The LGBT community have been fighting for their basic rights, dignity, acknowledgement and acceptance in society; and they have been fighting for decades. It feels like, as soon as one hurdle is over come, another plants itself in our path. The more recent problems however, are more political than social.
When DOMA (Defense Of Marriage Act) was signed into law by then president Bill Clinton, a whole new series of hurdles sprung up in front of the LGBT community living in the United States. The laws got complex, convoluted and beyond rational reasoning. The few states at the beginning who legalised same-sex marriage like Massachusetts, those marriages were still not recognised by the Federal government or by other states. As a result, the couples could not file for federal tax returns and benefits together or entitled for federal grants. Along with these, another guillotine hovered over the heads for the bi-national same-sex couples. Immigration and citizenship being under the purview of the federal government and they not recognizing same-sex marriage, the foreign national in a bi-national couple has no legal right to apply for a green card even if they are legally married in their individual state and were in danger of being torn away from their partners and deported.
To avoid being separated from their partner, a large group of bi-national same-sex couples immigrated to Canada where their union was recognized.
In RBC sponsored Emerging Artist Project, photographer Sarah Foy created a collage of such bi-national couples who have immigrated to Canada from the United States. Along with the visual, there is an audio track of these couples documenting the trials and tribunals they faced while trying to settle in a brand new country, away from their family and friends and starting from scratch.
People may argue that hundreds of people immigrate to other countries, so what’s the big deal. The big deal is more psychological. In most cases, if not all, people who immigrate to a foreign country, they do it because they want to, so they are prepared mentally for the unknown. But in the cases of these couples, they are forced to. And that makes all the difference. Not to mention the feeling of being unrecognized, rejected and uncared for by their own country.
Landed: Together in Canada as a title, aptly captures the essence. It’s a compelling artwork which tells the stories of LGBT individuals landing in the US, falling in love with an American and moving to Canada to be together.
Gallery Open: May 24th – June 29th 2014
Venue: Elgin and Winter Garden Theatre