Friday
April 28, 2006
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Volume 34
Issue 17
 
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Not Thinking Straight by Madelyn Arnold
Hey, it's not our business...
On an early summer evening in the middle 80s, a group of young Malaysians were sitting on a front porch, drinking, and a tall, ramrod -straight white man passed by. There had been the usual talk - some of it in code - and one interrupted that he bet he could follow that man and strike up a conversation?

There was laughter, louder from some, with the general drift being that he wouldn't dare; that said he was down and following swiftly after the man, a well-favored guy with very white skin and very wavy, very red hair - my good friend from Gay Liberation. It was the beginning, as they say, of a beautiful relationship. In Malaysia, Muslims drinking alcohol were and are punished very severely; homosexuality is punishable by death.

My friend is what you call the marrying kind, and by the time I met this Malaysian lover, they had a pretty good marriage (where you could cadge a great meal and a good drink anytime). My friend is an intense and nervous man, and I saw he was beginning to relax. And the lover had not simply pickled himself - as I've seen so many Muslims do, once they begin to drink (a trait they share with Mormons and Holy Rollers). That's the sort of thing a marriage is supposed to do.

MARRIAGE OF INCONVENIENCE

In the early 70's I had the chance to get married to a fair but dour Iranian; at that time the Shah, a bloody little villain [our bloody little villain] was persecuting his people for the crime of contemplating a post-feudal government. Attending pro-democracy demonstrations and such had won my groom-to-be some interest from his government, and we were trying to keep him safe in this country...

I toyed with the idea of telling my family, but they'd given me such a hard time over my Lesbianism that I couldn't. My groom affected not to know (or care) what 'Lesbian' meant. I would not have been the first woman in my set to marry a foreigner to save him, but I would certainly be the first Queer wife. Two weeks before the event we partied up.

I alluded to drunken Muslims. That night he drank himself onto a table and stepped up to make a speech: he hadn't intended to marry this young, but marrying - and marrying moi - he intended to make it real in the eyes of God; we'd consummate. I was drunk myself, and told him to go to hell.

And we had a fight, and both of us went home.

TIMELY TIME AGAIN

A few weeks ago Seattle was host to a remarkable rally against ill treatment of/in favor of relaxed treatment for, immigrants. I don't know why people were surprised at such support. A handful of ragtag demonstrators had been expected, but thousands showed, snarling traffic and taxing the police. Who is it who didn't know we're all from somewhere else?

Of course, there's the story of all these white people, those whose ancestors arrived before the Spanish American War - descended from what could be modestly referred to as losers in their mother countries. Back when they arrived you didn't have to have much to come over here - not literacy, not money, and possibly a criminal record. Some of the original colonies were settled by criminals, and all colonies had Caucasian "servants" in a slavery they'd agreed (or been condemned) to. The Revolutionary War freed most indentured servants - a major difference between their form of slavery and the genuine article.

Immigration. First Nations shrugging: there goes the neighborhood , while the Forcibly Invited dream of Africa.

All of us not pure Native American derive from people who immigrated here [some postulate that this is also true of Native Americans]; ever since the British gave up on us, each succeeding group arriving in this country tries to slam the door on the faces behind it - gaining in intensity since the Chinese. Immigration is now extending a xenophobic hand to everybody... Ah well.

BACK TO MY HUSBAND

A few days after the party, we discovered we had lost him: his formerly neat apartment was torn apart, schoolbooks and clothing scattered everywhere. Deserted. Most likely our loud and public party attracted attention, and to avoid his being able to appeal for sanctuary as my husband - agents, probably theirs and ours - had kidnapped him and put him on a plane.

By the 1980s, there had been a crackdown on marriages of "convenience". There certainly had been more than a few such mergers over the years. How we protect our people and our marriage laws.

It's become more difficult for those legitimately married to a citizen to get citizenship, let alone get sanctuary. My friend's lover had to return to Malaysia; in order to study here he had signed a contract agreeing to return after five years. So, he said goodbye to his 'marriage' here. And he couldn't return, although his life was at risk by dint of his sexual identity - which, by the way, is not an attractive argument for sanctuary. My friend could not have got him back because Queers can't marry, no matter how much in love they are.

[My friend's lover moved from Malaysia to Europe.]

But this fuss about immigration isn't our business. It isn't as if we are citizens. I guess. And who said we had to take the 'tempest-tossed' and the wretched of the earth? Oh, right. We did.

DENOUEMENT

Some weeks after my groom-to-be had disappeared, I received a package: pictures, I gathered, from his mother in Iran. And not a wedding gift. My erstwhile husband, lying on the tarmac, having just got off his plane.

May he rest.

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