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Judy Rickard

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Do I Have 'Post-DOMAtic Stress Disorder'?

Posted: 07/16/2013 4:19 pm

The court ruled. DOMA is gone as far as my immigration issue for my wife is concerned. Other families like ours are being processed for green cards or beginning the whole cycle either with marriage or, if married, with applications for spousal green cards with U.S. Customs and Immigration Services.

Karin and I were brave. We challenged the country before SCOTUS pulled DOMA's plug and said opposite-gender marriages are OK. We were pioneers in the brave new world of immigration for today's world of increased public diversity.

It has left us happy and feeling good, but also confused and needing to know more about what we get now that our marriage is federally recognized. And it's not some snap of a fairy's fingers or the whoosh of a magic wand. Oddly, the agencies involved are scrambling to treat us just like everyone else. Makes me wonder. Should I feel equal yet? Will I always be different in someone else's eyes?

Before this all happened, friends in the immigration fracas we faced joked with us about the post-DOMA world we hoped to live in. Now we are putting our toes into that water. But I think I need to be more careful than to just plunge in. I feel nervous, not steady yet.

I have questions. I hope I can get answers quickly. Like, what are all those 1,138 rights and responsibilities I have now that my marriage to my wife Karin is federally recognized? Can I easily and quickly file for all the things she would have automatically received or been registered for if we were not both lesbians? Who has all the answers?

How about my taxes? How do I file the same in my state and my country now? When will I find out? Can I get retroactive help with things I have overpaid? Can I get back money I should not have been charged? Who has the forms I need? How long will it take?

The list could go on and on, but it won't for now. I don't want to lose you.

When I started exploring this issue in 2009, I found the unbelievably heart-wrenching stories of husbands and wives separated by deportation, wives and husbands unable to maintain their relationships because of distance and costs, children who rarely saw one mom or dad because of DOMA. The list of hurt includes many iterations. I tried to represent them all in my book Torn Apart: United by Love, Divided by Law (Findhorn Press, 2011).

But the salve of legal decision has been applied to this horrible wound. At least the lid is off the tube. People are coming out of the shadows. People are lining up to marry, to file for green cards, to live together, to patch up their torn-apart families. Maybe it will work. Maybe we can all be treated equally.

That makes me feel great! And it has helped me sleep longer and better several nights in a row, after years of broken sleep and completely sleepless nights as I stressed out over our life and the lives of others.

Am I physically suffering from stress-induced physical, mental and emotional issues caused by being treated as a second-class (or lower-class) American? Is there a post-DOMAtic stress disorder? Do I have it?

My doctor has helped me with some symptoms. She understands the stress and what it does to me, as she has said over these past years. My last visit was my worst -- but that was shortly before the SCOTUS ruling.

My massage therapist has been understanding too. Ditto for my acupuncturist and my chiropractor. Even my dentist sees what stress has done to my teeth and jaws. My lawyer knows better than most what this whole issue involves. Thank God for that!

All of these professionals are empathetic, sympathetic and resourceful. But the reality is that if you ain't living this life, you ain't really feeling this stress, this pain, the same. My wife and so many others know it from the trenches. I am worried for us still. I fear for some because they can't get together with their families quickly enough. They are fragile and broken. I fear for some because they can't get together -- they see no solution -- because they are broke, financially drained by what DOMA has done to them. One husband is trapped in Canada, with his passport confiscated. How will he return to his American husband now that he can be with him?

Others have left America and established themselves elsewhere. Some are too hurt and angry to return. Others just don't want to anymore, since they are well-established socially and professionally in countries that allow and recognize same-sex marriage nationally.

I have heard stories that make me smile and laugh. I have heard stories that leave me with the opposite reaction. Things are not easy for us. They will continue to be hard while everyone sorts out the path to the future they want.

I try every day to not be angry, to not hate my government, to not worry that the answer we think we got will evaporate, will be a mistaken dream. I try to pretend that mistakes won't be made, that paperwork will move quickly and accurately so all can be served well by a new America with a new face of equality.

While we wait for Karin to get her green card in hand, I am practicing patience. I am trying to thaw out my heart. I am being receptive to the stories of others -- even when I get tired of hearing the hurt and sadness.

I want to be out of business with this whole same-sex-binational-couples-immigration issue. I want to have a normal life, a simple retirement with my wife. I think I can. I think I can beat the hold DOMA has had on me for years. I hope you can too.

 

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