6 YEARS TOGETHER, 5,000 MILES APART: DOMA Keeps Two Women From The Life They Dream Of
Laws. Laws are what make people behave (supposedly) in a good way, what make them what we call good citizens of a country. They rule our lives and most of the time we do not think about them; they are just what they are and we have learned to live with them. But sometimes, laws are what can make our life very difficult.
This is what my girlfriend and I have been living for the past six years. Never knowing when and if we would see each other again, not because we were not sure of our feelings, but because of immigration laws. Every time I come to the United States, I have to leave within ninety days, so I have been living my life between two different countries. Because of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, I cannot have the life I wish I had. I cannot be with the person I love or work in her country. When I am back in France, I go back living with my family and doing uninteresting jobs so I can save money to pay for my next trip. Is it how life is supposed to be? Torn between two countries?
Our story started in 2005.
I guess we could call it destiny. Tammy was engaged to a man when I met her and I was single, and nineteen years old at the time and not looking for anyone and especially not for a woman.
We met on the internet, on a TV show board that we both used to watch, her in the United States and I, in France. I have always loved speaking and reading English, it felt natural to me and we did not have any problem communicating with each other. My level of English improved considerably though thanks to Tammy. On this board, we would talk every day about the TV show and sometimes about more personal matters. Maybe five months after being in contact we started using messenger to talk to each other, our conversation were finally live!
We would spend hours online, literally, talking to each other about our lives, our families, passions and such. The connection was obvious, the attraction present in both our mind but we never said anything about it for a long time. I knew I was attracted to her, I had seen pictures of Tammy when she had never seen any of me. And she did not for a long time. I guess I can say I was lacking self-esteem and was scared of what she would think about me once knowing what I looked like.
But we kept talking and talking, about anything. We just needed to spend time together despite the distance and the time difference… Seven hours. Every night I would stay up late until 2 or 3 a.m., sometimes even later. Just so I could be with her as much as possible. She became my daily dose of happiness. I had never felt that way for anyone before, and never have to this day.
In July 2005, I went on a vacation for two weeks up in the mountains. I had no internet, we had never spoken on the phone to each other so I did not have her cell number. For the first time in months, I was not in touch with her and it was really hard for both of us to deal with. We knew this was going to be hard, the day before leaving on vacation; I did not want to turn off my computer because this meant I would not hear from her for fifteen days. A terrible thought. I started to realize then how important Tammy had become for me, my feelings were growing stronger each day and I needed her in my life. If this is how a junkie feels for his drug, then I had become an addict. Two weeks later I finally came back home, as you can imagine the first thing I did was to get on the internet to talk to her, tell her that I had missed her and that I was happy to be back at home. She felt the same way. So we resumed our daily discussions, sometimes we would spend eight hours straight talking together. Or at least, typing to each other.
Months went by, I eventually showed Tammy a picture of myself, anxious behind my computer screen that she would be disappointed. I guess she was not, lucky me! Things started to heat up a little between us, desire was obvious, the allusions to intimacy became evident. I was mentally and physically attracted to her. And for the first time in my life, I really had to admit that I might be attracted to women. This was a little hard to accept at first. I thought I was not normal, this was not good, this was not how things were supposed to be. More questions raised in my young head.
One day we finally admitted our love to each other, I cannot help but smile and feel like crying as I write this. I remember I was about to go to bed, and Tammy asked me a question:
“What do you think is going on between us?”
“I don’t know… I think it’s love”
I thought my chest was going to explode as my heart was beating so fast, I had never experienced such a strong emotion in my life before.
All she said was, “I think so too.”
For the first time we told each other, “I love you.”
Needless to say I did not sleep much that night. So many questions were present in my mind. What was I doing? How could I be in love with someone I had never seen but only on pictures? I had never spoken to her on the phone or on a webcam, I did not even know what she sounded like. I knew, I was crazy… But it felt good!
And now here we are, six years later, still in love, wanting nothing more than to be able to commit to each other and get married. Not a day goes by without us wanting to live together and feel the frustration to be separated with no solution for a future together. I think we can say we have proved our love to each other, both our families know about our relationship, accept it and supports it.
How much longer are we going to have to wait? Our life together is passing by, year after year. We want to build something together, live in the same house, have a kid, to have our family, Tammy, her son and I. Every day we see that things are moving slowly concerning gay rights and immigration laws, but this is not changing fast enough for us. That is why we are sharing our story. We want to help bring about change. We should not have to sit behind our computer monitors waiting for things to change, we should already be living together, just like any other opposite-sex couple who do not have to go through what we go through on a daily basis.
The unfairness of this situation is really tough on us.
This is a very stressful situation, when every time I go to the U.S., I never know if I will be let in, as immigration officers do not like me to stay for 90 days in the U.S. so often, even though technically it is allowed on the “visa waiver” program. Needless to say that every time I visit, I do not volunteer a word about being in a relationship with another woman, so as not to raise suspicions of me wanting to stay illegally, which is not the case. Because Tammy has a son, she cannot leave the U.S. so we can live together in another country, I respect this. It just makes it harder for us to be together.
Couples like us who live in separate continents because of unfair laws keep speaking up and organizing and fighting for change we will all finally have the life we want and deserve. We have to keep fighting so all of us can achieve nothing more than what all other couples have: The right to be a family!
Anne & Tammy