Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"Don’t Deport My Stepfather," 26-Year-Old Kenneth Gentry Fights to Keep His Family from Being Torn Apart by DOMA

Alex, Kenneth and Doug recently participated in the NOH8 campaign

In my short 26 years of life I don’t think I ever imagined I’d be writing to my elected officials and to the President of the United States to beg them to stop a deportation that will tear apart my family. I’m a Californian, born and raised, originally from Santa Monica but now living in the desert near Palm Springs. I am extraordinarily lucky to have the most loving and caring mother and father (who despite being divorced are close friends) and, now that my father has re-married, an incredible stepfather, Alex Benshimol. Although my dad and Alex married last year, Alex has been an indispensible part of my life and our family ever since he and my dad started dating six years ago.

You might say that we are the typical American family: we stick together in hard times, we celebrate our holidays and life’s milestones together. The love that we share for each other is boundless. Most of all, everyone in my family loves Alex unconditionally. My mom loves him as though he was her sibling; my aunt Cecily loves him and treated him as a brother-in-law even in the years before my Dad and Alex traveled to Connecticut to “tie the knot.” My sister, of course, also loves Alex; for both of us it is a blessing to have a mom and two dads who love and care for us in a way that is inspiring.

It never occurred to me that anything could come along that would be so strong, so powerful and so cruel that it would destroy our family. And yet that is what is about to happen to us. (Read more about the July 13 Deportation Hearing and sign our petition here.)

The extended Gentry-Benshimol family is now faced with something we were never prepared for—a family member is being ripped away from us. And what’s more, it is my own government that is pursuing this deportation because it refuses to recognize the marriage between my father and Alex.

If you asked me how special Alex is to me, I’m a little speechless: after all, how can I describe in simple words how much I love a person who is an immediate family member? Perhaps not every stepfather is as close to his step children as Alex is to me and my sister. But I would not hesitate for a moment to consider Alex not only to be part of my nuclear family, but also one of the most important people in my life.

For more than half a decade he has been the everyday stepfather that I can come to for literally anything. I've lived with Alex and my father, in their home, and I have seen their incredible bond, the love they share. I have seen the relationship they have built and the life they have created. I have seen them share that love with our extended family and become an integral part of our lives as a couple. I can’t even imagine what life would be like if they are torn apart.

Ever since the first day we met five years ago, Alex has treated me as though I was his son and has helped me in every circumstance to get through life’s challenges with love and guidance. Shortly after they started dating, Alex saw that my girlfriend and I were struggling financially and he offered us a job to help us make ends meet. It was the first time in a very long time that both my girlfriend and I had been employed simultaneously. By both of us had steady employment, our relationship blossomed, and we are both extraordinarily thankful even now because of the positive impact this had on our lives.

Kenneth and Alex install a new kitchen sink
Alex has helped me in countless, and priceless ways. How did I meet the woman I have loved for the past three years? Alex introduced us. The reason my girlfriend and I have a steady income together? Because of Alex. How I found an awesome roommate to live with? Alex. The reason my father, Doug, is happy and healthy? Alex. And when I was evicted from my home, guess who took me in? Alex.

I’ve worked in pet grooming with Alex for a few years and I have seen him become a respected business man. Pet grooming might not sound immediately important to anyone, but Alex has clients from all around the world. The week after a local news station covered Alex’s deportation case, he was flooded with hundreds of people expressing their support to him, and their anger that he was facing deportation. Most of all, they expressed their support for the love that Alex shares with my Dad. Alex has truly made his mark on not only me and my Dad, but my family, the neighborhood, and the entire community that has known him for many years.

I’m not the only one who has benefited Alex’s tremendous capacity to improve the lot of others. Our entire family simply hasn't been the same since Alex stepped into our lives. For years, during the holiday season, the talk of the family was all about Alex and his elaborately decorated house—almost identical to Santa’s Village. I couldn’t even begin to imagine how our family would go about facing a holiday if Alex is deported.

I could easily speak highly of Alex for hours and I invite anyone to ask me anything about my stepfather. I love Alex, and I will fight by his side until I know that he will remain safe in my country. I won’t stop fighting for Alex until the Defense of Marriage Act is gone forever, and full marriage equality reigns throughout the United States for all couples.

1 comment:

  1. I am keeping my fingers crossed (figuratively) and using them (physically) to send emails to every person I know, asking them to sign your petition. These must be horrifying days for your family and I know how it feels because I have been there with my husband. Don't lose hope! Remember the words of Harvey Milk when he gave his Hope Speech: "Without hope, not only gays, but the blacks, the seniors, the handicapped, the us'es, the us'es will give up...So if there is a message I have to give, it is...you have to give people hope." Your courage in sharing your story with the world gives us hope that things will get better one day. It gives us hope that America will one day see that family is not about gender or sexual orientation. That family is about love, and no American family should be torn apart because the federal government does not understand this concept. We are all here right now to give you hope as well, and to fight alongside you in the battle against DOMA. We will prevail eventually, but for now, keep your spirits up and know that you're not alone. There are hundreds of people who support you, and your beautiful loving family is enough proof that love has no borders. I hope the immigration judge will see that and allow Alex to remain in the country until DOMA is history. Good luck guys!