To all of my family and friends,
To all of the people who I love so very, very much,
I’ve got a really big announcement for you.
This summer, my partner, Glendi Susana Aguilar Lorenzo, is coming from her country of Guatemala to the United States, in order to live here with me.
We are engaged to be married.
Now, I imagine that this is a shock to most of you—and for some of you, not so much—and so in this letter I want to share with you first about our story and then about our plans, so that you can better understand and support us in this major change in our lives.
So, pretty please:
-Read through this letter (especially the part at the end with our plans and what we need from you in terms of support)
-Then, find some time to read the letter that Glendi has written to you (in the writings section). It’s actually a collection of 13 emails that I’ve translated from Spanish and edited, with her guidance and a double-checking of the translation by my friend, Isaura…thanks Isaura!
-Then visit here to see some photos!
All of this is quite a chunk of reading. I’m sorry for that, but that’s how it is, and I hope that you’ll make the time to read through it.
The Story, As I’ve Experienced It
I met Glendi in the summer of 2005, just two years ago, when I was studying Spanish in Guatemala. She was (and is) a teacher in La Escuela de la Montaña (The Mountain School), where I studied for just three weeks. We would chat a little between classes, and then she became my teacher for a week, and out of that we developed a good rapport. When I returned to the United States, through emails and phone calls this rapport turned into a friendship, and then about three months later into a more serious long-distance relationship. In those months, I had fallen for her, and she had fallen for me.
For quite a while, however, I was scared of my feelings and of our connection. One reason was the fact that my previous partner of four years, Briana, and I had just transitioned into being friends, and I didn’t want to move too quickly into anything new. A much larger reason, though, was the fact that Glendi and I are coming from such very different places, and I was worried that those differences—and especially the power dynamics that come with them—would make a long-term relationship impossible. I am an urban, middle-class white North American, Glendi is a rural, Indigenous Guatemalan from a poor, farm-worker family. My primary language is English, hers, Spanish. I am a strong atheist, she is a deeply faithful, though liberal, Protestant Christian (she calls herself evangelical, but it should be noted that this means something different in Guatemala than in the U.S.). I am a dedicated radical activist, and she is very sympathetic and is definitely lefty, but has never considered herself an activist. Moreover, I knew that if our relationship were to be real and sustainable, Glendi would have to be able to travel freely between the United States and Guatemala, and that would probably require marriage, which is a legal/religious institution that, to this day, I do not politically or ethically believe in. I had never imagined myself in such a complicated situation, I certainly hadn’t looked for it, and frankly it was freaking me out.
Yet talking on the phone and writing emails every day, the connection we had was undeniable. The openness, warmth and humor that we shared and that grew between us made it a safe place to talk about all of our differences, to analyze them and feel them, without feeling a need to push away from or reject each other. We decided to take a risk and hold on, with open eyes, yes, but also with open hearts.
And so we have held on, not only through almost two years of daily emails and phone calls, but also through 3 more trips to Guatemala, with me spending about 2 ½ months living with Glendi and her family, and through discussions of the relationship not only with my close people but also with her closest people. In all of this we have faced some real struggles, primarily related to cultural differences around dating and family, and we have processed through these struggles in ways that have strengthened our relationship and that have built intimacy, but which also have required compromises from both of us.
One of the most fundamental compromises is the very subject of this letter: our decision to get married.
For those of you in my family, I don’t want to freak you out or offend you, but I do not generally believe in the institution of marriage. I believe deeply in committed relationships, but for political reasons, historical reasons, ethical reasons, and just plain personal reasons, I do not support the institution of marriage (though of course I support people’s rights to choose to get married, including couples of the same sex/gender). Glendi, and especially her close-knit family, are not in the same place. Neither is U.S. immigration law. For these and other reasons, the decision to become engaged with Glendi has been a long, hard decision to make…a decision that, especially for reasons of the U.S. border, has been weighing on us from day one.
I am not going to detail all of our discussions and deliberations here. There is simply not room in this letter to outline the emotional and logical paths that we have followed to come to this point. If you email me or call me and ask, I will surely talk with you about it, but for now, I do want you to know just a few things:
• I love Glendi tremendously. Tremendously. I am committed to her and I am excited about building a family with her, a family that has strong, deep connections with our existing families, friends, and also with our extended activist “families” as well. Though our decision to get married has been confined and structured by U.S. law, this is no kind of “green card” marriage. Our commitment is much deeper than that.
• Our marriage, however, will not be completely conventional. We are going to share between us all of the traditional “husband/wife” marriage roles like cleaning, cooking, childcare, working, etc. ; we’re also going to prefer the term “partners” to “husband and wife;” we’re going to try something creative regarding the whole changing last names thing; we’re going to have a very non-traditional, non-religious “ceremony of commitment” in the U.S. (and something more traditional in Guatemala); and we are definitely going to work to stay connected with our communities, friends, and families so that we don’t get too isolated into our own little nuclear family unit.
• I have a strong relationship with Glendi’s family, and though I do not agree with all of their beliefs and traditions, I have tried to build my relationship with Glendi in a way that has been open to and respectful of where she and her loved ones are coming from. This has sometimes meant things like traveling to Guatemala to ask her parents’ permission to enter the house (which is a Guatemalan tradition), or traveling to meet all of her aunts and uncles…and it will also mean an eventual traditional-style wedding in Guatemala, in her family’s church.
• So far, our relationship has grown in a Guatemalan, Spanish-speaking context…in Glendi’s context. Now we are taking a major step towards strengthening our relationship in my context…the United States. Seattle. We think and discuss constantly about what this means in terms of greatly shifting power dynamics, of her experiences as an immigrant, as an English-learner, as a poor woman of color, and so much more. We also recognize the sad possibility that, despite our will to commit, our relationship might not be able to survive all of the challenges this transition throws at us…but we hope so much that this isn’t true! I take my own responsibilities very seriously in all of these regards, and we hope that you also will do what you can to support her and us (even if that means lovingly holding me accountable for mistakes sometimes). Please read Glendi’s letter and finish this letter to get a sense of the support that we are asking for.
• Even with our current plans to live in the U.S., our relationship is founded on a long-term commitment to share our lives in both of our countries. This means that probably within the next three years we will be moving together to Guatemala, to live near Glendi’s family. We are planning on moving back and forth periodically throughout our lives, and the life of our family, and this will very much depend on circumstances. I just want you to have a heads-up about this, and also to know that I will take my responsibilities as a North-American living in Guatemala very seriously, as well.
There is much, much more that I could say. There are many stories to tell (about Glendi’s family, her culture, our relationship, the VISA process, etc.), and I hope that you will stick with us and hang out with us so that you can hear these stories directly from our mouths!
I imagine that some of you are worried, skeptical, questioning, and I want you to know that I support you in those feelings. It shows that you care about Glendi’s well-being and my own. At the same time, we need you to put some trust in us that we know what we are doing, and what we are getting into, and we need you to know that your loving support and welcoming attitude toward Glendi are crucially important, even with any lingering doubts that you may hold.
I love you, and I look forward to further discussing this amazing new stage of my life with you as it develops. But for now, let’s move on to the actual plan!
June 22: I leave for Guatemala, where I will spend a week with Glendi’s family as she says her “see you laters” and gets ready to come to the United States for the first time.
June 30: We fly together from Guatemala to Houston, where she will go through customs, and then we will fly to Seattle, arriving at night. This will be her first time in a plane, we’ve got seats together (of course), and any strategies you might be able to offer a first-time flyer might be helpful! We will stay one night in a hotel near the airport, to relax, get our bearings, and save her first real view of Washington for the daytime.
July 1: We will drive to Bellingham, where my parents live, and we will spend a week there. Glendi will give my family Spanish lessons (a great way to balance the power dynamics and allow us North Americans to feel some of the vulnerability that she will be feeling for a long time), we will cook and explore all together as a family.
July 8 or so: We will return to Seattle, where we are going to live together in the basement “apartment” of my cooperative house, alongside 5 other wonderful people. This way, Glendi will be able to be welcomed right in to my political and social community, she will be less isolated and less dependent on me alone (once again, helping to balance power dynamics), and both of us will be less isolated as a couple. Once again, Spanish lessons are offered to everyone in the house (but thankfully some already speak it)!
At some point in the three months of her visa: We will get officially, legally married, with no fanfare and the minimum number of witnesses (not even family) necessary. This is just the official part.
Sunday, August 12: We will have a non-religious, very non-traditional, and bi-lingual “ceremony of commitment and partnership,” probably outdoors. I am very excited about it!
ALL OF YOU who have received this ARE WARMLY INVITED, but I do need to make two points: 1) Because of the stress and newness of her first few months in the U.S., Glendi and I need to be able to focus on each other and make this event very casual…which means that we can’t take logistical responsibility for any of you who wish to come from out of town…so if you come (and you are invited!) you may need to coordinate it through my parents, or on your own. 2) Since this will be our kind of ceremony, which will uphold our values and the values of my community, this will be an event that is welcoming to all of my queer, lesbian, gay, and transgender friends and their partners. I want them to be safe and free to express themselves and have fun, and so if sharing this kind of space with my friends will make you so uncomfortable that you are unable to participate happily, then I want to give you a heads-up that this event might not be a good idea for you.
Please let me or my mom know ASAP if you are planning on coming to this.
August 13-20 or so: Glendi and I will fly to Alaska, to celebrate with my Alaska family and to explore the places where I was born and grew up. Ondras, Kochs, Brewsters: this also means that it’s okay if you can’t make it down for the ceremony.
August 20 until Glendi receives her permanent residency or at least permission to return to Guatemala: We will just focus on building our lives together, while Glendi prepares to start her business as a private Spanish teacher (waiting for a green card), and I will be working and possibly pursuing a Master’s degree in teaching.
When Glendi can travel back to Guatemala (hopefully by December): We will return to Guatemala, with my family, where we will have a more traditional Guatemalan wedding in Glendi’s church and with Glendi’s family and friends. If you are really interested in coming down to Guatemala for this, please let me know ASAP.
For the next 3 years or so: We will live primarily in the U.S., traveling when we can to Guatemala. We will be focusing on saving money and paying off my college debt, so that…
In the future: We will build a small house on a small piece of land near her family’s community, where we will live some years in Guatemala, some in the United States…we clearly don’t know the actual breakdown of how it will work yet.
How You Can Support Us
Of course, you can support us emotionally by writing to us (Glendi’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org) with love and best wishes, and by trying to make it to our August celebration (please RSVP ASAP), and by being at our sides in good times and bad.
But also, because I have chosen a career path of important social justice work that pays very little, and because Glendi will be moving from a situation of being the breadwinner of her large family to being unemployed until she gets her green card (anywhere from 3-6 or more months), we actually can use your financial support as well.
In sort of a surprise move, the Bush administration announced a doubling of immigration fees, and we are not sure how this is going to affect our budget, and with our need to support ourselves, plus the need to support Glendi’s 12 person family in Guatemala, plus staying on top of my debts, and also trying to save for the return to Guatemala, your financial help can make a huge difference. We will have no wedding registry, but if between now and the August ceremony you would be able to make us a donation, we will really, really appreciate it.
My address is 1643 S. King St., Seattle, WA 98144
Also, if you know anyone in the Seattle area or in King County who might be interested in paying for private Spanish lessons from an excellent professional teacher from a highly regarded Spanish school, Glendi’s classes will be available for a reasonable rate when she has a green card, but until then she is up for trading English lessons for Spanish lessons, groceries for lessons, or other fair barter/trade kinds of things. Please let us know, and when Glendi has a website, we’ll send it out to you.
Thank you so much for reading through this whole thing, for being in my life all of these years, and for continuing to be in my life and now in Glendi’s life for many years to come!
I love you,