Five years ago I met my Canadian girlfriend, M. I’d like to tell you that we met reaching for Adrienne Rich’s The Dream of a Common Language in our favorite independent bookstore, but we met in typical college fashion, in a gay bar across the river from campus. An athlete and later coach, M always worried about her visa status even though by the end of last year, she’d been living in the country and paying taxes for nearly a decade. Like other naïve Americans, I found it hard to believe that a successful and educated Canadian citizen would have problems immigrating to the United States. I would recall to M how easy it was for my friends and me to cruise beyond the Canadian border in High School to take advantage of the lower drinking age in Thunder Bay. That’s what the border had meant to me…that is, before meeting M.
The fluidity of the border also shifted dramatically post 9/11 as M left graduate school and entered the professional public, landing a coaching position at Harvard University. But even Harvard couldn’t provide visa security and despite having three job offers after leaving, M had to pack up and ship out because no one it seems could convince the government that M deserved working status in America. Of course, if I or M were a man, it would only take a trip to Vegas and a marriage certificate, to keep us together this Thanksgiving.
So, this year, I’m leaving the country to give thanks. Yet, it’s difficult to give thanks when your nation is tearing so many families apart.