Our lives as a binational couple
July 27, 2012
When I came to visit New York in April 2003, I had no idea how life-changing a week it would be. During my time here, I met David, and to sum it up simply, we have been life partners ever since.
But ours has turned out to be a less-than-straightforward love story. Because I am from London and David is from New York, and because we are both men, we find ourselves in an unusual situation - a binational relationship where we are denied the freedom to marry and everything that comes with that - including the ability to have David sponsor me to move to the United States permanently. We have to make our partnership work across two continents because the so-called Defense of Marriage Act prohibits the federal U.S. government from recognizing marriages between same-sex couples.
David, a handsome, singing psychologist, came complete with a delightful eight-year-old son, who he evenly shares custody of. Because of this, there wasn't an option for him to join me in London, where civil partnerships exist for same-sex couples. And so began our unique journey...
We have found a way to make our sometimes-very long distance relationship work; while David has remained in permanent employment, I have opted for short-term contracts in London, which has allowed us to be together for slightly more substantial periods of time in New York.
When we are together, we are like any other couple or family. We go to the store, the diner and the beach, and looking from the outside-in, our daily lives seem like pretty regular ones. But our time spent together can never be too lengthy, since it's never long before we are separated by an ocean and the contact between us is reduced to emails and phone calls. The modern age means we can be in constant contact when we are apart, but sometimes the modern age still doesn't seem too modern!
To many, our NYLON (New York/London) relationship seems glamorous and romantic - which, of course, it is on some level - but because we have been denied the freedom to marry, I am unable to remain in the United States for any lengthy period of time, and David is unable to petition for my right to remain. If I were straight and had met a woman on my trip here in 2003, mine would be a different story.
When marriage between same-sex couples was legalized in New York this time last year, we were so happy for the myriad of couples we saw benefit from the legislation. But our happiness was tinged with a certain amount of frustration - even if we celebrated our relationship with a marriage in the city David was born in and the place we love so dearly, it would be meaningless for my immigration status or for our long-term future together.
I used to be less passionate about the marriage issue we both face. With so many inequalities in the world - race, sex, wealth, etc. - ours seemed like a minor problem. But I've come to realize over time we are being denied a basic human right - the opportunity to be with the person we both want to be with. It has made an impact on both of our lives, practical, financial and otherwise. Our carbon footprints are sizable, too!
Many people have asked us the question, ‘If you were together full time, do you think you would still be together?" It's a fair question and one we always answer with a "Yes." The truth is, we can't know that until we are afforded the right to put our relationship to the test - and we would love to have the opportunity to do just that.
We are optimistic about the future and drew great hope from President Obama's comments about the freedom to marry early this year. Maybe one day the so-called Defense of Marriage Act won't loom so large in our minds. But as many same-sex couples in New York celebrate their first year of marriage together, we still have no time table for when this could or will be possible for us.
For now, we simply celebrate the times that we are together and we make sure that we really really savor them.