James grew up in New Brunswick, Canada in a conservative home with a Nazarene Preacher for a father. James currently lives in Philipsburg, Pennsylvania with his partner Tom. James is 21 years old and born during the Bush Sr. administration. Here is a chance to get to know James better.
On Coming Out:
I came out when I was 14 and my friend asked if I was gay—which scared me and so I said I was bisexual, but then a week later I told her no, I’m just gay. By the time I was 16 I was out to everyone except my family. Even my teachers knew and really I did not experience any discrimination at school. I did face serious homophobia at home however. I was watching an MTV show and my brother and I were watching a show with a gay kid who said he was gay and a Christian and then my brother and dad started the gay bashing. I went downstairs and called my friend and I was very upset and it turned out that my dad and brother heard what I was saying. The next day my dad asked if I was struggling with homosexuality—I said I wouldn’t exactly call it a struggle and I was very scared. But then he started crying and was talking about Jesus. Then we got to the school and when I got out of the car I felt strangely free. We went for two weeks without saying anything about it and then after two weeks my parents sat me down and asked what I meant when I said I was gay. After a minute of silence I said, I like guys. It kind of felt like they were trying to “cure” me from being gay. Fortunately I was 16, so they could not legally force me into some type of “repairative therapy.” From their point of view they now accept me, but from my perspective there is still room for growth.
I tend not to label myself when it comes to politics and religion. Labels come with baggage–baggage you may not realize is there. From a Canadian point of view, I have never chosen a party to follow. Honestly, other than knowing about our political system, I don’t pay attention too often. We have numerous parties to choose from which is nice, because I really feel that Americans are at a disadvantage because there are only two choices. Well, occasionally three, if an independent is running. Canadian politics are far less interesting than American. From an American point of view, I find myself most often relating to the Democrat side of things.
Historical Point of Reference:
9/11 was the biggest thing—by default for my generation this was a defining moment. I think this is why immigration has become more difficult. Now people are treated like criminals regardless. As a Canadian, I kept hearing that the terrorists came through Canada, but that did not make any sense. I was in science class and a classmate said ‘oh the towers got hit.’ Of course, I was only 11, so it was difficult to make sense of it all.
I was fortunate enough to have my rights as a gay Canadian by the time I was 15. Because of this I never knew what it was like to fight for rights until meeting my American partner when I was 18. Little did I know at the time that America was very behind on the equal rights front. I knew many things about America, but I had never REALLY paid attention until meeting Tom.
And this is when the predicament began. How were we going to be together with the law in our way? Well, we still have not figured this out. I can’t be here as his partner because of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), so we are no more than “friends.” Which is something I always tell the border guards so that I am not discriminated against or “turned away” by a homophobe. I am stuck as being a visitor because:
1. To be a student is expensive. American universities cost a lot more per year than Canadian universities. Plus, your sponsor has to have $20,000+ in the bank aside from the money I would have to have in my own bank account. And finally, you can only work on campus for no more than 20 hours a week.
2. I have no family in the US to sponsor me.
3. I do not have a “special” skill to get a company to sponsor me and hire me.
Why don’t we move to Canada? Yes, that would be cheaper and a little less tedious, but my partner has medical issues which has him reliant on his Disability. Most countries want someone who can contribute and since I am not exactly rich, I can’t sponsor him up with me.
Even if DOMA is repealed, it does not mean successful immigration. The American immigration system is broken, difficult, and expensive. I have heard numerous stories of heterosexual couples in Bi-national relationships and they have to move to their partner’s homeland instead. Like I said, that is not an option for me. So what does a young man in love do? Wait and hope.
That I will not get to be with the one I love.
1. That one day I will have a permanent home with the one I love.
2. I am an aspiring novelist and hope one day to write something good enough to get published and end up on the NYT bestsellers list. Unfortunately, I am very critical of myself and every time I start a manuscript, I throw it out and start again another time. Also, I suffer from what I call “creative ADD” so it is difficult for me to stick with one idea.
3. I hope one day to see everyone around the world treated equally and have the same rights.
Jamie, thank you for doing this interview and thank you for working so hard for social justice.