Sunday, January 29, 2017

When Fear Rules

January 1990: I flew back home to Minneapolis after attending my father's funeral in England. As the plane descended over Minneapolis my anxiety level rose, as it always did at this point in my journey back to the USA.

Flying doesn't bother me in the least. It was the thought of being questioned by an immigration official and being denied entry to the USA. I'd be forced onto the next flight back to the UK, separated from my partner, my home, my job, my life.

As I walked towards Immigration Control, my pulse would race, I would try not to shake. I rehearsed the upcoming encounter in my head:
Immigration Official: Are you a homosexual?
Me: I have nothing to say.
I would plead the fifth because a direct answer would automatically exclude me from entry. Lying to a government official is a crime that could be grounds for exclusion.

How could this be? I had a green card, I had skills that were in short supply. I had never committed a crime, not even a driving violation.

The US Immigration and Nationality Act was amended in 1965 to specifically exclude "aliens afflicted with sexual deviation." Although the American Psychiatric Association had deleted the diagnostic code for Homosexuality as a disorder in 1973, the law had not caught up in January 1990.

This exclusion law was not theoretical. Every now and then I would come across an article in the newspaper about some overseas visitor being turned back at the Minneapolis airport because they answered "yes" to the sexuality question.

A Christopher Isherwood novel in my carry-on might prompt "the question" from a literate immigration official. Or maybe there was an annotation in my computer record because someone who dislikes me had sent a letter to the Immigration Service.

Later in 1990, the law was amended, and I was no longer excludable.

Today, January 2017, "decent" white "Christian" people have succumbed to their fears and given our government carte blanche to do indecent things. I have no illusions, my humanity is still on the line.


  1. It seems these days, I am daily outraged into sending a letter to my congressmen/women - although I begin to fear that Congress is becoming irrelevant. I pray better angels will prevail.

    1. I cling to the hope every little thing we do matters.