Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Inger and Philippa Prepare for Another Christmas on Webcam: Love Without Borders

At the end of a visit, Philippa hugs their ten-year old
daughter who knows her as Mum
Here we are, with the holidays quickly approaching. My daughter and I are trying to prepare and take pleasure in the season. Sounds happy enough, except for the fact that my wife, the woman my daughter calls “Mum,” is 5,000 miles and 7 hours away from us in the UK. The emptiness that is a prevailing theme as we pick out gifts and drag out decorations is almost palatable. Even the littlest things, like having to think again about sending packages overseas and wondering if they’ll arrive in time reminds us of what is missing. The knowledge that it will be another Christmas on webcam takes much of the joy out of the situation.

My name is Inger. I am a US citizen and my partner, Philippa, is British. Together we have a 10 year old daughter who knows Philippa as her Mum.

We have been struggling to find solutions to the inequalities in the US Immigration system for about 2 ½ years. In that time, Philippa has been here 6 times and my daughter and I have been to the UK twice. The longest we have managed to spend together in one sitting is 89 days. That’s just under 3 months. When you think about it, that’s no time at all, especially when this person you haven’t seen for more than 89 days is your spouse. It’s hard to create a home and raise your family and be part of “normal” everyday life when that life depends on telephones, computers and the occasional visit lasting, usually, between 8 to 23 days. When we had a commitment ceremony, and our daughter gave me away, it was a beautiful thing and one of the proudest days of my life… less than 2 weeks later she was gone.

The United States of America is very big on the idea of family; however, it seems hypocritical to tell me that my family isn’t “the right kind.” Those who express bigotry against lesbian and gay Americans seek to deny us our basic human rights. As an American in a binational relationship I am encouraged to leave my own country as a solution to our immigration woes. The purveyors of the Family Values propaganda are not the ones who have to hold their young child at night when she wants her mum; to try to explain and to rationalize why her mother has to leave after 3 weeks when it’s been 6 ½ months since we’ve seen her last; to keep her feeling safe when she knows that we don't know when we’ll be reunited next; and, above all else, to keep her faith and trust in us that we are doing everything we possibly can to fix this.

Family Values rhetoric has been enshrined in our laws, and those laws deny us the right to live together as a family. You might say we are lucky to have the option to move to the UK, where same-sex binational couples have had immigration rights since 1997. However, we cannot move to the UK because my daughter's father lives here in Colorado. It would be wrong to deprive my daughter of her relationship with her father. That is a choice we should not have to make, because Philippa should be able to move here and live with us. But the U.S. government does not see it that way. The Defense of Marriage Act denies access to the protections of U.S. law including the family unification policy of immigration law through which all other Americans in my position would simply sponsor their spouse for a green card. The Defense of Marriage Act wages a war of cruel consequences against us. It was passed in the name of family values. Whose family? The proponents never said. This law must be repealed in the name of fairness and justice. And in the name of valuing family.

When I describe our situation to others they are appalled. Philippa is willing to give up her whole life, leave everything she knows and has in the UK so that she can be with us and yet she is made to feel unwanted by the country of The Great Melting Pot and The Land of Opportunity. She is educated, industrious, moral and kind and would be an asset to our community. With her by my side, we would live happier and more productive lives. What child wouldn’t thrive in a home with loving caring and supportive parents? Philippa has to view our daughter’s triumphs and hard times through email, or video instead of being able to cheer her on in person or hug her fears away. When our girl asks a seemingly simple question of “When is Mum coming home?” Would you want to be the one answering those questions, looking into that confused and trusting face, seeing it crumble and fall? No one would want to fall in love, only to feel that they have caused pain to the rest of their family. But we could no more give up on each other, than breathe water or sprout wings. And so, we carry on. Facing each new day as it comes, knowing that still in our trying situation, we are luckier than so many others.

I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I in Philippa I have found my life mate, my forever one, the only person with whom I could ever truly raise my life’s work, our daughter. I will wait and fight and petition and call and volunteer and cry and shake my fists at the heavens until my beautiful and most precious wife is safely home and we are all united. Permanently. A simple thing really. No fireworks, no fanfare…just to be together…just to be. What I wouldn’t give.

In the mean time, we waffle between celebrating and forgetting that we are missing birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, milestones and every precious minute we are apart. Vowing never to waste a moment when we can finally stop the clock that is slicing our days together into moments left. To silence that ticking that underscores everything. Just to be. Together. Whole. Always.


  1. Dear Inger, thank you so much for sharing your inner thoughts at such a sensitive time for you, your daughter and Phillipa (and many others). Although I do not feel your frustation, anger and saddness, i can, however, sense you and Philippa with a great deal of empathy.
    Oscar Wilde once said;
    " We are all in the gutter but some of us are looking at the stars"
    You and Phillipa are living proof of star gazing!

    I wish you and your family a festive christmas with some cheer sprinkled around that will take you forward to 2011

    Much Love
    Ruth Bristow

  2. I really can´t believe it, we live in the 21st century and still we are denied the same simple rights like our heterosexual neighbors. That is simply not right!
    Inger and Philippa I really wish for you that some day soon you will be able to live in ONE country as ONE family celebrating christmas, birthdays, easter, Thanksgiving and what not without a 7 hours delay.

  3. Hope this changes fast! Thanks for helping in the fight. Karin and I will have a webcam Christmas this year too - last year we were out of the U.S. together with Christmas in France - away from all family. This year I am with family in California and she is with family in Scotland but we are not together because we are both women and not both U.S. citizens...Judy

  4. Dear Inger,
    Even though I have never met you and Philippa physically I consider you my friends. Everyday I try to find a way to do something for your family and others like yours but all I have are my words of encouragement and love.
    I have made phone calls and sent emails but still don't feel I am doing enough. I don't understand the heartless and uncaring government. I just can't wrap my mind around it. They talk about family values but choose to rip families apart. That is not family values.
    IT IS CRUEL!!!! When is this country going to STOP all the hatred!!
    All three of you are in my heart and my prays EVERY day!!!
    XOXO for You, Philippa and your beautiful daughter.... Linda

  5. Inger,
    I know you and my heart breaks everytime I think of what you are going through. I know all to well what it feels like to have the one you love countries away with out having the option to say no , I take it back, you can't go. There are no take backs in the military. And , no this is not the eaxact situation that you find yourself in. But, I have the same relationship over skypeing, mail and occasional phone calls. I get so frustrated for you because love is love. Family is family. I support my husband in fighting for our freedom. But, what good is it when that freedom only applies to sided ideas of what a family should be. Here is to having faith that our system will change for your families and all families going through this same heart-wrenching time.


  6. We live in a sad, sorry world when we have either so much apathy &\or so much misguided fear
    that we cannot empathize with one another & feel each other's pain just because we differ in our religion, lifestyle &\or politics. Life is too short people. Wake up & realize we need to help one another & love our neighbor as we love ourselves. Stop being so narrow minded & judgmental of those who are different than you. Life is variety; God created us all. We should all live to promote harmony & love, not hate.

  7. Thank you for the courage in sharing your story. My wife and I cannot imagine being torn apart as you, Philippa, and your daughter have been. WHERE IS THE JUSTICE, THE HUMANITY, THE DECENCY in this country? We will ALL fight on so that you and your wife and child can all be finally united, but I have no words to express my feeling for all of you as you suffer under such injustice. -- Sandra Lubrano & Carey Esrael

  8. Inger and Phillippa you are awesome. Owen arrives tonight, wish me luck. Sincerely, Mark

  9. Wow, Inger, tears run down my face as I read your story. Your family is beautiful. We need to change this injustice. We will. Inger, my thoughts and prayers go out to you and your Phillippa. May your heart find peace and may we all be together with our loved ones soon. Hugs to you.
    Song1964 (Renee Dawson or Dawn)

  10. It was great having our families hang out last weekend. I want to help in whatever capacity that I can and I am here for emotional support, picketing/protesting, whatever! Love you guys.