Love Exiles on the Marriage Equality Express

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Thursday 7 October - Denver and the road through Kansas

Thursday 7 October - Denver and the vastness of Kansas

We're heading along Highway 70 east to Topeka, where we'll stop for dinner, and Kansas City, where we'll sleep tonight. It's a long day of driving - more than nine hours.

Our Denver experienced started last night. We arrived, checked into our rooms and turned around right away to go to our event. We'd left Cheyenne late so there was no time to freshen up before getting back on the bus.

Equality Colorado was hosting a fundraiser and show and had invited us to speak. We are an incubator for inspiring speakers. Many of our riders are speaking in public for the first time on this trip, but they are so moving and eloquent you would think they'd been speaking for years. And each time we become more on target and effective with our message.

We arrive at the gay club, Dream, where the event is being held. It's on the outskirts of Denver. It's a small group, since some of the riders are coming down with colds or are tired and have decided to take it easy and rest up in the hotel.

Despite my jet lag, which wants me to stay in the room, I figure I can rest when I get home on October 15. I jump back on the bus.

The buddy system is in place two-fold today. If we go anywhere, it must be in groups of at least four people, for safety reasons. We are getting a lot of press and becoming more and more visible. We need to keep in mind that we could be a target for violence and that we need to be responsible for ourselves and each other. This is a community with a common goal - to make it to Washington DC with everyone safe and sound and empowered. We are all taking responsibility for the group. So that means no wandering off, even for a walk across the street or a run.

And believe me, not going for a run is hard. I'm in training for the half marathon I'll run on October 17, and to go from running several hours a week, bicycling to and from work an hour a day 5 times a week, to not running or even walking much at all, doesn't feel great.

But it's for the greater good and it's what works with a group like this.

Equality fundraiser

We hold another mock wedding at the club and several of our speakers share their stories on the stage. I wear my Immigration Equality t-shirt. We have a recommended wardrobe each day, and tomorrow is Immigration Equality, so I get an early start. They shirts are bold, with a statue of liberty on a neon pink triangle background, and make a strong statement. I also like being in solidarity with my friends from the Immigration Equality San Francisco and San Diego chapters.

I order a sparkling water, which is graciously service "on the house". A woman asks about my t-shirt: "What is this Immigration Equality thing?" She turns out to be an Australian with a US partner, and they are on the verge of exile, either to Canada or Australia. She introduces me to her US partner is born and bred in Denver and does not want to leave her home. She is delighted when I tell her about the Love Exiles Canada Yahoo group, where same -sex couples considering or in exile in Canada meet to exchange information and support one another. I give her my card with the Love Exiles email address and she promises to get in touch with us. Anthony follows up with her later and gets her email address.

It just proves to me again that wherever you go, there is always a love exile or someone who knows a love exile. And yet, people think they have an individual problem and often don't imagine that others are in the same situation.

Back at the hotel, I try in vain to connect to the Internet. I have a wireless card which can't find a signal. There is Internet but I didn't bring a network cable. Tough luck.

I'm aching to talk to Lin and send her an email about my day. But 11 pm in Denver is 3 am in Amsterdam, so I go to bed for a long, delicious sleep.

5 am wake-up

I hardly need an alarm. I'm sleeping well, but short. I wake up at 5 am, 15 minutes before the alarm is set to go off. I lie in bed and think about my day. I'm speaking at our 7 am meeting with the Gill Foundation at the Gay and Lesbian Center. I think about how to make my talk more effective, and about what it means to be a love exile. I have a quiet cry in bed, thinking about my 75-year-old mother, who had her shoulder replaced two weeks ago and is convalescing. Her arm is in a sling and she can't drive or dress herself for six weeks. She was very nervous about this surgery. How I would have liked to be the one to take her to the hospital, as I did when I lived in the states. That she doesn't deserve to have her daughter treated like a second class citizen.
My mom is growing older, she has painful arthritis that makes it hard to sleep and enjoy life, and she's been a widow for 23 years. Why should she be deprived the presence of one of her children? I'm so thankful that my three siblings live nearby and are a wonderful support at times like this. I'd like to be a part of that support system.

I pack up and take my bags downstairs and load them into the waiting bus. Grabbing an apple for later and a cup of tea, I meet the others outside for the walk to the Denver Gay and Lesbian Center, about a 15 minute walk - or march, in our case. It's 6:30 am and still dark outside.

We'll go immediately afterwards to on 9:00 am rally in front of the capital, so we take along our signs and drums. It's too early to drum, but we chant and sing and hold our signs high. We get toots of support from passing cars.

What do we want? Marriage Equality! When do we want it? Now!

Leaders and members from the Denver GLBT community greet us warmly at the Center. We have a breakfast of fruit salad, quiche and muffins, and mingle with our hosts. I learn that Colorado has a marriage equality organization, Civil Rights Now (www.civilrightsnow.org). I speak with the director. She is very interested in knowing how Marriage Equality chapters are organized and clearly impressed by the success of this young organisation.

Today the riders are decked out in Immigration Equality shirts. I wore my down to the lobby, on top of my Love Exiles shirt. As much as I want to echo the message of Immigration Equality and make a powerful join statement, I realize that as the lone voice for an invisible group, and decide to wear my Love Exiles t-shirt. Looking across the room, I tear up when I see the ocean of bright pink statues of liberty on black shirts. The community of riders supports OUR issue and is behind our demand to end discrimination against same-sex
bi-national couples. We're not alone. I'm surrounded by love.

The speakers are great, again. Did I say the speakers were great?

There are five speakers who address immigration rights. Belinda and Wendy precede me, and introduce my story by explaining that couples who can't reside in the US may end up in exile. We are visible. Davina introduces me with Jason's line: a US citizen can bring her dog into the USA, but not her partner. Our stories are starting to weave together into a beautiful tapestry.

My emotions are on edge, I'm feeling what it's like to be second class in your own home, and home, accepted and recognized in a foreign country. It's something that after all these years I can't always quite wrap my mind around. How did this happen, how did I come to deserve this? Damn it, I'm angry!

It feels good to speak. My voice cracks as I acknowledge my fellow riders for their solidarity in wearing the Immigration Equality shirts, a visible and tangible sign of support for bi-national couples. I explain my choice to wear the Love Exiles t-shirt so that our exile community is visible. I explain how US immigration works: that a US citizen can bring a dog, children, her parents and THEIR spouses to the US - but not her own spouse.

We have fun marching and singing our way to the site of the rally at the state capitol. A small crowd is waiting for us, and there is a podium. Leaders of the local community and the caravan speak about equal marriage.

Next we hit the road and drive the Kansas ALL DAY LONG.

We arrive late at the hotel and internet service is out. It's midnight and I'm downtown Kansas City sending this out. More tomorrow.

Sweet dreams!

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