Monday, June 14, 2010

Forbidden love

A few days ago, a reader sent me a link to a horrifying story about legalised homophobia in the USA. Basically, a South Korean guy got married to an American guy in San Francisco in 2008, but was subsequently denied re-entry into the USA to be with his partner. Coincidentally, a couple of weeks ago another male reader had sent me a short story about one of his own experiences entering the USA after legally marrying his American same sex partner. Luckily, things turned out much better for this reader than they did for the South Korean:

January 2008, crossing into the USA from Canada

I am Spanish, in the visa-waiver category, and as such it can be difficult to enter the USA as LGBT tourist. But if you are in a same-sex marriage to a US national, and you are "out" about it, it seems to be even harder. This story is funny now, but back then it felt very intimidating.

My experience was when re-entering the USA with my partner, after crossing to Vancouver where we got married. On the way back to Seattle, this happened:

Immigration Check-point. Entering by car

US Officer: Hello Gents!
My partner and I: Hello sir.

US Officer: Can I have your passports?
My partner and I: Here you are.

US Officer: Where do you come from?
My partner and I: Vancouver

US Officer: How do you know each other?
My partner: I lived in Uruguay for nine months, and despite the fact he is Spanish-passport holder and now lives in Spain now, back then he lived in Uruguay too.

US Officer: Ok, and what's your relationship now?

My partner stares at me warily ...

My partner: We are married! (showing off the wedding ring)

The officer looked at me ballistically.

US Officer: Do you have your return ticket to Spain?
Me: No, I don't. But you have it on your computer. (Because I had entered the US a couple of days before from Spain, and in the airport they registered everything on the computer)

US Officer: Well, I do not. If I had it I wouldn't be asking you. But, when are you leaving?
Me: Next weekend.

US Officer: And, how can I know you're going to leave the US when you have your US partner? (By de facto for the first time ever the US federal government or agency recognized same-sex unions (that was Jan. 2008, Bush Administration)

Me: (Looking down at him and making faces of "I don't feel comfortable in this place") Leaving the US? Yes, I will! Believe me, I will!

My partner: (coming back into scene) I am moving to Spain in a month.

US Officer: OK, here are you passports, BUT make sure you bring your return ticket next time.

Ironically, as we departed, Madonna's song "Forbidden Love" suddenly started playing on our iPod. We looked at each other and laughed!

The times before I had entered the US, I had no problems or intimidation, just average questions. But this time, I believe they knew we were getting married, so they had to ask "What's your relationship now?"

Anyway, as I said, looking back it's funny now :-).


N1David said...

As a UK citizen who travels a lot to the US, only once have I been given a really hard time by US immigration, and that was when I was arriving in Boston for a holiday in Provincetown. I was aggressively questioned about what I would be doing in Massachussetts and if I had any US friends I would be visiting. I've never felt so unwelcome.

It was only afterwards that I realised I was wearing a (discreet) HRC T-shirt (HRC being broadly the US equivalent of Stonewall) and gay marriage had been legalised in Mass about a month earlier... I don't know if the immigration officer thought I was planning to get married when over there...

Bill said...

Why does this seem to surprise you? It's the USofA you are writing about, sigh ...

Mind Of Mine said...

I am gay and I don't see an overly homophobic stance by the customs officer.

Was Once said...

That is why, until we get US federal equal rights as opposed to states getting married to my foreign partner is a waste of time.

Latelygay said...

When Oscar Wilde visited the US he was asked by the customs official if he had anything to declare, to which he famously replied ... 'My genius!'.

However, by the time Quentin Crisp got there, the questioning had becoming somewhat more sophisticated. 'Mr.Crisp, are you a practising homosexual?', he was asked. QC's reply was swift: 'Practising? I'm PERFECT!!'

Anonymous said...

It is a nation of fundamentalists and they hate sodomites!

See the clip "The Bible told me so (1/9)"

Glen from NYC said...

They make it miserable for everyone, it seems to be their mission in life. Take comfort in the fact that they will spend their career questioning people who lead far more fabulous lives than they could ever hope for or afford. I am a native NY'er and regularly cross the land border between NY and Ontario for business in a suit and tie. I am regularly treated like Osama Bin Laden's 6'2 blonde brother. Just be polite and suck it up...they can keep you out.

Grouse79 said...

Am I the only one who is amused by that US immigration form everyone (including kids) has to fill in on the plane? Asking stuff like "Are you a terrorist?", "Are you carrying illegal drugs?". and "Were you involved in Nazi Germany?". I think they stopped asking about being gay about 30 years ago.