When my daughter tells me that she is more American than I am because she was born here and I wasn't, I tell her in response that I actually think the opposite is true - that because I made the choice to become American, I am more American then she is. I made the choice to leave my past behind and asked to become a U.S. citizen, while she was given citizenship at birth.
I never planned to leave my past behind and I didn't have a childhood dream to become American, but yet, I did end up doing this, so, how did I get here?
I guess it all started about 15 years ago in Israel, when an early 20s, confused-about-his-sexual-orientation Ido started to realize and to accept the fact that he was gay. My self-acceptance and coming-out process opened up room for relationships to develop, including the most important one with my future husband, Eli. Luckily for us, in addition to our love, passion and attraction to one another, Eli and I also shared similar values, thoughts, wishes and desires. And having kids was at the top of our list. We just didn't know how to get there.
When an opportunity knocked on our door and I was presented with an offer from work to move to New York, we almost immediately said YES. Although I received the offer only a few weeks before our wedding - which wasn't the most convenient time in life to take on another life-changing decision, to say the least - we still decided to consider it and eventually to accept it, knowing that moving here would simply get us to achieving our number one goal faster.
And it did. We worked hard, saved dollar to dollar and were able to have two surrogacy journeys and become proud dads to our beautiful daughters, Milo and Demi. A by-product of our dedication, focus and hard work here was that we were becoming more and more American, to the point that we eventually made the decision to complete the naturalization process and stay here, for good.
And it was not an easy decision to make!
When I think about home, I sometimes think about New York and I sometimes think about Israel. I am torn. I know that Home is where your heart is, but my heart is both here in the U.S., and there, in Israel. We have been building our lives here, our daughters were born here, so my heart is here. But, my heritage and my past are in Israel, my extended family is there, so my heart is there, too.
In 'Connected' episode 19, "Heading Home," you can see our family in the weeks leading up to my U.S. citizenship test and oath ceremony. You can see our debates about the decision to stay here or to go back, as well as contentions when my mom came to visit and expressed the challenges with the distance between New York and Israel. In episode 20, "Love Around the Corner," you can see me at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services offices in downtown Manhattan just before my interview and my civic test. And then you can see me participate in the naturalization ceremony and swear the oath of allegiance in a formal proceeding in a beautiful Brooklyn federal courtroom.
There it really hit me; I am a part of U.S. history. Seeing hundreds of people, gathered in a courtroom, not having been summoned in any way but there because they wanted to be... While each one of us was different, we all shared the same goal that day: to start a new life here and to join those who were born here in the continuing creation of the United States of America.
Leaving your past behind and making a decision to live your life in a new country is one of the most difficult decisions a person can make. But we made it. We decided to stay. We feel fortunate and are very excited about the future.
Ido Bendet-Taicher, the gay one in the family ☺