Archive for March, 2010

Immigration stories from the National Center of Lesbian Rights (NCLR)

Posted on March 30, 2010. Filed under: Stories - from other sites | Tags: , , , , , , |

In re M.G.
M.G. is a gay man from Mexico who came to the United States fleeing physical abuse from gangs and extortion by the police. When his mother died when he was 17, M.G. faced more physical violence from his father and his oldest brother because of his sexual orientation. Feeling desperate, he moved out and was homeless until he was eventually taken in by a neighbor in his small town of Mixquiahuala de Juarez. This neighbor treated him like a son and gave him shelter, food, and protection. Nevertheless, her sons were unhappy about M.G. staying there and would not allow him to eat at the table with them or enter their homes. By the time he was 20, he left and headed for the capital, where he found a job in an auto shop. He also lived in the shop because he could not afford to pay rent. While living in the capital, he was attacked several times by a gang for being gay and was being extorted by the police. He decided to flee to the United States and apply for asylum with the help of NCLR. His application is pending.
To follow this case please visit the following URL at: http://www.nclrights.org/site/PageServer?pagename=issue_caseDocket_inremg

In re E.G.
E.G. is a young gay man who came to the United States in order to pursue higher education from Uganda, where being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender is criminalized. In Uganda, he was often verbally abused by his family members for being gay, and he had to hide his feelings for fear of being arrested by the police on the basis of his sexual orientation. He eventually moved to the United States, but a family friend in the U.S. found out about his sexual orientation and told his family, who were then questioned by the Ugandan police. The police threatened his family and warned them that if E.G. returned to Uganda, he will be arrested. E.G. is currently proceeding with his asylum application, which is pending.
To follow this case please visit the following URL at: http://www.nclrights.org/site/PageServer?pagename=issue_caseDocket_inreEG

In re A.C
.A.C. is a prominent lesbian activist for LGBT rights and women’s rights in Honduras. A paramilitary gang of masked, armed men attacked A.C. in her home in Honduras and sexually assaulted her while making derogatory comments about her sexual orientation. A.C. did not report the sexual assault to the police, fearing that the police would subject her to further harassment or violence. After the attack, A.C. received a series of threatening phone calls that also used derogatory terms to describe her sexual orientation. She eventually fled to the United States and filed for asylum. The Immigration Judge granted A.C. asylum, but the Department of Homeland Security appealed that decision to the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). In March 2009 the BIA affirmed the grant of asylum, noting that it is well established that human rights violations against LGBT people are pervasive in Honduras and that the Honduran government cannot be relied upon to protect LGBT people against such harm. NCLR assisted A.C.’s pro bono counsel, Robin Nunn, in preparing her brief for the BIA. Aslyum has been granted.
To follow this case please visit the following URL at:
http://www.nclrights.org/site/PageServer?pagename=issue_caseDocket_inreac

In re Angelica
Angelica was born in Mexico City to a family that raised her with the expectation that she would get married and have children. Her family was also extremely controlling and abusive. She was not permitted to participate in any activities outside of the home and was physically abused throughout her childhood. When a rumor spread at her school that she had been spotted kissing a girl, in addition to being terrified of her family’s reaction, Angelica began facing regular harassment and even physical assaults by classmates and men from her neighborhood. After a young gay man from the neighborhood was viciously murdered, Angelica fled to the U.S. Eventually, she found her way to a shelter where she got in touch with NCLR, the Women’s Building, and Instituto Familiar de la Raza. With NCLR’s help, she filed for asylum and it was granted in September 2008. Asylum Granted.
To follow this case please visit the following URL at:
http://www.nclrights.org/site/PageServer?pagename=issue_caseDocket_inreangelica

In re Eduardo
Eduardo is a transgender man from Mexico. When he was a child, his parents often verbally and physically abused him in an attempt to alter his gender identity. After enduring this physical and verbal abuse, Eduardo left his home town for another city in Mexico. He was able to obtain a degree in order to work as a teacher, but he was often harassed because he presented himself as a male, while his ID identified him as female. In 2003, he left Mexico after receiving death threats from his girlfriend’s family. He could not start his transition in the U.S. until recently, when he was able to find the resources that he needed. He will be applying for asylum in the summer of 2009.
To follow this case please visit the following URL at:
http://www.nclrights.org/site/PageServer?pagename=issue_caseDocket_inreEduardo

The National Center for Lesbian Rights:
http://www.nclrights.org/site/PageServer?pagename=issue_immigration  
The National Center for Lesbian Rights is committed to helping overcome the immigration hurdles faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender immigrants. U.S. immigration law unfairly discriminates against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and people with HIV and/or AIDS. Since 1994, NCLR’s Immigration Project has provided free legal assistance to thousands of LGBT immigrants nationwide. Through our national intake service, as well as through free monthly clinics in the San Francisco Bay Area, we help LGBT immigrants understand visas, asylum claims, and the HIV exclusion. NCLR also provides direct representation to LGBT immigrants in impact cases and individual asylum claims. In addition, NCLR provides assistance to private attorneys representing LGBT immigrants in proceedings before the Immigration Court, the Board of Immigration Appeals, the Federal Courts of Appeal, and the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Donna and Marie-Jo

Posted on March 29, 2010. Filed under: Stories - from other sites | Tags: , , , , , , |

We met in 1994 while Marie-Jo was on assignment in Washington, DC. We married religiously with the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) on May 4, 1996 in Arlington, VA where we lived at the time. When Marie-Jo had to return to Belgium at the end of 1998, fortunately she was legally able to sponsor me as her partner for immigration purposes and I obtained a Belgian residency permit.

We entered into a Registered Partnership as soon as that became legal in 2000. On February 14, 2004, the first day that marriage was legal for same-sex couples with one Belgian partner and one non-Belgian partner (no matter what the country of origin or that country’s laws on same-sex marriage) we were legally married at the City Hall here in Waterloo Belgium.

We hope that one day our marriage will be recognized by the federal and state governments in the U.S.A. I would like the same immigration rights as straight couples to be able to sponsor my spouse for residency in the U.S.A. We would like to move back to the U.S.A. where my entire family of 8 younger brothers and sisters, 11 nieces and nephews, and my 88-year old father all live.

– Donna

This story is located at: http://loveexiles.org/donna_story.htm

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jAms (Canada) and Shannon (United States)

Posted on March 25, 2010. Filed under: Stories - from other sites | Tags: , , , , , , |

Shannon and I met one week upon my arrival in San Francisco in the summer 2007. I was only visiting for 6 weeks, and wanted to check out the queer arts and culture in the Bay Area. Our romance began as a magical summer love.

Close to my departure, Shannon decided to come see me in Vancouver where I was heading for my return plane to France. We started to make plans for her to come visit me in France, and for me to come stay longer in San Francisco after I was done with my studies the following year. Shannon started to take French classes. I looked at grants and schools in the Bay Area for a graduate program. We lived long-distance over a year with times when Shannon came to Paris or I traveled back to the US. Finally, I moved to San Francisco at the end of August 2008 on a tourist visa, hoping to create a life together, and ready to do whatever I could to stay in the country, near my love.

The more I looked at it, the more scary it became. The first weeks, I understood that even if we decide to get married (as it was legal at that time in California), this ceremony would not give me any immigration rights, which are on a federal level. It could even go against us, as I would become a visible illegal immigrant if I decided to stay beyond my tourist visa’s legal limit. I knew this was not a good idea. I started to look at the idea of a male partner to marry. This option did not appeal to us. It is based on lying about our love and our queer identities.

As a transgender person, the solution I was told was to transition all the way, change my gender identification to male, then I could marry Shannon. This is totally unconceivable for me. I have no money, no time, and actually no desire to pass as a male, nor to talk to doctors about my gender identity. Actually, living in San Francisco makes me feel a lot better about my gender expression and I believe this is another reason why I should be offered a better shelter here in California.

The american government does not provide any help for LGBT immigrants.

I applied for a graduate program starting in Septembre 2009. I have to leave in two weeks, and I know I will not be able to use my tourist visa anymore, as I have used it too many times and become “suspicious” to any Customs officer. The times when I had to cross the border are the worst memories of my time in the United States. I was put under pressure, and I knew I could not talk about the real reasons that brought me to this unlikable border: being in love and wanting to be happy.

I am hoping to be accepted to school. I am looking for financial support everywhere I put my eyes on but I do not know if/when I will be able to cross back again. If I do get a student visa, it again will be for a temporary stay of a couple of years. And then, what? I just wish Shannon could sponsor me as a resident, so that we can explore more our life together and continue provide this country of the cultural diversity that makes it so different and rich. -jAms

When jAms and I met, it was like a dream. I knew the reality of different cultures and limited time together, but I wanted to focus on the connection we had and the magic of the present moment. I wanted us to live the dream for as long as we could. That dream has now lasted almost two years.

Yet there have been many moments of heartbreak. It breaks my heart to try to cross the border to my country of birth with the person that I love and to hear and see the way that immigration officials engage in front of signs promising that they will treat each person that comes through with respect. It breaks my heart that they ask for proof that my love does not want to live here, asking for bank statements, insinuating misuse of visas although jAms has never been in this country illegally.

We spend months apart and then have weeks together. We’ve now had the longest time together and it is coming to an end as the visa comes to an end. Again we must separate. Again our relationship is not validated. Again we don’t know the next time that we will get to see one another. I never know if this dream has come to an end or we can keep believing in a future together. -Shannon
(photo; personal; “October 2008 – a fancy date”, jAms & Shannon together since: June 7, 2007)

This story is located at (to include pictures): http://imeq.us/our_stories/files/category-living-in-separation.html

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Javier (Mexico) and Victor (Puerto Rico)

Posted on March 25, 2010. Filed under: Stories - from other sites | Tags: , , , , , , |

My name is Javier. I am a 27 years old Mexican gay guy who fell in love with a beautiful 36 years old Puerto Rican. We meet in Dallas, Texas a couple of years ago and immediately fell in love. We started living together shortly after a few months of dating. After this period of time, I decided to move to Puerto Rico with him on a tourist visa. Before my I-94 expired, I went back to Mexico to apply for a student visa. My student visa petition was denied and my tourist visa was revoked. Since then, we have been living in a nightmare. He lives in Puerto Rico and I live in Mexico. We live every day separated from each other, because we have been trying to get my student visa so we can be together. We are so desperate…hopeless… and we cant wait to be together as soon as possible. We will fight ’til the end. We won’t give up. But sometimes, even when we both try very hard to stay calm, somedays we just can’t. I hope we can find the fastest way to be together soon. WE ARE ALL EQUAL. WE ARE NOT SECOND CLASS CITIZENS. WE DESERVE THE SAME RIGHTS. We send all our support to all the couples out there who live in the same situation. I’m also writing this to express to my boyfriend, THAT I LOVE HIM VERY VERY MUCH. MY HOPE IS FOR GOD TO HELP US ALL!!..GOD BLESS YOU!!..

This story is located at (includes photo): http://imeq.us/our_stories/files/category-living-in-separation.html

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Stephanie (UK)

Posted on March 22, 2010. Filed under: Stories - from other sites | Tags: , , , , |

I recently came out as bisexual to my British husband of 6 years. I hail from New York but live permanently now in south west of England with him in a relatively rural location, well outside London, so I have come to expect some relatively provincial attitudes about most things related to gender, sexuality and marriage roles.

My husband’s response was loving and beautiful and akin to “oh now that explains some things.” He was only sad that I took so long to trust him with this and that still lingers between us, unresolved. And though he was raised by middle English parents with some run of the mill and tedious homophobic attitudes (his parents think our gay male nanny is a ‘obviously’ a child molestor and are entirely blind to the fact that their younger son is quite likely gay), his attitude to my bisexuality is so-far postive and progressive.

After making it known to him, though, I slowly started to make it known to friends and colleagues, gay and straight, that while I was happily married with kids, my psychosexual self (for lack of less psychobabbly term) was bisexual. I got every response from neutral acceptance through to encouragement from my gay and lesbian friends, but the straight friends still surprisingly held some seriously old fashioned views.

So far none of them have shunned me or seem to direct any overt hostility towards me, but there is a passive aggressive line of questioning that I keep getting. Questions like: “But doesn’t that mean you are really just a lesbian and don’t want to admit it?” or, “So are you leaving your husband for a woman then?” And my ‘favourite’: “How can you be bisexual and monogamous?” That seemed to be the prevelent attitude really — that bisexual either meant a life-long menage with both a man and a woman at once or a life where you could not commit to only one partner.

The concept that I was a married, monogamous woman just happy and more content to finally be honest about who I really am was not sufficient. Saying I was bisexual now meant I needed to “do something about it.” Again, this is all very new to my friends and husband… but that is what I experienced so far. A set of sadly retrograde questions and the expectation that my ability to be faithful was under scrutiny. I suspect there will be more to come, but for now … that’s it.

 This story is located at: http://ilga.org/ilga/en/countries/WORLD/Your%20Stories

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Ratanak Rin (Cambodia)

Posted on March 22, 2010. Filed under: Stories - from other sites | Tags: , , |

I was born in Cambodia in 1993 and my parent left me when I was 3 years old and my grandma and aunts took care of me for 11 years back in Cambodia. I like living with them and I always knew that I am different, because I only hangout with girls since I was very little, my bestest friend ever was a girl and she is 2 years older than me and she always love me for whatever I do and for whoever I am. Her name is Sokun.

I saw one of my baby picture and I was wearing a skirt while on a swing. I always knew that I am gay, because I always like boys and their private part. Life wasn’t that hard for me back then since I was only a kid.

In July 2004 I came to the united state without knowing much about it. I was new, I went to Canyon middle school and everyone was making fun of me bully me for many reasons. I cannot speak English or understand anything at all back then, but peoples keep talking to me and I never reply back. I choose not to say anything at all, especially, if it is in English.

Many years went by and it’s 6 years late, I have not talk at school at all, but I do talk at home since I am good with my language and comfortable with it. It’s not because I am afraid that I sound girly or anything, I just don’t want to be dumb and say English words wrong so I never really speak to anyone.

I am openly gay at the age of 15 in my Junior year in Mclane High school, located in Fresno. I wear makeup, I wear skinnies, and I look just like a gay boy. No one in the school is as gay as me by the look, but I have a friend who name is Ernesto Rojas, he make me come out and he is my hero. He make me happy when I’m sad and he always teach me that I should never let anyone put me down for whatever reasons and that I should stand up for myself no matter what and I did starting from that day on.

I am a new person, an openly express person who never let anyone put me down nomore, no matter whatever reasons. I am unique and I was born with a reason of originality and to be able to express myself in many ways, I call that the Rainbow! I am openly gay to everyone except my own family I live with, they won’t let me grow my hair, they won’t let me do anything, but I still sneak and do it when I am at school and I was able to express myself as much as I can to the world.

I haven’t really told my family yet, because I don’t think they will approve and I”m only 16. Right now they’re already torturing me with this and that and ask if I’m a boy or a girl and they even threadten to cut my private part off. If they’re going to do that they should just take me to the specialist and give me boob and vagina. But I don’t really care, I’m fine with who I am as a boy and gay, either way it’s me.

At school I have many gay, lesbian, and bi friends. My school are full of Gay peoples so I’m pretty much happy with my surrounding. Noone really make fun of me anymore because I was able to stand out and be in the center of everyone attention, I am proud of myself and I love everyone no matter who they’re.

I especially love all my friends, they’re everything to me, always tehre by my side and support me through all kind of sad situation. They’re so caring, I’m glad my world is not that bad, but at home I have to do all this and that, cleaning while my brother play games and such and he is like taller than I am and such. I am being judge at home. It’s hurt to be home than to be openly gay outside! Just so you know, they need to understand and learn more about gay peoples so that they know what we’re going through. Many asian peoples have no ideas what Gay mean and how many different type of gays are in this world and that every gay person are not the same and such.

I like it in the USA because many peoples know and understand the life of gay peoples and they’re willing to accept us for who we are. We’re unique and we’re born to be different, so don’t ever let anyone put you down. Just wait until you get to 18, you will be able to move out on your own and be your own person. I am currently 16 but I understand pretty much anything about Gay peoples, I watch, I join meeting, I join group, activities, I watch videos all about being gay. I know it’s hard but you have to live with it, because it’s you, you can’t change who you’re and try to be a different person.

Just be yourself, be unique, let others say this and that about you, and if they’re being really mean to you, you should go to them and let them know and understand about us instead of hiding yourself and do nothing. Let them know that you’re different from what they’re thinking and that you’re as nice as can be. Express yourself to the world! Don’t be sad, there are many of us out here and we know what you have to go through!…I am here to represent all of us Cambodia!!!

This story is located at:  http://ilga.org/ilga/en/countries/WORLD/Your%20Stories

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Working with Metaphors in Counseling

Posted on March 22, 2010. Filed under: Resources | Tags: , , , , |

By Ash Rehn

I work with metaphors and many of my clients are gay men and lesbians. The approach I use in counselling /psychotherapy is based on the principal that we interpret and make meaning of life through the stories we tell ourselves and others. These stories about the events and experiences of our lives employ metaphors.

The ‘journey’ metaphor (life as a journey) is very common in counselling work as are pedagogic metaphors (life as learning). But rather than come up with the metaphors myself, I am interested in the metaphors people bring to the counselling session. As a therapist I do not set about making interpretations but assist people to make their own interpretations.

For example… Say I am meeting with a client who talks about not being able to find any satisfaction in life. He has been searching for satisfaction for a long time. He knows it exists because he knows some other gay men who seem to have found it, but he was always told when he was growing up that satisfaction came from having a family and finding a loving partner. He hasn’t been able to find satisfaction and has often thought about giving up (the giving up took the form of suicidal thoughts), but something leads him to keep pursuing it.

This story could be seen as a kind of a quest metaphor: the quest for satisfaction. In telling me the story of this search he uses words like ‘finding’, ‘searching’, ‘existence’, ‘giving up’ and ‘pursuing’.

So I can pick up this metaphor and start using it with him, using his own language and interpretation of the events and experiences of his life to find new clues, signposts etc to explore the origins of this quest with him. Quest metaphors are not uncommon of course and we see them regularly in films such as The Wizard of Oz, and Lord of the Rings etc.

Someone else might come to me with a problem of ‘Not knowing How to Make Friends’. So there is a metaphor here in the ‘making’. This person has ‘almost given up’ because it requires ‘too much effort’ and he has ‘nothing to see for it’. When I ask about what he has heard about making friends he tells me that he understands it takes ‘Time, Trust and Effort’. And from his experience already he has decided that it is quite hard to build on ‘one night stands’ or random hook ups’ because the whole thing is liable to ‘come crumbling down’ too easily.

This sounds to me like a construction metaphor. I can follow this up with him by asking about plans and dreams of what kinds of friendships he wants to build. Are they great edifices or cosy hideaways? If random hook ups don’t seem to work, what sort of foundations might work? What is the cement of friendship? What are the building blocks? Does he know of any ‘finished products’ or ‘works in progress’ he can get ideas from?

I find metaphors really stimulating. Firstly, I don’t come up with them, others do, but I can help develop the preferred story and plotlines. Metaphors also speak to the hopes, beliefs, commitments and values people have. And hearing about these is just as important as hearing the ‘problem story’.

www.forwardtherapy.com

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Tina (U.S) & Anke (Germany)

Posted on March 20, 2010. Filed under: Stories | Tags: , , , , |

Anke and I met online in 2007 through a women’s group that I had created in an attempt to make friends in the lesbian community. She was one of the total five women who joined and the only one interested in getting to know me better. I always tell Anke it was fate for us to meet!

We didn’t start exchanging emails until a few months after the group was created, but needless to say when the emails started, they never stopped. It was an instant connection neither one of us could deny nor stop. The only problem was that she lived in Germany and I in the states.

Later after many emails, phone calls and chat sessions, it was very clear to us that we had to meet. Anke flew to Seattle in September 2007 and stayed with me for a month. From that point on, we realized that we couldn’t be apart. Anke flew back to Seattle that year a few times staying each time for about a month. Saying goodbye was torture! On her last visit in March 2008, we decided it was time for me to fly and experience Germany.

In July 2008 I flew to Germany / love of my life, to decide if I could live in Germany in case we weren’t able to win the green card lottery. Unfortunately, we lost and had to make the choice, or rather sacrifice, of giving up my life and our dream of living together in Seattle.

At the end of July 2008 I flew back to Seattle and started preparing for my move to Germany. It would be five months before we would see each other again. After giving up practically everything I own and many goodbyes later, Anke flew to Seattle in December 2008 to pick me up so we could fly back to Germany together.

A few days after arriving in Germany I was enrolled in language classes (a requirement of the government to marry and live here) and in March 2009 we married legally (this was, of course after I popped the question in Paris during my July visit). I continued my language courses for 8 months (another requirement of the government) in order for me to get an extension on my visa. Only after three years, even though we are legally married, can I apply for permanent residency here, not citizenship, just the right to permanently reside here.

Even though we are legally married here in Germany, life is not always easy for us. I worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant for 13 years caring for elderly people who have been afflicted with Alzheimer’s and Dementia and my wife works as a fund accountant. Although I am allowed to work here in Germany, my license does not translate here and my language skills are not enough to work in that particular field. We are forced to live off of one income at the moment, which thankfully is enough.

I know it’s only been a year since I have lived here in Germany, but I miss my life back home (the country my wife considers home), my career, friends, family and the American culture, however, being apart is not an option for us. We both have given up alot but refuse to give in! We will keep on fighting until we make our dream come true. We are thankful to be together knowing what the months apart felt like.

We hope the laws will change soon before anyone else has to give up their entire life and be separated from their loved ones. Our journey has been an emotional roller coaster but we have each other and that is the most important thing. We hope everyone will continue to fight and support each other even if things get tough. We all deserve freedom and no one should be allowed to dictate that fundamental right!

Written by Tina and co-written by her step mother Imelda

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Gays and Lesbians in Belarus want to leave

Posted on March 13, 2010. Filed under: Stories - from other sites | Tags: , , , , |

More than a half of gays and lesbians in Belarus want to leave their country

About a half of visitors of Gay.by who were participating in the survey on the topic «Have you ever thought of leaving Belarus because of homophobia?» have answered yes. Moreover a fifth of participants are ready to do so at the first opportunity. In all there were 408 people who took part in the survey.

If to compare this result with the all-Belarus research on the wish to leave the country conducted by the Sociometrical Laboratory “NOVAK” the situation with gay minorities greatly differs from all the immigration wishers.

According to the “NOVAK” research about 40% of youth and unemployed wish to leave Belarus (taking all the population this index is twice lower). 14,7% of unemployed found it difficult to answer if they wished to leave the country . This means that leaving Belarus could be a possible variant for them . And 12,5% simply don’t have money for immigration.

If we take gay and lesbian community and the wish the leave the country because of homophobia we will see the following situation:

56% want to leave the country (21% of them will do at the first possibility)

9% have already left the country

26% won’t leave the country, and 9% consider that there is no homophobia in Belarus .

If we make a rough calculation we can see that 65% want or have already left the country and 35% don’t want to leave.

The main reason why the representatives of gay and lesbian community want to leave the country is the social disapproval of homosexual relations, violence against gays and lesbians, the absence of social defense, law basis, civilized recreation sector, and also the fear of losing the job if the fact of being a homosexual will be revealed to the authorities. 56% of gays and lesbians face the facts of homophobia at work while 13% of them face it regularly.

The main destinations that are chosen by Belarusians for leaving are the USA and the countries of Western Europe .

 This story is located at: http://ilga.org/ilga/en/countries/WORLD/Your%20Stories

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The Marriage Metaphor – Why we should know the meaning behind words

Posted on March 9, 2010. Filed under: Collective Wisdom, Resources | Tags: , , , , , , , |

By: Beau Williams
Date: March 8, 2010

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Immigration Stories, A Collective Wisdom. I wish to know more about, and conduct research at a later date, on the challenges and experiences of Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, and Transgender immigrants. My reason for approaching the issue in the manner is that I think story telling as an educational tool can be very powerful. So, what I am proposing and am doing is putting out requests that give the identified population a chance to share their stories as well as am searching far and wide for stories that have already been captured and am putting them together to create a collective wisdom. My reason for approaching the subject in this manner is to give a nurturing space for creating community and providing access to information that will support others during a time that could potentially be one of the most stressful and difficult transitions in their lives.

 In collecting these stories there is one issue that seems to stand out to me more then most of the others. As of January 2010 there are over 36,000 bi-national couples dealing with additional stress on their relationship due to the fact their country of origin has failed to legally recognize their relationship. The U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act allow permanent residents to sponsor their spouses and their spouse’s immediate family for the purposes of immigration. However, same-sex partners of permanent residents and U.S. citizens will not be taken into consideration as spouses and their companion/partners are not permitted to sponsor them for family based immigration. As such many bi-national same sex couples are kept apart or forced to live in others countries where same sex marriage is recognized (Human Rights Campaign, 2010).

 With the many different elements in my project this element was most surprising to me. Not that I did not believe it to be true but rather it simply had not occurred to me. The idea that a couple’s relationship is ignored or not acknowledged seems to disturb me more and more as I come across these stories. 

 For as long as I can remember many gay couples who lived together would apply a term to their relationship that did not literally apply but metaphorically it did, that term being the word marriage. Personally, I consider myself to be married to my partner of 10 years. He and I have never celebrated our union through a wedding ceremony nor in the eyes of the federal government are we legally permitted to call our relationship a marriage, to include all of the benefits there of. The legal acceptance is not that important to us personally as we have legal documents in place to cover many of the important issues we want to be addressed should something happen to either or both of us. However, many other couples do not have this luxury. One such example: “J.W. Lown is the former mayor of San Angelo, Texas. Earlier this year he was forced to choose between his home and the community that had just re-elected him as mayor, and his partner. He now lives in exile in Mexico because his relationship with his same-sex partner is not recognized under US immigration law (See Appendix D).” Had Mr. Lown and his partner been given the legal option of marriage this would be a non-issue, they could have lived happily in the U.S. and San Angelo would have been able to keep the mayor they had reelected. However, that is not the case because the metaphor of marriage means different things to different people and the under lying belief systems are likely to keep this difference in understanding in place for the near future.

 The use of the word marriage is millennia old and steeped in tradition. Marriage as metaphor can mean many things. Such as, any close, intimate association or matching of different elements, components, and words. Currently that most popular understood and broadly accepted use of the metaphor is the social institution under which a man and a woman establish their decision to live as husband and wife by legal commitments and/or religious ceremonies (Dictionary.com, 2010), this is the more commonly accepted as the conservative western view. It is in this difference that I will dive in and examine the metaphor more closely to better understand the conflict and suggest a use of language that is intended to support the ‘marriage’ metaphor and of the differences in the understandings, how it is used in mainstream culture for heterosexual unions, the conservative worldview, and how the metaphor is used with in the gay and lesbian culture to gain a resemblance of the union of marriage privileged to the heterosexual class, more commonly accepted as the liberal western view or worldview.. 

 “In the Untied States we generally try to think of values as being equal for everyone but in reality things are not and as a result we often end up with conflicts within our metaphors associated with those values (Lakoff, 2003, pg 23).” These conflicts arise from a theory of truth based on a worldview and not one through which a ‘pure objective truth’ of which Lakoff would suggest does not exist and is also of the opinion that it is pointless to try and give theory to the truth  “Because so many of the concepts that are important to us are either abstract or not clearly delineated in our experience (the emotions, ideas, times, etc.) we need to get a grasp on them by means of other concepts that we understand in clearer terms (Lakoff, 2003, pg 115).” To better understand this argument let us look at the two world views that are current dominate in the Untied States, that being the conservative worldview and the liberal worldview.

 The accepted conservative worldview of marriage is heavily influenced and interpreted through our conceptual understanding the Christian bible. Beagle explains this foundational briefly by referring to various sources from said bible that has led to the conservatives understanding of the truth:

  • In Matthew 25:1–13, Jesus is the bridegroom and we are virgins who are waiting to attend the wedding.
  • In Jeremiah 2:32, He is the bridegroom and we (the church) are the bride.
  • Ephesians 5:28–30, He [Jesus] refers to the church not only as His bride, but also as His body.

“He apparently took as a given that those of us learning from His marriage parables would understand the different roles for the male and the female in a marriage. In Ephesians 5:22–33, Paul spells out those roles (Beagle, 2002-2010).”

  • The wife is to be subject to the husband in everything (verses 22, 24).
  • The husband is to sacrifice himself for His wife (verse 25).
  • The wife is the body of her husband, and
  • The husband is the head of that body (verses 23, 28).
  • The wife is to respect her husband (verse 33).
  • The husband is to love his wife as himself (verses 25, 28, 33).   

 Beagle takes the discussion farther by interrupting the above verses the mean as follows:

  • The church/bride is subject to her divine Husband (God) in everything.
  • The divine Husband already sacrificed Himself for her.
  • The church/bride is the body of her divine Husband.
  • The divine Husband (alone) is the head of that body.
  • The church/bride is to respect her divine Husband.
  • The divine Husband has already loved her as Himself—enough to die for her!

 Lakoff would offer it is our tendency to build metaphorical concepts and our understanding of those concepts that leads us to believe metaphors as true or false (Lakoff, 2003, pg 179). It is this understanding that establishes the baseline of beliefs for the relationship in the conservative worldview of heterosexual marriage.  The foundation for this belief system is known as The Strict Father Model and explains it as follows: “A family has two parents, a father and a mother. The family requires a strong father to protect it from the many evils in the world and to support it by winning those competitions. Morally, there are absolute rights and wrongs. The strict father is the moral authority in the family; he knows right from wrong. Is inherently moral, and heads the household. The mother supports and upholds the authority of the father but is not strong enough to protect the family or the impose immoral order my herself. She provides affection to the children to show love, reward right conduct, and provide comfort in the face of punishment. Children are born undisciplined. The father teaches them discipline and right from wrong. (Lakoff, 2006, pg 57)” He takes this farther to explain the conservative right leads the country in this same manner by what he calls ‘The Nation as Family’.  It is through this worldview the conservative party has and is still changing state and federal laws to define marriage according to the closely held beliefs held near and dear to them.

 However, all is not lost yet for those bi-national couples. Fred Parrella argues that “while it is not likely that … [Christian] … theology will sanction same sex marriage relationships in the near future, two significant changes have taken place in the last half century in our understanding of marriage.”

 First, the concept of marriage has moved from a legal contract to a personal covenant between two people in the pres-ence of God. Marriage is rooted, in the words of the Second Vatican Council, in ‘the conjugal covenant of irrevocable personal consent.’ Second, the act of procreation within a marriage (until recently seen as a duty so the race may survive) is no longer the only purpose of marriage. In marriage, the partners, as the Council says, also ‘render mutual help and service to each other through an intimate union of their persons and their actions (Parrella, 2004).’

 There is another world view significantly different from the conservative view. The liberal party, or the left, has a more progressive worldview of term marriage. One that is more inclusive of every one. This progressive worldview defines marriage is a social union or legal contract between individuals that creates kinship. It is an institution in which interpersonal relationships, usually intimate and sexual, are acknowledged in a variety of ways, depending on the culture or subculture in which it is found. Such a union may also be called matrimony, while the ceremony that marks its beginning is usually called a wedding (Wikipedia, 2010). This broader understanding establishes a baseline intended to give couples of all differences the chance to partake and enjoy the union of marriage with out discrimination.

 The liberal party has a more accepting and inclusive belief system intended to bring out the best in everyone or what Lakoff defines as Nurturant Parents or leader, who are authoritative without being authoritarian. The nurturing leader sets fair and reasonable limits and rules, and takes the trouble to discuss them with the people of the Untied States. Obedience derives from love for the leader and country, not from fear of punishment. Open and respectful communication takes place between political leaders and citizens. Political leaders explain their decisions in order to legitimize their authority. Political leaders accept questioning by citizens as a positive trait but reserve the ultimate decision making for themselves (Lakoff, 2006, pg 52). 

 Currently the liberal party has compromised with conservatives in getting legislation passed in various areas of the United Stated that is intended allow same sex couples to emulated some aspects of the marriage metaphor, some of the benefits, and some of the so called equality. The term popular term currently being used is civil unions. Yet, it is not equal to marriage. There are many other relationship metaphors being used by same sex couples and by those referring to same sex couple, partnered, significant others, or my favorite one used my neighbor “That ‘funny’ couple that lives over there.”

   So, the question that is coming for me is what are these differing arguments conflicting so strongly? And again, Lakoff does a nice job explaining this. There are two primary types of metaphors. There are primary metaphors and complex metaphors. The primary metaphors are those beliefs believed to be universal to everyone because we tend to have the same types of bodies, same types of brains, and we tend to live basically the same types of environments as they relates to metaphors. And, the second type is complex metaphors. The complex metaphors have roots in our primary metaphors but also make use of conceptual frames stemming from our cultural beliefs. It is through these cultural understandings, or worldviews, that we differ some much and through the differences conflict does arise (Lakoff, 2003, pg 257).

 It is through complex metaphors that differing opinions of the conservative and progressive worldviews on marriage that much debate is now occurring on who should have the right to marry. The liberal part want marriage for same sex couples and the conservative party are of the argument stating that marriage is intended to be only between one man and one woman. To this end the conservative government representatives have gone so far as to pass the legal legislation, Defense Of Marriage Act or more commonly known as DOMA. There are two main sections to this law. The first being, No state needs to treat a relationship between persons of the same sex as a marriage, even if the relationship is considered a marriage in another state. The second states that the federal government defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. This law was passed on September 21, 1996 as Public Law No. 104-199, 110 Stat. 2419. The bill was passed by Congress by a vote of 342-67 in the House of Representatives and a vote of 85-14 in the Senate, and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton on September 21, 1996 (Wikipedia, 2010).

 I would like to take a moment to mention historical documents indicates gay marriage has existed in the past. Example: “From 310 to 395 AD it is believed male to male Christian marriage ceremonies were performed which involved the burning of candles, the joining of right hands, the binding of those hands by the priest’s stole, the Lord’s prayer was recited, communion was given and a kiss occurred between the two men. It is believed these ceremonies were performed in the thousands through out the centuries. It was not until the second half of the seventh century that there began a large change in the way Western society became homophobic in a rather short period of time. It is believed this shift was a result of the rise in Puritanism which has it origins in England around the same period of time. (Spencer, 1995, pg. 171).” It is also documented the marriage as we know it now and what is once was has changed. In various parts of the world marriage has and to some extent still is used to combine wealth and position of two families. Where as romantic love was some to could occur out side of the marriage whether it be with male or female companions (Spencer, 1995, pg 36).

 To take this back to the challenge currently being presented to tens of thousands of bi-national couples, due to the defined meaning of one word we are putting thousands of couples through unnecessary hardship. Shirley Tan and Jay Mercado (see appendix F) are a prime example of how the meaning of this one word has had significant impact on their lives. Jay, an American woman, and Shirley, an immigrant from the Philippines have lived together for 24 years. They have a 12 year old twin boys and live very happily in the greater San Francisco area. Because they could not take advantage of the metaphor of marriage they had to come up with creative ways to keep Shirley in the country. As do many immigrants Shirley came here on a tourist visa and did not leave. In 1995 she tried to apply for asylum for two reasons. One she wanted to live with her ‘life partner’ and she feared for her life if she were to go back to the Philippines. She was not aware her asylum case was denied until officers came to her door to arrest her and took her away in hand cuffs. These two ladies are happy together. They have a wonderful family. Yet, because a segment of our government has defined the marriage metaphor as between a man and a woman these two ladies are forced to be ‘domestic partners’ and as such are not permitted to legally marry, which in turn eliminates all the legal problems being experienced by this family.

 There is legislation currently being debated by our governments that if passed would allow Shirley and Jan to remain together. This piece of legislation is The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) (see Appendix C), it does not interfere with the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as it uses a different type of language. The UAFA uses the term permanent partner and in so doing creates a new class of citizen. If passed, this would allow US citizens to sponsor their same sex partner but does so in a way that still treats them as second class citizens by institutionalizing discrimination.

 Legislation of this nature is good in so much that over 36,000 couples would be given the right to legally live together in the United States as a ‘partnered’ couple. Some would no longer be in fear of being deported as a result of one person in the couple being in the country illegally, the financial burden would be lifted from those traveling frequently to be together or paying to stay in school to qualify for a student visa, It would allow individuals to visit and rejoin their extended families that they are currently unable to due to travel restrictions, or force individuals to choose between a husband and wife or caring immediate family.

 Until UAFA is passed we will continue to have bi-national couples struggling to stay together. We will continue to have loving couples in exile from their country of origin and their extended families. We will continue to force couples into hiding as a result of illegal immigration. All this is the result of reluctance to allow a metaphor that means so much to such to so many to be defined for a less number of people because of differences in belief systems between the conservative and liberal parties.

 In order to get passed the barriers in these belief systems I would prosing a progression of language changes that is intended to eventually give equality for everyone involved. I think the language being proposed in The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) is right on track with where we need to go, currently. These changes will happen bit by bit. I propose we continue to make changes through the legislative branch of our government and through our judicial branch, federal court system. I do not believe this effort will that be accomplished through any one branch of our government. Nor will it change just because people start saying it. The pressure for change must happen from all 3 angles. We must continue to work with our congressional leaders so that over time when they think of same-sex couple the only term that comes to mind for a man is husband and the only term for a woman is wife. We must continue to work through our judicial branch of government to redefine marriage so as to prevent it from being only a man and a woman.

 In short, I think we need to adopt the language of the oppressor and make it our own. They we continue to use the word family when we refer those who live in all of our homes. We must adopt the term husband and wife. We must continue to use these terms until they not only become second nature to us but are second nature to everyone. When this is accomplished we will have embedded ourselves in to the subconscious of our oppressors in a way that blurs the lines between heterosexual couples and homosexual couples.    

 However, I suspect there are some among the LGBT community that disagree with me. Given that fact a portion of the community has a resistance to any such activity requiring conformance. And, worse yet, I too may well have some trouble using this language because it does not flow effortlessly from my own mouth.

 However, we have got to start somewhere, so why not start with us and why not start now.   

 Works Cited / Bibliography

Beagles, Kathy (2002-2010). Mixing Marriage Metaphors. http://cqbiblestudy.org/article.php?id=79

Dictionary.com (2010). Definition of marriage. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/marriage

Human Rights Campaign (2010). International Rights and Immigration. Immigration. Retrieved from http://www.hrc.org/issues/int_rights_immigration.asp

 Lakoff, George (2003). Thinking Points: Communicating Our American Values and Vision. Union Square West, New York.

 Lakoff, Geoge (2006). Metaphors We Live By. Chicago, Illinois.

 Perrella, Fred (2004). Gay Marriage: Theological and Moral Arguments. http://www.scu.edu/ethics/publications/ethicalperspectives/gay_marriage.html

 Wikipedia (2010). Definition of Marriage. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage 

 Wikipedia, (2010). The Defense of Marriage Act. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DOMA

Appendix A

 111TH CONGRESS

1ST SESSION House of Representatives 1024

To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to eliminate discrimination in the immigration laws by permitting permanent partners of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents to obtain lawful permanent resident status in the same manner as spouses of citizens and lawful permanent residents and to penalize immigration fraud in connection with permanent partnerships.

Complete text of amendment: http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=111_cong_bills&docid=f:h1024ih.txt.pdf

 Appendix B

 111TH CONGRESS

1ST SESSION Senate 424

To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to eliminate discrimination in the immigration laws by permitting permanent partners of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents to obtain lawful permanent resident status in the same manner as spouses of citizens and lawful permanent residents and to penalize immigration fraud in connection with permanent partnerships.

Complete text of amendment: http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=111_cong_bills&docid=f:s424is.txt.pdf

 Appendix C

 The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA)

 UAFA Keeps Families Together – The Uniting American Families Act (UAFA) offers remedies the current injustice in our nation’s immigration laws and allows U.S. citizens and permanent residents to sponsor their same-sex partners for family-based immigration. No one should have to choose between their country and their family.

 More information is located as: http://www.hrc.org/issues/int_rights_immigration/13114.htm

 Appendix D

 J.W. Lown is the former mayor of San Angelo, Texas. Earlier this year he was forced to choose between his home and the community that had just re-elected him as mayor, and his partner. He now lives in exile in Mexico because his relationship with his same-sex partner is not recognized under US immigration law. US family reunification law does not yet include gay and lesbian families – something groups such as Immigration Equality are working hard to change via the comprehensive immigration reform bill expected in 2010.

 This article is located at: http://loveexiles.wordpress.com/2009/12/06/to-a-mayor-from-a-mayor-in-exile/

 Appendix E

 Jennifer (U.S.) & Ellen (Taiwan)

 This story is located at: http://www.out4immigration.org/immigration/page.html?=&cid=1196

 Appendix F

 Lesbian couple inspires US immigration reform

 Various Articles related on the journey of Shirley Tan (Philippines) and Jay Mercado (Philippines) as they face deportation from US.

 This story is located at: https://lgbtculture.wordpress.com/2010/01/30/shirley-tan-and-jay-mercado/

Side Note: I am still working this story and updates will occur as needed.

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