Gay U.S. Army Veteran Sacrifies Home and Financial Security, Uprooted and Forced into Exile By DOMA
Jay and I met in a chat room online back in 2009. For a year we simply chatted every day. Neither of us knew what the other even looked like until late 2009 when we decided to try Skype. From the very first day we chatted, Jay and I just clicked. In spite of the fact that Jay was from the Phillipines, we had a lot of the same dreams, likes, and values. In 2010, I scraped up all the money I could, and I flew for the very first time across the world to visit him. During the 15+ hour flight I was filled with anxiety and joy. I remember walking out of the airport at night, looking for Jay among so many others waiting there in the darkness. I remember spotting him. He was jumping up and down. Needless to say, we were elated! For the very first time, we were able to hold each other’s hand, put our arms around each other, and kiss (in privacy of course!). The two weeks were wonderful and time flew by. Soon, we were faced with saying goodbye.
It hurts me so much to remember that day. I will only say that nobody should have to feel that way. After about 6 months, we planned a second trip. This time we traveled to Jay’s hometown on Panay Island. After those two weeks, we were once again faced with the a painful series of goodbyes. I remember trying to not make a big deal about it. I thought that maybe just a hug and get going would be easier. No, it wasn’t. We embraced each other so very tight. We never wanted to let each other go. Even after we let go, I couldn’t stop turning back to see him. The final goodbye was a hand wave. Jay was on one side of security and I was on the other. I began to lose it; I started to cry intensely, all the while trying to hide myself from view.
When I returned home, Jay and I knew one thing. We couldn’t be apart any longer. Because Jay is from the Phillipines, he must apply for a visitor’s visa at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy to even visit the U.S. In developing countries like the Phillipines, visitor visa applicants face the burden of proving they do not intend to remain in the U.S. Generally, only the most privileged of Filipinos are able to provide sufficient evidence of ties to their country to get a visitor visa to the U.S. Sadly, Jay is not so fortunate. So, I started to do what I had to do. Within a week, I announced to my family that I was moving to the Philippines to be with Jay. I couldn’t help but explain myself over and over again, as to why I had to go. In the next 3 months, I sold everything I owned. I sold my small house, my car, and nearly all other possessions at yard sales. I also left my government job with the U.S. Army. The hardest part of all was saying goodbye to my family. My adult daughter was distraught with disbelief that I was forced to leave my own country. To this day, she is still overcome by my leaving. My parents, who are both in their late 70s, hugged me goodbye with tears in their eyes and hope in their hearts. Though it was difficult to uproot myself from my country, I was so driven to be with the person I loved with all my heart and soul. There were no doubts, no looking back.
Since June 2012, Jay and I have lived together in a small concrete house surrounded by farmland. Here in the Phillipines, we have little financial security. Earning just $200 per month is not very assuring if either of us has a serious injury or health complication. I am in my 40s, so my government veteran’s pension is still more than a decade away.
Last December, we had an opportunity to Skype with my family back in the U.S. who were celebrating Christmas. It was so so difficult for me. With exception of my mom, my family was seeing Jay for the very first time. As much as I know that my family loves me, words cannot describe how empty I feel without them. In many ways, it seems as though they are moving on with their lives, busy, as is life in the U.S. Every day, we hope and pray that DOMA will go away. My daughter is getting married in September 2013 to her best friend and life partner. As much as I’ve tried to explain and emphasize why I had to leave and be here with Jay, it is still very difficult for her to deal with the fact that I left. I am not sure there is a better example of how negatively DOMA has affected us. If it weren’t for DOMA, Jay and I could share our lives together surrounded by the love of my family and friends. Fortunately, Jay and I live a few miles from his mother, sister and brother and we have their love and support. Without them, it would be that much tougher.
As I sit and write this story, I am torn. I am torn between loving a person so very much and a family that is a world away. Every day I try to be the best partner I can. Some days are not fair to Jay, as I sob with homesickness. Yesterday, Jay told me for the first time, that my unhappiness was showing in my face and spirit. While we cried and held each other’s hands, he said too me that he loves me so much. He doesn’t want to see me hurting anymore. If I could no longer go on here, I would need to return home, and he would have to let me go. I cannot begin to even remotely tell you how sad this has made me. We sobbed endlessly. I never wanted our relationship to come to this. I told Jay that I will would never leave him even if it meant living in an unfamiliar country, so very far from my family.
Emerging from our tears, we have learned not to lose hope. I would never wish our circumstances on anyone. That being said, we have been challenged to grow and love during this time of great insecurity. Our love for each other continues to grow. As a result, we feel empowered to reach out and help others by sharing our story. No American should be forced into these circumstances.
In my service to this country, I learned the value of looking out for one another. I hope that you’ll do your part by sharing our story or even by sharing your own. In doing so, we continue to build pressure and awareness of the immeasurable harm that DOMA continues to cause to binational gay and lesbian families, harms that must cease the minute DOMA is eliminated. Jay and I and the thousands of other gay and lesbian binational couples deserve no less.