So, I have a secret I’ve been keeping for many years. My close friends know, and I’ve been getting better about admitting to it in casual convo with “safe” people.. but here goes..
I’m an immigrant!
Whew! Never thought I’d see the day I’d admit to that publicly. Not sure if I’m feeling relieved, or horrified at myself at the moment. Holy crap. It’s been a long time coming, though.
You see, when I first moved to Minnesota from my homeland – Canada – a few years ago, it was immediately obvious that if I was to be “out” about being an immigrant, life could be very, very difficult for me. Let me explain..
My husband and I lived in a small town in rural Minnesota. It was an eye opening experience. While I’d been told to expect everything to be pretty much the same as it was back home, it was anything but. I encountered a LOT of xenophobia and extremely vocal anti-immigrant sentiment. I was even turned down for a job because of being an immigrant! I can’t tell you how gross it was to watch a prospective employer salivate over my resume, asking how soon I can start.. then get to the line about my work visa, watch his face turn to stone while he tells me “Oh. You’re an immigrant. Well, we’re not hiring right now”.
While it’s easier to laugh about this now, I remember being at a Barenaked Ladies concert with my husband. This was early on in my immigration experience. A (very drunk) guy that was seated near us overheard my husband say “Canadian”. He demanded to know if my husband was from Canada. “Well, no… but she is!”. A reasonable response, right? Well, the guy got up in my face and tried to pick a fight with me over it. Made a lot of slurs about my country, my heritage, and … our army. Yes. At a Barenaked Ladies concert. It was very bizarre.
I was also harassed several times at the local hospital, where I’d see my Dr from time to time. Apparently, presenting a Canadian ID is an invitation for all kinds of disparaging comments about our healthcare system (Which – for the record – is AWESOME, and I miss it!)
Anyway, I don’t want to get too much into all of the crappy experiences that sent me flying into the closet. It was pretty ugly. I learned fairly early on that being Caucasian and lacking an accent was a bit of a blessing, that life would be easier if I’d shut up and just fit in. People tend to assume that people that look and sound like me are local. I decided to just.. let them. I got good at dodging questions.. “Where did you go to school?” “Up north!”, for instance.
Eventually, the stress of living in that small town became too much, and we took the huge step of moving to the city. Life in the Twin Cities has been much better, but the nagging nightmare of my initial experiences as an immigrant kept me firmly in the closet. I didn’t want to be harassed about it, I didn’t want to endure slurs, and I even worried about how being “out” could hurt my business. The wedding industry is ugly, and I can still totally see competitors saying crap about it. Whatever, I’m much more secure in who I am, and what my business is.. let them.
The longer we live in the cities, the more comfortable I am in admitting to it. Well, in face to face situations, anyway. I shocked my husband by admitting it to a room full of people in a panel discussion at a large convention this past July! Progress has been coming, little by little.
Gotta say though.. my final push out of the closet door could *not* have been any more Canadian. This final little burst of courage? Inspired by Degrassi. Yes. DEGRASSI. LOL.
Anyway, hrmm.. anything else to say? I don’t know. I’m soon going to have to hit “publish” on this, and it’s really freaking me out.
I know that a lot of people out there will read this and think “As IF Canadians get harassed / ridiculed/ etc”.. but it happens. A LOT. Xenophobia either knows NO borders, or is very intimately acquainted with EVERY border, depending on how you look at it. I’ve spent a very long time being made to feel like a second class citizen (well.. NON citizen, anyway! LOL).. feeling forced to keep part of myself a secret.. It’s a crappy way to live. Really crappy. Maybe that’s why I’m so passionate about GLBT rights – because I can TOTALLY identify with them, even as a straight married chick. Well, that and.. you know.. I’m Canadian! We tend to be into crazy stuff like equality! 🙂
So, that’s it. Whew. I’m going to assume this will be a huge non-issue to the vast majority of people that follow me here, on facebook, and on Twitter. I have cool followers like that 🙂 Anyone else.. ah well, whatever. At least I can be my Degrassi watching, poutine eating, eurodance loving, Nanaimo bar-making, Canuck self. Just know that this post is taking a HUGE amount of courage for me to post, and it’s been an issue for a very, very long time. I’ve just come to learn that I can’t control the way anyone else acts to anyone from another country, and that by closeting myself like this, I’m giving the bigots WAY too much power and control over my life.
On that note, I leave you with…. beer commercials! 🙂