From Serendipity in San Francisco to Exile in Mexico, Ann and Marcia Join in the Fight to End DOMA by Sharing their Story
Marcia: I love the story of how we met! Although I don’t believe in fate, it’s difficult to deny the serendipity of our first meeting. I’d visited the Bay Area in the summer of 2009, seeing old friends who had since moved there. I quickly realized San Francisco was a place I needed to visit for longer than a week. With its vibrant queer and food scenes, San Francisco seemed like an ideal place to spend a summer vacation. By the time I arrived in the summer of 2010, my friends had left or were about to leave the Bay Area, so I was left alone to make new friends. After learning that many people in the Bay Area use OkCupid to meet new people, I started my own profile and began browsing. I saw Ann’s profile and immediately felt through her description that we’d make great friends.
Meanwhile, because I was in culinary school I was lucky enough to snag a meeting with Chef Laurence Jossel of a prominent and trendy, yet source- and freshness-conscious restaurant, NOPA. He took me on a tour of his restaurant and their kitchen, I met the staff, and then we made our way to have lunch at his Mexican food restaurant, Nopalito, just a block away. I immediately locked eyes with Ann, who was our server. This chance meeting would never happen in a city like Mexico City, my hometown. I was so excited to see Ann that I had to ask her where the bathroom was in order to contain myself!
Ann: The summer of 2009 found me at a crossroads of sorts in my life. I had lived in San Francisco for eight years, and although I love the city, I was feeling a bit restless, like I needed a new beginning. After the breakup of a serious relationship a year earlier, I was encouraged to join a dating website and “put myself out there” a little bit. Overall, I was disappointed with the experience—I was still a little too shy even behind the veil of the computer screen to approach anyone that seemed interesting. Marcia’s message was the first e-mail I got through OkCupid that actually caught my attention. I received a message from her, jotted off a quick response, and then rushed off to work a lunch shift waiting tables at Nopalito. Literally, one of the first things that I did when I got to work was tell Marcia where the bathroom was. She gave me this huge grin, and I didn’t realize until she came back to her table and sat down with Laurence that I had just been looking at photos of this beautiful woman not thirty minutes before. I managed to contain myself and not spill anything on her, or my boss—but it was like a scene out of a movie. I felt like I was flying for that entire shift.
When I got home that evening, and finally checked my e-mail, Marcia had written to me again to say that she wasn’t sure that I realized it, but we had met in person that day. I realized it, all right. We arranged to have our first real date a few days later. That first date lasted seven hours.
Marcia: Seven or eight? We were inseparable that whole summer, and we’ve been inseparable ever since. In the beginning, the idea that this might just be a summer romance allowed us to be completely ourselves with each other, with no fear of judgment. But the more we were free to be ourselves, the more we fell in love, and we knew that our goodbye at the end of that summer would merely be a “see you later.” A tough and uncertain “see you later.” Since that summer, we have spent time and money visiting each other back and forth between Mexico City and San Francisco, staying for less time than our visas allow, just to be safe. When we are apart, Skype and text messages help keep us close across the distance. We talk about everything and anything that matters to us. In a way, the distance allows us to get to know each other on a much deeper level—few things happen without us acknowledging them. Communication has been key to the success of our relationship; nothing goes unsaid. It’s been through these conversations, and, of course, through in-person visits showered with “I miss yous” that we’ve realized that we can no longer afford emotionally or financially to live our lives in limbo.
DOMA is the law that stands in the way.
Ann: I am closer to Marcia than I’ve ever been with anyone who’s not in my family. I love her with all my heart. The year-and-a-half that we spent traveling back and forth between countries was stressful and difficult to manage, but I quickly realized that this relationship is the most important thing that I could invest my time and money in. This winter I decided to put my life in the States in limbo—sending a few precious things to my parents’ house in North Carolina, and getting rid of most of my worldly possessions. I knew that since so much of my happiness included Marcia, I couldn’t live apart from her. At the moment, we are living together in Mexico. We couldn’t be happier just to be able to wake up in the same place, together.
But the feeling of my life being on hold—of our life being on hold—remains.
I don’t have a job here, and am a little shy about my language skills. Marcia’s family is incredibly warm and welcoming, but it has been very hard for me to be so far from my family and friends. It gets easier every day, but I still feel like this is not the beginning of a new life, just a break from the old one. I’ve been reluctant to really settle down in Mexico, I’m scared of permanently being lost from all that I have known.
The summer after I met Marcia, I started my own business making belts and other accessories out of recycled fire hose. I’ve had an amazing response to the things I make, and I did several fairs and craft shows while I was still in the Bay Area. Although I’m still selling a few belts online, the business that had been poised to take off has been idling on the runway ever since I was forced to spend a sizeable chunk of my life savings just to be with the one I love.
If and when DOMA is repealed, it will lift an incredible weight off of my heart. Wherever we end up, we will have the freedom to choose our path without this limiting and degrading obstacle in our way.
Marcia: I lived in central New York on a student visa on and off for thirteen years, so I have a strong emotional connection to friends and family in the U.S. Living in Mexico has been difficult for Ann, and while I love my country, I know our lives would be easier emotionally and financially in the U.S. It is very different to consciously make the decision where to live, than it is to be forced to move just because the one you love is of the same sex. But under the current discriminatory law, DOMA, the U.S. Government has taken away our option to determine our own destiny and create the life that we both want.
Living an openly gay life in Mexico has shown me in no uncertain terms the importance of sharing our stories as LGBT people. I come out every day. I have seen my friends in Mexico become a part of the LGBT community as allies, but sometimes, my story provides others with the strength and power to come out too. As our numbers grow, I know that the more we are ourselves, and let other people see, the more strength and power we have as a community. It’s not just about raising awareness anymore, though that is important too; it is calling on our friends and allies to fight with us, for equal human and civil rights.
Ann: This is why it’s so vital for Marcia and I to share our story through The DOMA Project. We want to contribute to greater visibility of gay and lesbian binational families that are discriminated against by DOMA. Genuine equality involves far more than marriage. Marcia and I know that a marriage certificate doesn’t affect, nor define, our love. But it does honor our commitment to one another by making it easier to build a stable life together in the same country. We will continue fighting and sharing our story until we win the right to be together in the U.S.