourself up and focus on the adventure of it all, living abroad and adapting to a new culture and a new way of life.  You also wake up to the aspects of life in the United States that are actually not so great after all- simply because (A) you can see them from far away, and (B) you want to do everything you can to avoid missing home too much.  When you live abroad, you live abroad.  Life in your new home affects you.  You're not who you were before.

    But you can't help but hear in the voices of those closest to you back in the U.S. that there is a lingering hope that something will happen that will allow you to come back.  It's part of being loved.  It's part of being in a family.  It's always floating around the phone call, or in-between the lines of the email.

    Some of us don't have much family at home, or a family that has disowned our sexuality and, therefore, our relationship.  That rarely makes the move any easier, because gay Americans often have a "chosen" family, a support network of friends that become vital to our happiness and emotional well-being.  I can say that Chris and I, and many of the Americans I know in love-exile around the world, are incredibly privileged and lucky that we have the resources to go home to visit even once a year.  Many immigrants to the United States often don't have that option.  Both of my parents are in good health, and have visited me here once.  I could imagine what this life would be like if one of them was ill when I had to make my decision.  In any case, when you go home to visit your friends or your family, there is this distinct sense you get with every trip that life has just gone on without you, and you're really not part of that world anymore.  It's unsettling, but you have to accept it.

    The policy implications of all this are quite obvious, as Andrew's postings point out so well.  Families and lives are being terribly impacted, but love is still winning out.  John McCain is a strong supporter of immigration reform and has shown a willingness to buck his party's hardliners on the subject.  If a Democratic Congress were to send him a reform bill with UAFA inserted into it, I have to wonder whether he'd sign it.  I hope he would. Two recent television appearances only muddied the waters.

    It's no comfort that Senator Hillary Clinton has not lifted a finger on this issue in the Senate, nor seems ready to do so when she limps back there in tatters from her loss to Barack Obama in the nomination fight.   So much for all that gay money.  And Obama has said he opposes UAFA because it would open the door to immigration fraud, betraying a stupefying ignorance of the issue.  He should read Andrew's blog.  He should talk to my mom.

    But no matter what happens back home, we live our lives out here.  And the longer the United States retains the Defense of Marriage Act as law, the more likely that time will end up healing over the wound we got in the split with our native country, I'm afraid, and much of what we have to offer the world will largely, and happily, find its way to other horizons. 

    I, like many, refuse to regret the greatest thing to ever happen to me, no matter what it cost me.  (Am I supposed to wake up in tears every morning in order to please some activists back home?)  It doesn't mean I am not a patriot, or that it isn't really hard to be separated from the whole life I knew until a year ago.  My grandfather was Irish to the core until his death, but when he arrived on American shores he never set foot on Irish soil again.  It was the Irish condition that sent him away, simply put.  He didn't live long enough to see things change.  Did he think this to be a tragedy in 1975 when he lay on his deathbed?  I think not.  How will I feel on mine?  Who knows.  I refuse to decide now.

    It is, however, up to the United States to decide whether it will regret losing all of us.

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    December 04, 2006

    Making Lemonade

    Posted by: Chris

    Lemonade It's that time again. Time to uproot myself again and fly 5,000 miles away from home, to what will be my new home, in Rio De Janeiro. It was great for me to have some time back in Washington, albeit at a long distance from my better half. If we had the choice, Washington is where we'd call home.

    But when life gives you lemons, you do your best to make lemonade. And as lemonade goes, Rio is mighty, mighty tasty.

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    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."

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    October 14, 2006

    Long-distance dedication

    Posted by: Chris

    Even though my boyfriend and I are in the process of locating in the same city, for the next month or so we are still very much long distance: Washington, D.C. to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil.

    Euheartchris Those who've done it know the positives (yes, there are some) and negatives that come from being in love with someone in a distant zip code, country, or in our case, continent. One downside is the emotional toll it can take when travel plans go awry, as they are wont to do. That's what happened to us on Thursday, when I caught my Continental Airlines flight to Rio, which was connecting through Houston.

    I knew I was in for a rough day when, a few hours before the flight, I rechecked my reservation only to discover the flight was out of distant Dulles Airport, not the nearby National Airport (I won't call it Reagan Airport, out of deference to a close friend who still remembers that administration's deadly silence in the early days of AIDS).

    As my taxi approached Dulles, we got caught it a massive traffic backup on the special road devoted to airport travel; a truck had flipped over and spilled its contents onto the highway, shutting down one of two lanes for traffic.

    I actually still managed to catch my flight, but the pilot announced once we were airborne that thunderstorms in Houson had closed George H.W. Bush Airport (no rule against using his name, is there William?), and we would have to divert to Gulfport, Miss., just to refuel while we waited for it to reopen. By the time we arrived in Houston, my flight to Rio had left 20 minutes earlier.

    Waiting in line at the Continental desk, I heard the agent explain to a woman who missed the same flight our depressing options: wait TWO days and fly out on Saturday night, arriving Sunday morning, or take an incredibly circuitous route on Friday: Houston to Newark to Sao Paulo to Rio, arriving Saturday morning.

    She chose the latter but when it was my turn, I convinced the very nice Continental agent to let me switch to partner Delta Airlines, from which I'd purchased the ticket, and fly to Atlanta on Friday and then to Rio in the redeye on Friday night, arriving Saturday. That's what I did, finally arriving at our apartment in Ipanema almost 48 hours after I caught the taxi in Washington.

    I'm thankful there's only one more of those D.C. to Rio trips before my move is complete.

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