Two of the presenters on Monday on Care-Full Listening were Sissi (who is American) and Janet (who was born in England, in Derby). They took us through a listening exercise, modelling a process for us: when someone tells their story. They divided the audience into three groups - one listening for facts, another for feelings, the third listening for principles or issues. It worked quite well in how we were then able to absorb and process (and really listen to) Janet's story, and I may well use it in future.
However, I'm blogging about it to tell the story to you. Janet and Sissi are a lesbian couple, and have been together for 21 years. Sissi lives in Brattleboro, Vermont, and they got a civil union in 2000, as soon as it was possible. They have found a very supportive community in their parish home at the Episcopal church in Brattleboro. The fly in this ointment is Janet's nationality. She has done all sorts of different work visas, and the like, and now all she can do is come as a visitor. That's a 90day maximum visit, and then she must be outside the country for longer than her time inside. She is out as a lesbian everywhere -- except in the immigration hall, because they can deny entry, and they can deport her for 10 years. That's not a risk she can take, and so it's a very interrupted relationship that they have.
The biggest irony is that they are a two-pet household; a dog and a cat. The cat, like Janet, was born in Derby. The cat has all the appropriate papers and shots, and can travel between the UK and the US and stay for as long as desired. But Janet can't. If either Sissi or Janet were male, they could live together permanently in Vermont. Heck, if Janet was a cat she could live in Brattleboro.
As you can imagine, this is a hurtful, unsettling, unfair story. But it's one that the immigration rules have created.