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To be with you: Gus writes

Thu 23 May 2013 In: True Stories View at Wayback View at NDHA

Gus, a Kiwi, and Josh, an American, fell head over heels in love in New York, and were quickly in no doubt they wanted to spend their lives together. But it hasn’t been easy. They’ve each written pieces for sharing their sweet story, and how their lives have been impacted by the hefty reality of an awful and archaic law. “I met a man who would turn my life upside down, inside out, and then some. He had these adorable glasses, and a seahorse tattooed on his forearm. He was nervous, considerate, quietly charming. I don't believe in love at first sight, per se, so it was more ‘oh jeez, I know I'm going to bloody fall in love’ at first sight.” Gus shares his story: Seven months ago today, I kissed my boyfriend goodbye in Brooklyn (New York, not Wellington) as he left for work, much like any other weekday. But unlike most other days, once he walked out the door, I had no way of knowing when I’d see him again. I knew that I won't be lighting the candles on his birthday cake in December, or opening presents by the Christmas tree. I knew that I won't be kissing him at the stroke of midnight to welcome 2013, and I knew that at no point soon would we be lying together on the sofa with an 80s horror on Netflix and a bowl of his criminally delicious home-popped popcorn. Seven months ago I made the long journey home to New Zealand, alone. And the only reason we’re apart? Because we’re gay. -- At age 25, after 7 gruelling years in advertising and marketing, I did what seemingly every mid 20s Kiwi does and booked a one way ticket to London. With $20k saved, a friend and I packed in our jobs, packed in our lives, and set off for Los Angeles. Feeling I deserved a bit of a break before settling into the London grind, my flight out of JFK was booked for exactly 89 days after my arrival in the US. The plan was to save as much money as I could in six or seven months in London, and then return to the southern hemisphere to go back to school in Melbourne or Sydney, to study towards my dream job as an urban planner. After partying our way around California and Mexico, we landed in New York City early one spring morning, jumped in a yellow cab and headed for our friends’ apartment in Williamsburg. Four nights on, on that same Williamsburg block, I met a man who would turn my life upside down, inside out, and then some. He had these adorable glasses, and a seahorse tattooed on his forearm. He was nervous, considerate, quietly charming. I don't believe in love at first sight, per se, so it was more "oh jeez, I know I'm going to bloody fall in love" at first sight. Josh climbed into my heart in the biggest way that night, and he's never left. Being a New Zealander, I guess I've taken it for granted that being a gay man has had little impact on the choices and decisions I've had to make in my life. Sure, we're far from being a perfect utopia of acceptance and rainbows and unicorns, but I'm afforded rights equal to everyone else. In the eyes of my government, I'm seen first and foremost as a human adult, capable of and permitted and encouraged to fall in love with and pledge my life to whichever other human adult I so choose. I'd never given too much consideration to the rights of fellow LGBT individuals in the United States, because I never thought I had reason to. The last time I’d been to the US, in 2008, my best friend and I had been in California on that delightfully strange day Americans elected their first African-American president, yet also passed an amendment to the Californian constitution banning the unions of same-sex couples. I'd naïvely assumed that America wouldn't be far behind in providing all of its citizens with the opportunity to love openly and freely. I'd only ever visited the west coast (California, Oregon, Washington State) and so it was easy not to notice the large swathes of this country that not only hate to see gay people love, but actively attempt to remove or ban the civil rights of their fellow Americans based purely on their own personal beliefs. Of course I knew that this world is full of individuals who (wrongly) disapprove of who I am, and who I love freely and openly without shame, but I never in my life thought that I would be personally victimised by a law passed with the sole intention of discriminating against me for who I am. Then I fell in love with a gay American. After those first months together, I left for London. We didn’t really have a plan, because it wasn’t until I was thousands of miles and an ocean away it occurred to me that I might have just found my one. I might have found the guy that I not only want to give my life to, but that wants to give me his in return. So six weeks later, I found myself back in the United States. Josh took time off work and we travelled upstate to a beautiful cabin in the woods. I spent the night before my birthday in a little Italian restaurant in the East Village with my boyfriend and some of my best friends, and the day of my birthday Josh and I sat atop the Wonder Wheel at Coney Island, hand in hand, looking both back toward the city and far out into the Atlantic. We spent the following weeks living a normal life together. It was bliss. And then standing at Newark Airport waiting to board my flight back to London, in one of the craziest on the spot decisions I’ve ever made, I tossed my boarding pass and instead boarded a train back to Manhattan. In the months following, together in the long New York summer, it was more than clear what this relationship meant to both of us. This was it. This was the one to fight for. This was the one to not let the world get in the way of. Talking about our future together, the initially flippant mentions of marriage or babies or other such adult things, didn’t seem scary but rather exciting, inevitable, and desired. And we sort of accidentally made an enormous commitment to achieving these things, because we had to. The nature of our situation meant that we couldn’t just let things happen by chance, but instead we had to plan for a future together, and we had to start a process that most couples never have the misfortune to face: figuring out how to be together. I returned to New Zealand, with $100 in my bank account, and a mission. And it’s here we hit our biggest hurdle: the Defense of Marriage Act. More affectionately known as DOMA, this despicable bill was signed and passed into federal law in 1996. It states that for the purposes of over 1100 federal benefits afforded to married couples (including the right to sponsor a foreign partner for immigration), marriage is between one man and one woman. At the time it was passed, it had little practical impact as same-sex marriage wasn’t legal anywhere in the US until 2004. But now, with 12 states    Gus Goldsack - 23rd May 2013

Credit: Gus Goldsack

First published: Thursday, 23rd May 2013 - 8:40am

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