Do Ask! Do Tell!
We know so many sad stories from people who are in the same situation and come from 2 countries where they cannot live together. I am really proud to be Dutch!
I met Karen in 1995 when I visited the school for autistic children that my aunt founded in 1955. Karen was the Educational Director of the school and had worked with my aunt since 1971. The school was having their 40th anniversary party. We became friends and started to write to each other. I was married and had two grown children living at home. We visited each other each year on vacations and we really had fun together. We had become best friends and shared alot in common.
After spending two weeks together in the Netherlands on her vacation in the summer of 1998, we had difficulty parting. I missed her a lot and my thoughts were constantly busy with her. I had no idea that I could feel this way about a woman. It was clear to me that I was in love with her. I tried to fight against this feeling but it was impossible. I went to visit her in the U.S. and after talking we realized we both felt the same. Neither of us had such strong feelings about someone before. By then I knew what I had missed in 27 years with my husband. Karen and I made a committment to each other, even though I had to return to my family and tell them the news. I knew it would be a long and difficult time. This next year was the most difficult of my life. The pain I went through is too much to include in a short story. But….I knew that I had to do this. Even though it has been difficult, I have no regrets. You cannot stay in a marriage when you have these feelings.
I went through a divorce, moved into a house on my own, lost some friends, didn’t see my children and some of my brothers and sisters for months. I lived in the Netherlands for one year, with Karen and I visiting each other whenever we could. Saying goodbye was the hardest thing we had to do. But seeing each other again made us feel in heaven. I have never experienced such sadness and joy with leaving and seeing each other again.
Because we wanted to be together, I took a leave of absence from my job. I worked as a group leader in a jeugdhulpverlening. Also, my aunt, who is now 93 years old, had memory problems at that time and needed my help. So….I came to America and took some ESL classes. After 3 months, I knew that I felt comfortable enough to stay. I went back to the Netherlands, gave up my job and got my student visa, as I was advised by my lawyer that that was the best way. It was also the best way to have the time to be able to visit my children.
We have been doing this now for 3 years. I am getting tired of going to school, even though I have learned alot. It is more difficult that I thought to be so far away from my family. I found a work sponsor and since April 2001, my paperwork for labor certification has been at the Dept. of Labor. Everything got delayed after Sept. 11. We contacted a senator here in Maryland and we wrote her about our problem and told her that we would have to leave the country if there is no solution by the time my visa runs out.
I am very angry at the American system and discrimination, especially because in the Netherlands we have the freedom to marry. That’s what we did last June in Gouda. Since then, I’ve been telling people here that I am married to a woman. People have no idea of the problems we have with immigration, so I think the best way to change things is to make them aware and be open. So far, most people have no problem. My whole women’s studies class signed the PPIA petition, supporting the right of Americans to sponsor their same-sex partner for U.S. residency.
Karen and I have the power of attorney for my aunt now that she is in assisted living, I cannot think about leaving her. Our hope is to live in both countries after Karen’s retirement if we can. All our difficulties make our love so strong that we will never give up hope. We know that we are meant for each other and believe in fate. Things will happen that are meant for you. If there is no solution in the U.S. I am happy that we can live in the Netherlands. We know so many sad stories from people who are in the same situation and come from 2 countries where they cannot live together. I am really proud to be Dutch! I wish the best for all of you!!