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3 January 2003

I haven’t done a good rant in awhile, but I received news today that makes me furious—on many levels.  This concerns two women, whom I will call Jane and Mary, but it also slops over into other areas as well, so forgive me if I ramble.

 Mary is from this country; Jane is from Australia.  The two met and fell in love several years ago and have been partners all this time, though they have continued living in their respective countries, traveling back and forth whenever possible to spend as much time together as they could.

 SLOP OVER AREA #1:   Think of all those wonderful romantic movies where the foreign traveler has a mad passionate romance while traveling, and the final scenes show the lovers embarking on their happily ever after.   That’s wonderful if you’re Joe and Jane, but if you’re Maria and Jane, or Giuseppe and Jim, you are in for a lot of hassle, a lot of frustration, and, if one of you happens to live in the United States, a brick wall.  

 Governments impose moral judgements on relationships.  When Joe and Jane may be madly in love and decide to spend their lives together, their big decision is “your country or mine?”  They set up housekeeping, and it’s perhaps a bit of a time wait, and a lot of paperwork, but eventually the non-resident alien, by virtue of his or her new marital status, is granted permanent residency.

 But if it’s Mary and Jane, your choices are much more limited—and much more frustrating.  Jane could not, for example, gain permanent residency in the United States.  Mary could have gotten permanent residency as a same gender spouse in Australia, but it ain’t easy.  For one thing, a tourist visa is granted for one year, with multi-entry status, but it is not able to be renewed.  In order to be considered in a committed same gender relationship, you have to prove that you have been together for 365 days—not 364, 365.  So that means that in order to even consider applying for permanent residency in Australia, you must begin building proof of your commitment on day #1 of your visit, and you must file for residency on the very last day that your visa is valid (meaning you are then in the country illegally, while waiting for a response.)

 Canada also recognizes same gender partnerships, but here too, all is not as easy as it would seem on paper.  A lesbian couple I have recently heard of decided to settle in Canada, a country which recognizes same gender partnerships.  They had it all planned.  They would settle down and raise a family.  Woman #1, the Canadian, was artificially inseminated, and her partner was going to be the stay-at-home mom and raise their child.  Only the judge decided she’d never heard of artificial insemination for lesbians and obviously if Woman #1 was pregnant, she must have been with a man, therefore she was bisexual and that was enough to invalidate the women’s partnership.  There would have been no question whatsoever if Woman #2 had been a man.

The last word I had of this couple, the judge had reluctantly granted permanent residency to the American, but not as a partner, as a worker.  This means that in order to stay with her family, she must work outside the home and hire childcare for the baby she intended to stay home to mother.

 But I digress.  Back to Mary and Jane.

 Toward the middle of 2002, Mary was diagnosed with terminal cancer.  When she was hospitalized, Jane flew from Australia to be be with her partner.  It was then when I became aware of them, as a mutual friend near Melbourne contacted me, trying to find a contact address for the hospital where Mary was dying.  I was able to find the number, she called, said her goodbyes to Mary, and Mary died a day or two later.

 I was scheduled to go to LA for Steve’s show, and since I’m now such an expert on grief, and since I knew Jane would be devastated by losing her life’s partner, and since I knew she'd left her support system behind in Australia, I called and talked with her on the phone at length.  I had hoped to meet with her when in LA, but that never happened.

 Jane is back in Australia now and her grief is being compounded by the actions of Mary’s sisters, who are contesting Mary’s will, which left some things to Jane.  They are also accusing Jane of “stealing” Mary’s ashes to bring with her to Australia (not true, as the ashes are still in California).  The thing that makes me angry is now insensitive Mary’s sisters are being of her relationship with Jane.  And would they have treated a male surviving spouse in such a callous manner?

 SLOP OVER #2:  Go now immediately and rent “If These Walls Could Talk, Part 2”  It’s 3 mini stories which are set in the same house in different decades.  The first one, for which Vanessa Redgrave won an Emmy, is the story of two elderly lesbians, who have lived together for years and years.  Their care in presenting a public face  of “roommates” and the love and affection they feel for each other when they are in their home is a tragic reminder of the stigma of same gender couples, especially in the 50s, when this is set, but in many areas even today.

 One of the women dies suddenly and the story is the painful aftermath for the other, Redgrave, as she has to hide the grief at losing the love of her life while watching her partner’s only surviving relative, a nephew she has not seen since he was a child, take over the house, sell off the woman’s things, and be totally oblivious to the depths of Redgrave’s  grief, and insensitive to the nature of their relationship. 

 This recalls to mind the story of a 72 year old gentlemen I met at a PFLAG meeting, who lost his partner of over 50 years and the resulting financial hassle that ensued following the death.  It ended in his having to sell the home they had built together and lived in for decades, and move into a small apartment, which necessitated selling their lifelong art collection, because he had no place to put it. 

It seems that in looking at same gender couples, so many people can't see beyond the whole physical thing.  "The ewwww factor," someone called it once.   There are huge groups of people who seem to think that it's impossible for two people of the same gender to form a close, loving, lifelong bond and that it's possible that it goes deeper than a mere physical act.  That they can love each other.  Care for each other.  Want to spend their lives together--just doing simple things like washing the dishes, painting a fence, walking the dog, watching dumb things on television. 

The problem with these short-sighted views is that it results in the marginalization of a huge segment of the population, a segment which pays the same taxes as its straight counterparts, but don't enjoy nearly the same level of benefits as a result. 

Thank goodness there are starting to be some inroads made, but for people who have had to live in a closet their whole life, progress is painfully slow.   Will we ever, in my lifetime, see a day when people can have legal protections everywhere in the US for things like hospital visitations, death decisions, inheritance of property, and all of the other >1,000 rights and privileges that straight married couples enjoy which gay couples pay for but are denied.

The day will come too late for Jane, who has to endure being relegated to the status of second class citizen and relinquish decisions about her life partner, and disposition of the things they shared together, to other people. 

Quote of the Day

Thirty-seven years ago I violated a societal taboo. My wife’s skin is white, and I married her. That was against the law in virtually every state in this nation. And the same arguments that I heard then, I hear now: ‘This will violate God’s law. If God wanted people to cross racial lines, he wouldn’t have made black and white. This is going to destroy civilization.’ None of that has come to pass.

— Ward Connerly, an African-American and
University of California Regent

Yesterday's Photo

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Dance lessons for my sister, ~1956--this is the first gay man I ever knew--he and his partner helped my grandparents and spent holidays with us. Looks pretty sinister, doesn't he?

One Year Ago
The Concert of Your Life
It's fairly safe to say that my musical journey through life has been a full and varied one. I don't immediately discount any music as unworthy of my attention, and feel that my life has been enriched by that willingness to experiment. But there are some specific pieces that evoke memories of certain periods of my life and it's always fun to take a musical trip down memory lane.

Two Years Ago
Smile, Tho Your Heart is Breaking
Smiley faces used to make me laugh. Now they make me smile, wistfully. I'd love to be able to exchange joke gifts with Paul again.

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