What Kind of Fresh Gay Hell is This? (OR Why are you in Germany, Snooker?)

Today I received an email from Democrats Abroad (the overseas branch of the US Democratic Party). In it was a warning that discussed how the consulate services would change for people wanting to bring foreign family with them when they move back to the U.S.

In that letter was a simple text which caught my eye, “We have a long-standing commitment as Democrats Abroad to simplifying the path to citizenship and legal permanent residency for non-American spouses and close family members”.

Uh huh… and gay and lesbian spouses?
Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot?

I did a little Googling and found not so much as a
news piece on how DA is supporting legislation in the House and Senate right now… the Uniting American Families Act of 2011.  

OK, so I don’t regularly pump money into the DA, but I do support them occasionally. Upon reading this email, I am struck by the notion of  “What have you done for me lately, DA?”

I’ll give DA a break because actually there are relatively few people/organizations who care about my plight. But before I delve deeper into my special situation, perhaps you should know more about it. Let’s go to bullets, shall we?

  • Fell in love with a German girl in 2000
  • She came to visit me in the States often in 2001 and 2002, I also visited her in Berlin during these years
  • Tried to legally have her move to America starting in 2003 with a student visa (no other legal methods available – university is free or cheap in Germany, but we are willing to pay for the education if it means we can be together).
  • Based on the fact that she had entered the country six times in the past two years she was considered a “risk of overstay” and denied a student visa which also cancels her out of the visa waiver program forever… she can’t come to America for at least year because of this denial. 
  • Shortly after the denial she pays more money for the privilege to go to the Consulate – armed with proof that she intends to return to Germany – to appeal the denial of both the student visa and the visa waiver program.
  • She met with the same woman who had denied the original request… you guessed it, denied once again. (K**** ******, if Sweet No ever sees you on the street, she won’t be such a Sweet No anymore.)
  • On the other side of the Atlantic, I tried Lambda Legal Defense who told me that if either she or I had a penis, this would all be really easy… but gays can’t petition to bring their future spouses to America… Sorry Snooker.
  • Found out that the states which have recently been allowing gay marriage have nothing to do with our situation. Immigration is at the federal level, and thanks to the Defence of Marriage Act, (DOMA) the feds (and the other states) don’t have to recognize any homosexual marriage performed in those states, not to mention other countries. Sorry again, Snooker.
  • Tried a shyster immigration lawyer who was happy to take my money and petition “da gubermint” for us, but to no avail.
  • Sweet No goes back to the American Consulate in Berlin after her year banishment from travel to America and meets up with a nice guy who seems to sense her desperation and takes pity on her, issuing her a 10 year “B1/B2 visa”, allowing her to travel to the States again, and with much more lenient travel restrictions (maximum length of stay 6 months instead of the normal 3 months). 
  • Happy Dance… but still, it doesn’t REALLY keep us together.
  • Sweet No wants to work and be a contributing member of society, just coming in for VISITS is simply frustrating. Of course entering and overstaying illegally are not even up for consideration. 
  • In 2004 I got sick and tired of watching my girl walking to airport security through the tears in my eyes and decided to move to Germany to be with her. FuckYouWashington
  • Sold everything, gave up my career, said goodbye to friends and family in preparation to leave.
  • 2005 the cat and I leave the “Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave” to be in Germany which accepts my love of a woman. Germany also allows me to have a “separate, but equal” civil partnership with Sweet No. Immigration is pretty much the only benefit of the Lebenspartnerschaft, but it was a good thing in our case. (Thankfully the Greens keep making another go of equalizing this situation in Germany, maybe some day they will get lucky.)
  • January of 2005 we signed our civil partnership and had our – yes, we share a birthday – birthday on that same day. Great birthday present, no?
  • Because of her special visa we are rather lucky, she isn’t under suspicion as are many others in our situation. If foreign same-sex spouses come to the United States accompanying a U.S. citizen, (even for a short visit of the U.S. citizen’s family), U.S. Immigration might deny visa privileges to the spouse out of fear that they will be tempted to overstay their visa dates to remain in the country with their spouse (perhaps even challenging the anti-gay marriage laws as we are LEGALLY partnered in another country). Thus, gays and lesbians (especially politically active ones) have been known to be turned away at the gates.
  • Wish us luck, that visa expires in just a few years. 

In the end I had to face lots of the same problems as other “love exiles”. I had to give up my career and move far away from my family. This is being felt even more now that my Mother is dealing with declining health and I would like to be there for her. But as it is, if I need to be in the U.S. for a longer period of time, I have to choose between being with my wife or being with my American family. It’s really rather unfair, and it makes me into a second-class citizen… one who STILL needs to pay American taxes even though I don’t live in the country. 

So where are you going with this, Snooker? 
I really don’t know. It is just that something has been awakening in me lately.

Those who came before helped to blaze the trail for me and others like me to be openly gay, often at great

Political cartoon by Darrin Bell

personal sacrifice to themselves. Those pissed off queens turning the tables on police during a scam raid on the Stonewall Inn in the late ’60’s and starting the “Gay Revolution” are a fine example. Barbara Gittings and her friends stood up and said that they wouldn’t take being considered second class citizens – and worse yet, mentally unstable – during the ’60’s (which lead The American Psychiatric Association to officially declassify homosexuality as a mental illness in 1974 – but it wasn’t until 1992 that the World Health Organisation followed suit). The good people of GLAAD and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force have done so much to further the cause. And who could forget Harvey Milk and the work he did for the community before being gunned down himself.

Let’s not forget the organizations working tirelessly on this very topic:
Immigration Equality Action Fund
Out4Immigration
Love Exiles Foundation

So what are you doing, Snooker? is a question I often ask myself. Yeah, I’m living pretty well, but only because I ran. I am part of a US binational same-sex couple who had the money and ability to simply move away from the situation and now the whole anti-gay thing doesn’t have so much of a grip on me.

This has reminded me of a book I have recently seen advertised, “Torn Apart – United by Love, Divided by Law” by Judy Rickard. Perhaps I should just order it now, proceeds go to organizations working to overcome U.S. immigration denial for same-sex binational couples. (tick, tock… time passes… cue shot to a clock with moving pendulum) OK, the Internet has worked its magic. The book is probably whizzing my way right now. It was even available at Amazon.de.  

But what about the others? What about those folks left behind who would like to have the same rights as the supposed “normal” people in our society? What about those kids right now who are counting on my generation to do our part to further gay civil rights to benefit their generation? UGH, that is a terrible weight to bear. But I say here and now that I will do more towards this goal. I DO still have a vote in American politics (my wallet feels it, even if I sometimes don’t), I DO still have a voice in what happens. Perhaps I just need to raise that voice a bit more often.

Any suggestions how I can do that?
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Lesbschwules Parkfest Friedrichshain 2009

After a full day of shopping (bought some wear-all pants with zip off bottoms for the New Zealand trip) and running around, we thought we would trip on over to Friedrichshain Park in East Berlin to take part in a gay and lesbian tradition, the Lesbschwules Parkfest.

One day a year the open air concert/movie arena in Friedrichshain Park becomes the play place of several thousand gays and lesbians. There were about 25 booths from all walks of life, including of course the normal fare for such festivals… Wurst and Beer. But there were some coffee/tea vendors as well as political (Germans will go to the polls soon, the political signs are going up and the candidates are out in full force) and professional service people. Tons of organizations come out, from the Lesbian readers, to the Asexuals (we never thought to ask… does that mean that they aren’t attracted to anyone?) and don’t forget the Gay Yoga Group.

We haven’t been to this celebration since my first year in Berlin, which puts us back to 2005. What can I say, we’re always busy, or out of town, or it is pouring rain.

The last time I was there Klaus Wowereit, the Mayor of Berlin came up on stage and gave a rousing speech. Of course I had not one iota what the good man said, but the people seemed to be digging it. What I was excited about was that the guy up on the stage is a gay man and I now lived in his city. For a lesbian who had just left Wichita, Kansas I was possibly understandably jumping for joy. What a liberating experience. Of course this was LONG before I had the opportunity to party with the wild and crazy boy… ask me about that sometime!

As far as I know Klausi wasn’t on the program for today, I just know that I didn’t see him there. But we did get to hear a few bands and there were several speakers. Mostly what I did was sit and watch the people, it seems to be my favorite past time these days. And let’s admit it, at such an event, there are really some interesting people to see.

It seemed like every third couple I saw was trailing a kid of some form. The older sisters had a young teenager in tow, the middle-agers had todlers, and the “oh my gawd are they really old enough to have children?” people had the teeny babies. There were a few gay male couples with kiddies, although I think it was certainly heavy toward the lesbians in this regard. It wasn’t stroller heaven like some park fests I’ve been to… but it was close.

All in all it is good, clean fun… at least during the daylight hours, I’ve never been there at night. When I think about the fact that not too many decades ago a group of gays and lesbians congregating like this in a public park would be asking for police brutality, I get a smile on my face and remember that we’ve come a long way, baby.

Stepping into the fire

Sadness and anger enveloped me as I read of the assassination of Dr. George Tiller in my hometown, Wichita, Kansas. First a little back history. Dr. Tiller was one of few doctors left in the country who would allow women to exercise their legal right to control their reproductive decisions.

The most controversial thing about Dr. Tiller was that he was almost alone in Kansas, let alone the country for performing late second and third term abortions. He was dealing with families who were making heartbreaking decisions to end their pregnancies in late gestation because of the knowledge that the fetus had unalterable abnormalities which could either be life-threatening and/or would cause severe disabilities, both physical and mental.

His life and the lives of his family were in almost constant danger simply because he was faithful to the law that gives women the right to choose abortion over problem pregnancies. The year I graduated high school, his clinic was bombed. In 1991 while I was being robbed at gunpoint, the police officer who responded to the call seventy minutes later apologized because Operation Rescue’s “Summer of Mercy” anti-abortion protests at Tiller’s clinic were taking the resources of so many officers that they were understaffed. In 1993 someone shot Dr. Tiller in both arms which was as you can see just one of several murder attempts made previous to the one which ended his life as he was serving as an usher in his family church last Sunday.

OK, let’s step back for a moment. I don’t need to tell the reader that abortion is a terribly divisive subject. Even those who identify as being for reproductive rights will lay the line in different places, either for the right to use contraceptives but no abortion, or for abortion but just in the first trimester, or allowance for abortion up into the second trimester.

As a lesbian who does not intend to have a baby I feel that I have about as much of a say about abortion as the average man. No guy has an idea what it is like to miss a period and wonder – no, FEAR – that a pregnancy has started. They’ve never questioned themselves about what would happen if the person 50% responsible drops out of their lives when they find out that their sex games have consequences which will have dirty diapers.

Also as a lesbian I have never felt the stirring of a fetus in my womb and filled with joy at the thought of bringing another human life into this world. Thus I cannot even begin to understand the horror which a woman who pines for a child yet is barren would feel when considering that abortion is one of the most performed surgeries in America today with over twenty-five percent of pregnancies being ended prematurely.

I’m not going to get into the right and the wrong of what Dr. Tiller was doing in his clinic every day. All I can say is that it was sanctioned by the law in Kansas, and for me that is where it ends.

What I can speak about is my disgust for vigilante justice. No individual has the moral right to become judge, jury and executioner. Due process of the law must be respected in modern society or anarchy prevails.

This man was the fourth abortion doctor to be killed by a vigilante in the last few decades. Is the pro life movement a bunch of fringe lunatic terrorists? No, I wouldn’t say that anymore than I would say that the gay rights groups are terrorists. I would say that they are both trying to get laws changed according to what they believe is right.

What I do take issue with is the anger and violent words spewed forth by the pro life movement since Roe v Wade. As a Wichitan in the early 90’s I was subjected daily to anti-abortion activists holding up signs with pictures of bloody body parts and screams that I should be in the protest with them if I found the practice disgusting. Witnessing a ten year old child screaming “You’re going to murder your baby you stupid bitch” as a tearful pregnant woman with her head down hurried into the nine foot iron gates of Tiller’s clinic. All of this as the child’s assumed mother looked on with a gleam in her eye. This was for me the epitome of repugnance.

People like Bill O’Reilly have been inciting anger and violence against individuals like Tiller for years. Does this make him partially responsible? By the way, it turns out the man suspected in Dr. Tiller’s murder was a huge O’Reilly fan. Are we surprised?

No doubt Bill has come back and said that it was not his intention to incite violence, he may even decry the murder, but there is plenty of evidence that he himself has said that he would like to do away with Dr. Tiller. But then again, let’s just add this to a long list of things I don’t appreciate about Bill. Nah, he’s just spewing those hateful words to reach his base. The problem for me is, his base seems to be OK hearing it. Of course Dr. Tiller was under attack long before O’Reilly even had a show, so blaming him just seems stupid, right?

If you believe in a woman’s right to choose you have a duty, even a right to speak out against those who would take that away. If you believe that abortion is murder, you also have a duty and a right to speak out against this practice. Welcome to America. Freedom of speech is a strongly held belief. But does either side have the right to incite violence for the cause?

Just like everyone else I filter the news through my own life’s experiences. I have to look at this from my perspective with a minor change. If I were standing in front of a Wichita city official trying to obtain a marriage license for me and my Sweet No, allowing her to immigrate to America and for us to be together, would I be driven to murder because this person says that two women are not entitled to this right? Will I incite others to commit murder if they are in similar circumstances? Would I stand by and listen as someone in the gay community called for the murder of people withholding these rights? The answer to these questions, an unequivocal no.

I am just as frustrated as many of the average anti-abortion people, why would I not be willing to listen to my community leaders calling for the death of all those responsible for withholding my rights? Because I know it is wrong.

No, those people are doing their job, upheld by the law. Until that law changes, those people should be protected for doing their jobs. They certainly don’t deserve to die any more than Dr. George Tiller did.

My thoughts are with Dr. Tiller’s wife, children and grandchildren in this time of sorrow.

“However profound our differences as Americans over difficult issues such as abortion, they cannot be resolved by heinous acts of violence.” – President Barack Obama

Been reading:

Bar-ack O-Bama Herz-lich Will-kom-men

What a day to be an American.

Last night an expat friend said something which stopped me in my tracks. All the stress of a busy work world just sunk away. “Tuesday is going to be a great day to be an American.”

She’s absolutely right. It IS a great day to be an American. So here’s to Obama. Dude, you’ve wheedled yourself into a job no sane person would want. I wish you all the best.

I have some hopes for you. It is my sincere desire that you are able to achieve even 1/10 of your aspirations. For your family I wish all the best with as little interference from the press and political world as possible. Like many Americans, and may I say it, even many of the world’s citizens, I hope that you and your cabinet are able to find a way out of these many crises and take the United States into a positive direction.

For now all I can say:
Yes We Can!

Been listening:
This morning on rs2 (radio), the regular segment of Küss mich Kanzler (Kiss me Chancellor) was really cute. The premise of the segment is the home life of Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel. The fact that she is a woman, and that her husband stays completely out of the public eye is very interesting, funny to think about even. Sound-alike voices in the show are simulating the Chancellor and her husband just going through life’s little problems exploring with a funny edge that she is the leader of Germany.

Although I only heard the last part of the piece, what I got was really cute. Sung to the tune of “Sweet Home Alabama, All Summer Long” was “Bar-ack O-Bama Herz-lich Will-kom-men”. Tee hee hee!

I found the website which normally posts the pieces, but it isn’t up as of this morning. Maybe later today it will be available. I’ll have to check back later for another listen.

Been watching:
Fight for Kisses – OMG!! This is cute. The mommies/daddies will really enjoy this creative video. Dancing baby, move over!