Aboard Rosie's Cruise

gatheredMy experience on the first-ever Rosie and Kelly O'Donnell "R Family" cruise was something that I would give almost anything to relive. I encountered many mothers, teens and children that had similar family situations, and we quickly became friends. It was nice on the ship to have an environment that was free of hate and discrimination – an environment where my moms could walk together, holding hands, and not be discriminated against. I no longer felt the need to defend them against rude comments or harassment, and I was free to be myself. I have always been very open about my family, and loved sharing our story.

gatheredAlthough everything on the cruise was amazing, there were a few things that made me feel more than uncomfortable. We stopped in many places along the cruise route, such as Key West and finally, Nassau, Bahamas. Although I enjoyed all of the places, the environment in Nassau was much less than friendly. We were warned that we would be met with protesters upon arriving at the island, but this in no way prepared me for what I was about to face. After getting off the boat I looked around, and saw no protesters, but heard chants that seemed to be coming from far away. On our way to a store I noticed people staring at us. As we walked into the store my moms, like usual, were holding hands. All of the clerks immediately stopped talking and just stared at us. They started making rude comments, and alluding to the fact that we were not welcome in their store, and our money was no good. We turned around and started to walk out when all of a sudden one lady grabbed us by the arm and said, “It’s okay, they’re with me.” My heart began to lift at that point, as I realized that not everyone shared the same hatred for my family.

I left the store feeling satisfied, but still wondering how everyone knew that this “gay cruise” was coming. All of a sudden, my moms stopped walking, and began reading the headline of the newspaper. It stated that our cruise was coming to the Bahamas, so everyone should be on guard. I had so many mixed feelings, yet tried to remain positive. As we were browsing through one of the stores, however, the chanting seemed to be getting louder. I stepped outside the shop and was immediately overwhelmed with protesters on both sides of the street.

I saw children carrying antigay signs, and babies being taught “fag,” as one of their first words. People carried bibles and yelled how Jesus does not love us. We were approached by numerous protesters who yelled at us. I chocked back the tears and I wondered why people would teach their children hate. I never knew hate when I was that young, yet saw children carrying signs that said antigay phrases, expressing hope our boat would sink.

HBO was following us through the straw market for part of the time. They wanted to interview us about our experience. I told them how I couldn’t understand why a group of people that should know discrimination first hand would still hate my family simply because of their religious beliefs.

As soon as I was done speaking I noticed that people had gathered around me, and were starting to make comments to the camera. Before I knew quite what was going on me and my moms were being pulled toward an aisle with people shouting, “ you are welcome over here! This is the aisle of love!” I soon saw signs in rainbow colors that said “Welcome,” and talked with many friendly people that expressed how sorry they were for those that were protesting us.

Back on the boat I realized that many people had immediately gone back to the ship as soon as they saw the protesters, and did not even hold hands as they were walking for fear of being discriminated against. This shocked and saddened me. In a way it didn’t even seem fair that here is my family, putting ourselves at risk, to further educate people, and other couples refused to do the same.

On the last day my mom, Arzu had to go and check in with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services before leaving the ship. As we walked in and waited for our turn, the line moved very quickly, and everyone in front of us seemed to be in and out within minutes. Arzu went up, and was taking much longer than everyone else.

Soon Arzu was on the brink of tears. An official told her that she could not come back into the country because she did not have a renewed passport or the right information on her visa. I still do not quite understand all of the legalities behind this. I immediately ran downstairs to find the HBO crew, as my mom and Arzu went back to talk to immigration. I knew that it would be less likely for them not to let Arzu back in the country if someone was filming. HBO was not allowed inside, however, because it was a government matter, but we waited outside for my mom and Arzu. Immigration didn’t want to let her back in the country, and after much turmoil the guy said that he would, “make an exception.”

As we all embraced and cried all I could think of was how unfair. How unfair it is that a loving family, a loving parent that is here on a student visa paying 13 times as much to go to school just so she can stay with her family, is still treated as if she is much less than equal. How unfair that they would tell her the only reason she is here is because of an exception. How unfair it is that I should have to constantly fear that one day, immigration officials will stop making “exceptions,” and tear apart my family.

I still live with the constant fear that my family will be ripped apart any day. Arzu had no choice but to go back to Germany to renew her passport, and visit her sick mom. My mom and I will be going to visit her, and all coming back at the same time. I fear that we will have problems getting her back in at the border. I told all of my friends that if I’m not there on the first day of school I’m in Germany. I refuse to cross the border without both of my moms by my side. I refuse to let our leaders continue to discriminate against loving families like mine. No one can take my moms away from me, and I will continue to fight until we have all of the rights that we deserve.

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