Love Defines Marriage: The Fairytale Romance of Yajaira & Licia, Childhood Friends Reunited and Exiled in Brazil
Living in Brazil there are endless possibilities of what could happen to you. Not knowing, as I walk down my street towards the market, if I will be hit with a rock or even shot… But with my life right now those are my fears, that is what I face everyday doing errands. Not because I’m a foreigner, but because I’m a lesbian and living in exile with the woman I love.
My wife and I met in grade school while she was in the United States with her family. Her parents, with work visas, decided to provide their daughter with better opportunities in life. And that is how I met this short, rosy cheeked new girl in my 5th grade class, who would change my life forever. We liked the same things, the same music, had the same sense of humor, so we naturally became best friends.
We spent the next two years attached at the hip, learning more about each other, becoming closer.Our friendship opened up these feelings in us that we didn’t understand, but we felt an attraction and love that we never acted upon or spoke of. We did not want to ruin our friendship. This amazing chemistry would come to a halt when her parents had a business opportunity in another state. Two years of friendship and unspoken love broken by distance, parents, and lack of ability to protest. We were only 12 years old, told by both our parents that we will meet new people and create new friendships, but we both knew this was different; this “friendship” was special and unforgettable. I knew I would never forget the feeling she gave me, the fulfillment she put in my heart. She was the one!
Twelve years later, with the power of internet and the boom of social networking, an e-mail comes through from a familiar face and my heart just knew. It was her. She was my best friend, and, as I came to realize, she was the love of my life. I knew at that point things were going to change. I was not going to let us be separated this time. Through lots and lots of e-mails, we both revealed to each other that we were lesbians; it was as thought those twelve year-old girls finally revealed their hidden feelings. I thought “this is amazing, this is the way it was supposed to be.” Two people torn apart; reunited. I was ready to continue our journey together, as was she. So excited to see her, I asked her where she was living now, as I was dialing the number to get the first flight out. The message came through, my heart sank and I hung up the phone. Brazil.
I learned that a few years after she had moved to Florida, a family member of hers in Brazil was severely hurt in a car accident and her parents rushed home to be with the family. After some time living in Brazil, her father realized he didn’t want to go back to the U.S. He had missed his family so much and his mother was falling ill, he made the choice for the family to stay in Brazil permanently.
I had a difficult decision to make. Do I enter this new relationship knowing there would be so much distance and expensive traveling? Although the decision was difficult, I also knew I couldn’t let her go again. So I got my passport and visa and hopped on a flight to Brazil.
Our relationship blossomed into something beautiful. I traveled to visit a handful of times. I was able to reconnect with her family and meet all her friends and co-workers. During one of my visits, and with my mom’s blessing, I decided to ask her to marry me, which she accepted happily. We had decided on a date and what our colors would be and all the great things that we were to look forward to when planning a wedding. Little did we know about what stood in the way of our happiness. I looked into getting a petition for my wife and went on the website for the United States Consulate to see what paperwork and fees I had to take care of. There on the site it clearly stated the definition of marriage was (and still is), “between a man and a woman”. I was hurt, disappointed and stumped. I didn’t understand how my country could do this to me. How after all that the U.S. has been through, it could be so closed minded to the marriages between gay and lesbian couples. I spoke with my (now) fiancée and told her about what I read. Everything we had planned on was suddenly shattered and we were stuck like this, her in Brazil and me in New York. We both did more research online about this law, “DOMA,” and realized until the U.S. joined other countries in Europe and South America we would have to live like this. Either apart or in exile. But either way, we knew our love for each other would see us through.
We made a choice to live in Brazil together as a civil union couple, the first in our town. As a civil union couple I have all the rights to stay and live here as a permanent resident, but the dangers and prejudice we both face are severe. My wife, who is a teacher, risks losing her job because she is a lesbian. We are mocked and looked at with disgust in the streets when we are together. We fear what people in our town and in Brazil could do to us. Although the civil union bill and marriage bill has been passed here, the protection of the gay and lesbian people is not enforced nor carried out.
We face many risks, but we face them bravely together. My Brazilian, civil-union-wife dreams of going home to the U.S., where she grew up starting at 4 years old. I dream of going to my home with her, to be with my family, my little brothers and sisters. I dream of my family finally meeting her and the two of us having a happy marriage. We are a loving binational couple waiting in exile for the rights we are entitled to, like every other American citizen who falls in love outside his or her country. I deserve the right to sponsor my wife and bring her home with me because I am a U.S. citizen and I believe in the respect of marriage between two people in love.
This is our story. Our story is filled with hope and love and faith. It is faith that one day, with a lot of patience and by participating in efforts like this one, by telling our story, that our dreams will come true. Because it’s love that defines marriage, not government.