Gov. Gretchen Whitmer addressed the State of Michigan after a plan to kidnap her and other Michigan government officials was thwarted by state and federal law enforcement agencies. She started by saying thank you to law enforcement and FBI agents who participated in stopping this [...]
by Kirsti Reeve
Terry and I were probably one of the first couples to admit “we met online”, through a tape trade on the Indigo Girls email list in 1994. One morning, my inbox contained the message: “I’m coming to England with my mom. Why don’t we meet up and trade the tape in person?” Terry has no clue what made her make that kind of offer to a total stranger, and I have even less idea why I accepted, but that meeting on October 7th was to change my life. I fell hopelessly in love with a woman who lived halfway around the world.
I can’t imagine a more perfect partner than Terry. We are both deep thinkers, both smart women, who believe in healing and recovery. We have the same tastes in food, sharing everything from sushi to White Castle with glee. Terry is a singer-songwriter, I play flute and sing, and we co-write and perform together across the country as well as playing in and directing church music groups. We both feel a sense of calling to ministry and are currently both training for ordination with Metropolitan Community Church of Detroit, leading their 6 p.m. service most Sundays. To sum it up in two words… “we fit”.
Terry and I survived nine years long distance, visiting every three months or so, while I finished my undergraduate degree, my masters and then chose to get my Ph.D. in hearing research. In September 2003, I was able to get a post-doctoral position in Detroit and move to Michigan on a work visa. We had a wedding ceremony in front of 180 guests and began building a home and a life together. But in May last year, I lost my job. I discovered that I had seven days to get a new employer, find a new visa category, or else leave the country.
Our thirteen year relationship gives me no guarantee whatsoever that I will be able to live with the person I love. I am committed to and partnered with an American citizen, but I have no legal right to stay in America because of that love. Well-meaning friends often ask if we could get married in Canada, or in Massachusetts, thinking that would somehow make things better. I have to explain that because of the Defense of Marriage Act, the U.S. Federal Government only recognizes marriage as between a man and a woman. In fact, doing either of those things could actually jeopardize my chance to stay in this country, since my current visa status is that of a non-immigrant student. This means that I am only here to obtain an education and then must return back to my home country.
There is a flicker of hope in the form of the Uniting American Families Act (UAFA), which was re-introduced to congress in May this year. This would add the category of “permanent partner” to the list of U.S. citizens who can sponsor an immigrant for a green card. However, given that it combines the hot-button issues of immigration and same-sex relationships into one piece of legislation, I don’t see it having much chance of passing anytime soon, even with a change in government. Although they gave lip-service to supporting UAFA in principle, both Clinton and Obama hedged their bets by claiming it would be impractical for the already overtaxed immigration system to implement this option right now.
It would be nice to be able to relax and take being together for granted like any other couple can. Currently, as long as we can afford for me to stay in school, we’re safe. My hope is that when I obtain my master’s degree in counseling next summer, I will be able to find a counseling job as a salaried employee with a company that is willing to pay the fees and fill out a lot of bureaucratic paperwork to hire me. But that can’t be guaranteed in this job market, and it also assumes that the H1-B visa limit doesn’t get reached within a week like it did this year. If not, then Terry and I will need to find some way financially for me to keep my student visa. I will start yet another degree, when all I want to do is to be able to use my counseling skills to relieve peoples’ suffering.
I don’t mean to complain or sound bitter. There have been some wonderful benefits from being long-distance for so long, and from having to work with the immigration system. We have an amazing foundation of communication that came from talking on the phone for at least an hour a day, and countless email exchanges. We joke that we actually talked more when we were apart than we do now, when most conversations are to do with plans for the weekend, who’s done the laundry, and what’s for dinner. Not being able to take our long-term future together for granted has given us a sense of gratitude for every day that we share. Anyone who spends much time around us can tell you how nauseatingly romantic and gooey we are, and a large part of that stems from our sheer joy in finally being together. Each night for the past four years, we have gone to bed with a prayer: “Thank you God for this day together. May we please have another one tomorrow?” I’m looking forward to the day that prayer is answered for good.