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Andrew has (extremely carefully and only after I said it was okay, having learned from last week's debacle!) opened the post from the Home Office and can confirm that it's my UK passport.

I'm not even happy or relieved yet. I'm so ground-down by the whole process that it still hasn't sunk in yet, even as I look at it with the lettering all shiny, next to me on the table, waiting to be taken upstairs and filed away into unobtrusive normality.
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Had my passport interview today. Everyone told me it was fine and normal but I thought it was weird and intrusive. How many of your bedrooms look onto your back garden? Where did your parents go on their honeymoon? But it was done quickly and kindly, by a big guy with amazing facial hair and who had actually heard of Minnesota because he's an American-football player.

The worst thing about it was that we had to go all the way to Salford for it, which took ages. I turned out to also need to go back to the university because you can't sign up for language classes online, you have to go in person to the place I was twice yesterday where no one told me this. (I presume it's because they need to check the level people are at if they want to do anything other than beginner's level in their language, because there was a lot of that happening. But surely abject beginners should be able to apply with the system we have to use to do everything else?) But I filled out the form so hopefully that's done.

Which means all my bureaucracy should be done that can be done for now, which is good as all of tomorrow will be taken up with volunteer training at Manchester Museum (which is just a different kind of in-person bureaucracy, as little or none of it will be relevant to my role).

And I had a smear test today, and that's all this morning, so frankly not only am I done with today, but I think I need a medal.

For future reference, though, having a lot of local friends means a lot of them share the same doctor's surgery, and I'd heard a lot of good things about the new nurse who frankly could hardly have been worse than the old one. And she lived up to everything I'd heard about her; she didn't mention my weight, even though she did mention my blood pressure a lot which is fair enough as it was high when she checked it. She even took my height and weight which I know will be for bullshit BMI things the NHS makes them do, but while she said "Five four" as she read my height off the thingy, she then looked at the scale and said "weight...[mumbly mumble]" like she was just reminding herself long enough to go write it down (which is exactly what she was doing) so far from making a big deal of it she ensured I didn't know it at all which is the best thing for my mental health.

And when she asked if I wanted a sexual health screening done at the same time I said it was a good idea because I have two partners but it's okay and they know about each other and etc., she actually said "Oh, so you're poly?" Which left me really taken aback! I've never had a health professional know the word before. And she asked me if the partners were "male, female or other" so didn't assume sexuality or binary gender, which made me happy.
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Dealing with immigration bureaucracy is still exhausting. Maybe first thing in the morning wasn't the best idea. But the passport and naturalization certificate I'd sent to the student loans people arrived soon after I woke up (the certificate in one of those "do not bend" envelopes, so in better shape than they got it!) and since I had to go to the post office anyway I figured I'd ask if they had passport applications and they did. So when I got home I thought I might as well start in in it.

And it's fine, but it's occasioned a big discussion on Facebook where I said
Applying for a British passport as a foreign-born person with foreign parents is like a test in How Much Do You Love Your Family.

Not only do I need to remember what town my parents were born in (which I only know because I needed that for citizenship), I need to find out my GRANDPARENTS' place of birth, date of birth, and date of marriage?! Good thing my parents were going to Skype me today anyway because I could only guess at most of those! Three of my grandparents aren't even around to ask!

And I can't remember how to spell my mom's middle name. Worst daughter. Well, I think I do but there's nothing like a form to make you second-guess yourself!
The comments are sympathetic and thoughtful because I know good people, but also reminded me of new ways this could be fraught.

Then I had to get new passport photos taken, because none of the money I've spent on passport-size passport-style photographs in the last year or so will do for the current set of restrictions. I hate that they now require glasses wearers not to wear their glasses, because the only way to get me to be facing the right away without them ends up being to have a man, a stranger, put his hands on my face.

It wasn't too bad today, but it reminded me of the time I had to get biometric data collected for my citizenship application, when the photos were done by some horrible automated computer process in a claustrophobic booth. And I kept getting told off for the photo coming up wrong. I was there with my white cane and everything but the staff were busy and I guess just didn't notice or didn't know what to do with me. It took ages and still ended up with a man touching my face and I felt really shitty afterward.

I went to Levy market afterward, because it's near the photo shop and because I had the vague sense that I had been Good and deserved a treat. I ran into a couple of people I know which was nice but the market just seemed overpriced rubbish which is probably at least as much a reflection on me as on it! I usually enjoy it.

I went to the Asian supermarket on the way home because I wanted some halloumi but they didn't have any! I asked Andrew to see if there was a film or concert or anything we fancied going to tonight, but there really isn't.

And now I'm sitting here thinking I should make some food but needing to do dishes first and that's all I get for a treat today, it looks like!
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Stressful day. I'm still an edge case, this time when it comes to Student Finance England, who don't know what to do with someone who's a UK citizen but doesn't have a UK passport or birth certificate. After three lots of contradictory advice that couldn't be verified on a website that was down, after I shouted and stomped and lost my temper with poor Andrew who wasn't the cause of any of my anger or stress, we established that I had to send my passport and my naturalization certificate. Originals, no copies would do.

My most vital documents. I felt like I was going to throw up, handing them over at the post office. I literally have nightmares about losing them.

And as soon as I get them back, I'll have to post them away again, to get a UK passport.

Having moaned on Facebook I wanted a drink, [personal profile] diffrentcolours offered to meet me inna pub this evening. It's been ages since I've been in a pub when it wasn't part of a WI committee meeting or a Biphoria thing. It's been ages since I've seen [personal profile] diffrentcolours for something other than Lib Demmery (and even today there was a bit of that because he handed over stuff for me to mail to this week's Pride). We were just friends having some time together and it was great.

Then I got home, already sleepy, and ended up talking to Andrew for a long time about a song a friend of ours asked me to write. He's doing this big musical/opera kind of thing, full of great ideas. He wanted me to write a song about the Shipping Forecast, and I've been not doing it for years, but tonight we started working on it and I'm so excited about it now. Based on a sea shanty, with instrumentation like oboe, moog and Neptune (recorded by NASA), it's turning out fiendishly clever.
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Yesterday morning I saw I'd been tagged in a tweet where Andrew linked to this, saying "Jesus Christ. By this standard, @hollyamory and I are in a 'marriage of convenience.'"

The article is about a High Court ruling saying that a "genuine couple can enter in a marriage of convenience." Even people who are in a real relationship, not seeking a "sham marriage," can apparently be told that they can't get married because by doing so one of them would attain an "immigration advantage."

Which, yeah. Is exactly what Andrew and I did. With no other avenue of study or work open to us in the mental/physical/financial state we were in at the time (or indeed at any time since), the only way for us to stay in the same country was to get married.

As I pointed out in a series of angry follow-up tweets, the only reason we needed an "immigration advantage" is because being poor and disabled have been declared immigration disadvantages. Marriage is the only route available to current non-EU citizens who don't make £35,000 a year. (Maybe one day that (or its successor at a no-doubt higher salary threshold) will apply to non-EU citizens too.) This is not the fault of any people getting married.

This is not the fault of people getting married.

You may start to see now why I hate the Home Office, why I am the unusual rat who jumped on to the sinking ship of Brexit Britain. Andrew and I both really don't want to but also can't move to the U.S., and there's no other country that will have us both. So if we're going to stay in the same country, it has to be the UK. So I want to feel as secure in that as possible.

When I started talking about this on Twitter, a lot of my friends pointed out that marriage is a legal status so of course people are going to enter into it for legal reasons: tax, inheritance, child guardianship, lots of things. In the UK, increasingly few people get married solely for religious reasons, so legal elements are going to be part of the decision for a lot of people. Yet it's a bad thing if any of those reasons are immigration-related?

Increasingly I'm realizing how much higher a standard immigrants are held to than the native citizens of not just the UK but certainly the U.S. too (where, y'know, immigrants and visitors actually have to say they're not Nazis!) and no doubt other countries as well. It's so frustrating to see this everywhere.

weekend

Aug. 14th, 2017 01:45 pm
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I"m settling into a pattern of weeks with very little to do and very low mood, and then being very busy and mostly happier on the weekends. This is really bad for me and no fun but I don't feel able to get myself unstuck yet.

Adventures in Babysitting )

I was staying over so quickly installed myself in the spare room, with the comfy bed, the robot alarm clock and the lamp with colorful airplanes on its shade. It was pretty great.

I was there because next morning Simon and I were driving to Leeds for BiCon and it made no sense to get me home late at night just to go pick me up again the next day.

BiCon )

The Home Office at BiCon )

So I was quite glad that my plans had changed such that I could go to Brighouse that night. I was tired and a little emotionally wrung-out with one thing and another. It didn't help a lot though as after a blessed day off Twitter I was catching up on Charlottesville. I spent way too much time reading what it felt like I couldn't look away from but also couldn't fix. But I was heartened to see a lot of white people talking about how unhelpful attitudes like #ThisIsNotUs were, ignoring that this is what America has always been so we can feel better about ourselves.

Andrew came over to Brighouse too yesterday, for Sunday dinner and terrible films. It was really nice having all the best people around.

Now I'm home where all the cleaning and laundry have been neglected for quite a while even before I was away because my mental health has been so bad. I've done a load of laundry I'm about to go hang up and put another one in. It'd be nice if I could clean some things. And I have to write down volunteering admin and stuff I need to do before it all falls out of my head. Better go and do all of that, then!

Here's hoping this week is better than the last two.
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Of course I'm well familiar with the phrase "Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in." But I'm not sure I knew it was from a Robert Frost poem, and I know I didn't know the next line.

Until I read it yesterday, quoted at the beginning of this, which is about a new book of EU citizens' voices in the UK post-Brexit. The article is about various philosophical approaches to "home." It starts with this quite, and then the next line of the poem, "Death of the Hired Man," which goes:

"I should have called it / Something you somehow haven’t to deserve."

And it's even better than that; the poem is a couple arguing with each other. A farmer told his old hired man that last season was the end of it, that "If he left then, I said, that ended it."
What good is he? Who else will harbor him
At his age for the little he can do?
What help he is there’s no depending on.
Off he goes always when I need him most.
He thinks he ought to earn a little pay,
Enough at least to buy tobacco with,
Mary has met her husband at the door to say that she found the old hired man, sleeping up against their barn.
A miserable sight, and frightening, too—
You needn’t smile—I didn’t recognize him—
I wasn’t looking for him—and he’s changed.
...
‘Warren,’ she said, ‘he has come home to die:
You needn’t be afraid he’ll leave you this time.’
And this is where Warren says home is where they have to take you in, and Mary says "I should have called it / Something you somehow haven’t to deserve."

Or, to make the language slightly more modern, I would call home something you don't have to deserve.

I talk a lot about what a problem "deserve" is. I really hate that kind of language. It's almost exclusively used against poor people, disabled people, immigrants. This is what's indicated by "Oh, I don't mean you": that is a judgement, declaring that I deserve what others don't. I'm "not one of those" scroungers or fakers. Blindness is a disability people think they understand and mine happened at birth so it wasn't my fault. I'm white, I too only speak English, and I'm from a country the UK approves of.

The old hired man doesn't deserve this home. He can't work any more, the farmer can't afford to pay him. He has a rich brother not far away. Why not go there? And yet, here he is.

It's what we're saying to the citizens of other EU countries in the UK right now: you have countries that have to take you in; why not go there?

But just as with Silas the hired man, going back to where some people feel they "ought" to be, to their country of origin — “back home”, as if there are duplicate jobs and houses waiting for them — is not an option for many people. It presents personal tragedies for those people who have limited options: EU citizens without the money to make an international move, with disabilities, living on the NHS, or being old and frail.

There's a lot more to the article, which I might go into more later, but I think this is enough for now!

Dispirited

Jun. 13th, 2017 10:47 pm
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This month's WI committee meeting wasn't quite the standard I've become used to. Most of us did stay for a drink after, but the conversation got around to politics and one of my favorite WI people turns out to have exactly the opinions about immigrants that the tabloids want her to: conflating them with refugees and asylum seekers, and generally thinking they're handed a much easier life than she has had.

We tried to tell her (I'm not the only immigrant sitting around this table, and the other one had actually worked with refugees and asylum seekers), but you can't reason somebody out of a position they didn't get into rationally.

Eventually someone had to leave to catch a bus and a bunch of the rest of us left too. I got home and had a hug from Andrew and made myself something easy to eat. But I'm still feeling rubbish.

You work so hard, and people are still going to think the group you're part of is the cause of all society's ills. And that it's somehow okay to tell you this when you're supposed to be out having a nice time (and planning for all the nice things we're going to do).
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Image of me, dark hair, pale skin, glasses and a big smile, holding up my Certificate of Naturalisation
Style guide: I'd appreciate not being called "British." I have UK citizenship, but I don't feel British. I'm not really sure why this is -- it's not like being American has given me a lot to be proud of in...well, my lifetime -- but that's where I'm at now.

Along with your certificate you're given for some reason a fancy-looking pen that is actually pretty cheap...

...and a few pages of stuff like "now you can apply for a passport" and a letter from, in my case, the Lord Mayor of Manchester (or the guy who was until a few weeks ago) and also a letter from the Home Secretary. Or, actually, not.

For those lucky enough not to recognize her, that's Theresa May, who hasn't been Home Secretary in more than a year. Racist van Theresa May. "Hostile environment" Theresa May. Ruining the country just so she can leave the EU and get rid of immigrants and human rights Theresa May.

I started yelling on the bus when I saw this.

The letter genuinely contains the only positive thing I've ever seen attributed to Theresa May on the subject of immigrants -- "The talents, background and experiences you are bringing with you are very important to us" -- but it's still very "we will extract all the usefulness out of you!" and also is full of "respect each other's cultures and faiths" and "democracy, law and tolerance" when just this week she's been saying there's too much of those things and human rights threaten our safety. Hmm.

I know there's going to be a certain amount of rose-tintedness in anything like this (it reminds me so much of my civics textbooks), but the hypocrisy of this just makes me sad.

I was much more cheerful when [personal profile] po8crg called me on his lunch break, to congratulate me but of course being us we also ended up talking about the Glorious Revolution, Turkish workers in Germany, and what I want the Wonder Woman sequel to be.

I didn't know it was what I wanted the Wonder Woman sequel to be, until we were talking about it. It started with him saying "They had to set it all the way back in WWI, or otherwise she'd have been stateless and no country would have let her in" (border controls are so recent! I don't think a lot of people appreciate this) so of course we started wondering what would happen if she'd arrived any time in the last hundred years or so: fresh off the boat from Themyscira, she'd have no papers and no one would have even heard of the place she claims to be from. When the UK wants to deport people but can't, it sends them to places like Yarl's Wood [tw for sexual abuse at that link]. We can imagine Diana's reaction to that.

And her inevitably breaking out.

And making sure everyone else does too.

Yeah, I'd watch the hell out of that movie.

And it ticks all the boxes that a critique of Wonder Woman I read this morning wants for the sequel: you'd definitely have a cast mostly of women of color because that's who ends up in immigration detention centers. And humanizing their plight like this movie did with the villagers in No Man's Land could be so amazing. Women writers, and women behind the camera, could make that awesome.
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Yesterday was nice too: Andrew had called me Thursday afternoon and said I could stay over if I wanted, so I was still in Brighouse Friday. Which was nice because it meant I could go along with Jennie and James and Holly to see Wonder Woman... Or attempt to, anyway.

When I asked for the headset there was a longer than usual time before someone got back to me and he started off with saying "We didn't advertise this ad having AD..." so I thought Oh man, here we go... But actually it was dealt with really well: what he meant was that since the film was brand new, they hadn't had a chance to test this stuff yet to make sure it was working. And since they'd had people complain about it being advertised as such when it didn't work, they had stopped taking the film companies' word about the audio description until they'd checked it themselves, which usually takes a few days.

They were still happy to give me the headset and let me try it, though, so I did. Sat through a bunch of bizarre ads (including a horrific one for Subway where a man contemplates getting a different sandwich to the one he always gets, the overdramatic voice-over encouraging him on, and just when I'm thinking "this is Subway saying 'we can give that mediocre white man the confidence he's so famous for!" the ad finishes with him getting the different sandwich and the congratulatory voice-over: "You did it. You're Columbus. Exploring new worlds!" I stared actually open-mouthed at the idea that the beginning of the genocide and subjugation of an entire hemisphere could be compared a) to a fast food order and b) favorably).

And a bunch of trailers for movies I didn't want to see (though worryingly the Transformers one actually looked kind of good?! I don't think it will be, but I've never had such a thought before).

And then the movie started and...yeah,thr audio description didn't work. It was clearly there, but not configured properly so it was too quiet to discern, and really staticky. So James, who'd no y volunteered to leave it I had to, and I went to tell the people this and they were pretty nice and apologetic about it. They offered me another headset but since the movie had already started and I didn't want to disrupt people (and because I'd had the same problem when we'd tried to see Rogue One and trying new headsets then hadn't worked, I was happy to just leave it. I know Andrew wanted to see this movie anyway so I'd get more chances to.

I don't usually bother about seeing things right when they come out, so I hadn't thought about this as an issue before. It's a shame they can't commit to testing the audio description sooner: for big "event" movies like this that people might want to go to with their friends when it's all exciting, it's a shame people who benefit from audio description don't get to do that. It's not like it's hard to test: you just have to be in the cinema with the headphones.

It's also kind of a shame that there's no way to test the audio description is working before the movie actually starts. This isn't the first time I've watched all the trailers and ads when I can't watch the movie, and I'm sure it wont be the last. But this seems like a pretty tricky logistical problem that I don't have any suggested fixes for: I'm not sure to what extent the film company, the cinema or both would be responsible for that and I can't see any of them bothering about it anyway.

Anyway, instead of watching a movie, James and I went for lunch (I had the best beer, Theakstons Barista Stout, it's lovely and chocolatey) and while we were there Katie called me and said she wanted to "book me in" for some point this weekend. Partly because we keep saying we should do something on the weekends and it keeps not happening, and partly because she's particularly excited that I'm a citizen, or at least will be on Wednesday, and wants to celebrate.

Which I think is terribly sweet. Last Friday I got some nice food and a lot of rum bought for me by friends who wanted to celebrate me getting my citizenship. I'm finding having all this attention paid to me a tiny bit awkward, because I'm not used to it ("we can go to [place we always go for tea and food] or whatever you want," Katie was saying on the phone; "it's your choice because it's you we're celebrating"), even though it seems on a par with a birthday party so not like a huge scale of celebration but... I never get birthday parties! (My birthday is right before Christmas so I'm always back with my family then, and they never even ask me what food/restaurant I want, since it's always "well your grandparents won't do X so..." or most memorably on my 21st birthday, supposed to be a rite of passage, when I had to go to my uncle's 50th birthday party and my family spent it huddled together amidst a sea of his wife's family, huge and entirely unknown.)

With the inconveniently placed birthday, my friends have long suggested I celebrate it at some other time of the year ("have two birthdays, like the Queen does!"), maybe in the summer rather than the winter. And it's worked out that the citizenship ceremony will be around the time that's halfway to my birthday, so this year it kind of feels like that works out. I'm not going to make it s yearly celebration though! This year, we're celebrating a big accomplishment of mine. Its anniversary won't mean anything to me. Maybe if citizenship felt like something better than just a crisis averted, I could do that. But it isn't so I can't.

On our way home, James and I went to the ticket office at the train station to get tickets sorted out for going to London next month. Last fall we got tickets to see the final of the cricket Women's World Cup, for ridiculously cheap because who's going to watch women play sports, right? It seemed like a very far away thing, I forgot about it and generally thought it was ages away, I'm that way that July seems when it's September or October. But now it's next month and he found us a hotel and I got the train tickets so now I'm getting really excited. It's at Lords and everything, so I'll get to see that too.

(There was actually an ad for this World Cup before the movie; I've never seen women's cricket advertised like that before (I don't have a TV so I only see ads before movies, and it's just occurred to me that this might have been because the movie also had the word "woman" in the title). So that got me excited too.)
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"It then seemed to me that the immigration system was designed to create failures," was the quote my friend [twitter.com profile] SMerlChest pulled out of this story when she tweeted it.

I read it with a panicked heartbeat (only eventually assuaged by remembering that I (very nearly) have citizenship now so this can't happen to me; after a decade of anxiety verging on panic attacks at reading stories like this, a few days apparently isn't sufficient for me to have trained myself out of that reflexive reaction). The tl;dr version is that a Canadian living in Scotland with a good job and a wife and little kids who's just been granted a huge sum of money for his academic work is set to be deported in a couple of weeks, and it seems to be only because he was told the wrong thing to do by the Home Office ages ago and had no idea until a couple of weeks ago.

My friend [twitter.com profile] elmyra quickly pointed out "Oh look, he's white, middle class, and Canadian, so media are paying attention." (They are a white Eastern European immigrant to the UK, one of the voices I'm so grateful to have in my book, so they know whereof they speak here.) [twitter.com profile] SMerlChest added that the class thing might be crucial (contrasting this with another Canadian family that got deported from Scotland recently). I said that I think having young British kids also makes this guy's case more likely to get media attention.

And as we were all talking about this, about what would actually help this man avoid deportation vs what has made this story get media attention that tons of similar stories won't get (which is an overlapping circle but not the same: the good job is in both circles, the British kids are in the latter (because British family didn't save the poor woman deported to Singapore...see, she's not white and she was a carer rather than having a proper job and don't tell me those things didn't count against her). I actually also think this story is getting media sympathy because he can claim the Home Office made this error; he himself is an innocent, falling afoul of red tape which is a particular hatred of the British for whatever reason.

As I was sort of dispassionately discussing the elements that make a good sympathetic immigration-horrors story, I didn't want to make it sound too much like I wasn't genuinely sympathetic for the man. My fledging panic attack was borne out of my awareness that the same thing would happen to me. And something that I never let myself think about too much consciously until now that it's over...I knew that if it had come to it, my story would not have gotten the sympathetic media attention that this has.
  • I don't have a proper job and for the last year neither has my husband, however British he is.
  • We're both disabled, which Britain is not sympathetic to generally.
  • We don't have any children.
The last especially: not having those babies (and yes they'd be white!) being all photogenic and British and everything to pull on strangers' heartstrings and to legitimize my presence here in a way that my childlessness cannot.

It's one thing to feel that your life might not measure up to the goals you have for it or the expectations your parents have for it, it's I think on another level to have to think about how your life compares to what the Home Office approves of, what the public will approve of if you have to take your immigration horror story to the media.

It seems like something not a million miles from the current concept in America of being "popular enough to live," getting enough people to back your GoFundMe that you can pay your medical bills. Thankfully immigrants having to appeal to the British public and/or Home Office as sympathetic less common than crowdfunding healthcare has to be in America.

Musing on this, and finally letting myself admit the lens through which I had to look at myself as an immigrant, and thinking about what I wrote here yesterday about not being happy or even relieved yet about my citizenship got me to tweet: "OKAY I THINK THE RELIEF AT BEING A CITIZEN HAS FINALLY KICKED IN."

This is why I paid thousands of pounds and put myself through this? Just so I don't have to panic, just so I don't have to think about how my life looks to the Home Office. Andrew and I don't seem enough like a family, my work is that "second shift" women do that doesn't look like work, it'll only be my nationality and my whiteness that made this as easy for me as it has been.
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Today I saw a politician (Philip Hammond this time, but it could've been any of several) quoted as saying Britain "need[s] to continue to attract the brightest and the best from around the world to these shores" and I think that was just one time too many for me with that terrible phrase, best and brightest.

I always and only ever hear in the context of a Labservative government reassuring the xenophobes (even when, like now, they have nothing to reassure us about; Britain is hemorrhaging citizens of countries that will remain in the EU for longer than the next year and a half and the Tories want to cut immigration to less than half of what business says the UK needs).

I finally realized exactly what it is I so dislike about the phrase "best and brightest" -- apart from its obvious politician-speak and doesn't really mean anything. Beyond that, I just managed to articulate this morning that I think I hate it because it's evidence of something I am always complaining about: that immigrants are always talked about, and never talked with (much less listened to). That British media and politicians mostly talk about us as if we can't hear or read what they are saying.

As an immigrant, I hear this and think: What on Earth makes the UK think it's so special it can only even tolerate those immigrants who are "brightest and best"? But it's not speech directed at me. It's directed at British people who are wary of accepting any immigrants, it's not challenging them on that xenophobia but just saying, however grudgingly, that we need a few immigrants, lads, but don't worry, we'll make sure they're only the good kind. The best.

What it sounds like from the outside is that Britain is telling all the other countries in the world: Don't even think about sending us anything less than your best and brightest! But it isn't, and it wasn't even before Brexit, doing anything to convince the rest of the world that it deserves the cream of their crops. Indeed, it's doing everything in its power to persuade other countries that it doesn't deserve or even really want their brightest or best: even before Brexit we outside the EU have suffered a lot, as any of my readers surely are sick of hearing about by now.

Still British politicians talk like the world is a labour force to be tapped if necessary. I am not the most informed person to be drawing comparisons between Brexit and the British Empire as often as I do, but I can't help think that mentality is at play here. There's this idea that the rest of the world is composed of resources that Britain can take advantage of as often as necessary and to whatever extent is necessary. This went for natural resources all over the world, but also human resources: people. Post-World War II, when Britain needed more workers, its colonies, especially the West Indies, were called on to provide them. Britain still hasn't learned the lessons about racism and exploitation that this and other such history could have taught it, and I swear this has contributed to the casual idea that Britain can get exactly as many immigrants as it needs and not one more, from exactly the places it wants them, at any given time.

As if the rest of the time, these black and brown people, these people who speak with derided accents, are patiently waiting in case they can be of service. Dutifully sending their brightest and best people out of their own countries, just as they had to send their food even when it left them with none, send their gold even when it left them poor, send everything bright and good to Britain.

Ceremony

May. 27th, 2017 01:11 pm
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Got the details of my citizenship ceremony! It's on June 7, so... quicker than I was expecting!

I knew it'd be a weekday, I was told they usually are on Wednesdays, so figured I could arrange for whatever friends wanted to celebrate to go to the pub that evening, but it's Eve of Poll so I imagine even then a lot of you will be busy!

Me and the Brighouses are already talking about going to watch village cricket that weekend, to celebrate surviving the election/commiserate about whatever kind of Brexity government we've ended up with. With the picnic hamper and wine and I can make a cake. It would be nice to have something like that to look forward to.

I am finding the whole citizenship thing a bit anticlimactic, to be honest. Maybe just due to my brainweasels, maybe the job interview didn't help, or maybe it's just taken so long and been so expensive and draining that I can't summon the energy to care any more.

I hoped to be more happy about this, but I expected to at least be relieved.

Maybe I'll feel better after the ceremony, but at the moment I'm just trying not to dread it too much. I don't want to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy kind of thing where I think I'll hate it and so I hate it, but damn, I've never liked this idea. And now it's not an idea, it's this letter with all the information printed so tiny I got Andrew to read it. It suggests practicing the Oath or Affirmation before you get there but "this isn't a memory test!" so cards with the text on will be provided. So I'm gonna have to print it off at about 20-pt font because I won't be able to read their damn cards. I'm torn between really not wanting Andrew (or anybody) there and wanting him there for accessibility reasons, like so I don't get lost finding the place.

I'm glad it will be over soon, anyway.
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I owe Dreamwidth a much better post about this, but I also want everyone to know: today I found out my citizenship application had been approved and my passport and other important documents have been returned to me.

I'm not officially a citizen until I do the ceremony, which I should find out about in the next week or so. (While I continue to want no one there for that, I'm very happy to have as many people as want to and can, in a pub nearby waiting for me to be done with it.) But this is basically it. Done now. Until a few years ago, this would have made me indistinguishable from a person who's British because they're born in Britain. Our previous, immigrant-hating Home Secretary changed that, but it's still pretty good.

I am so grateful to all the people who backed my Kickstarter to make this application possible, to my friends who signed my application as references, to everyone who's told me that the UK is better for having me in it, and especially for Andrew who's into his second decade of tolerating the expense, stress and diminution of his own rights in his own country as the spouse of a foreigner. And that's even before the day-to-day horrors of me not letting him buy the hundred-quid six-CD set of one album that he doesn't like all that much anyway, and suchlike.
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Tim Harford (from among other things one of my favorite Radio 4 shows, More or Less) writes about why we should be grateful to immigrants. An idea I'm so unaccustomed to hearing my brain savors it like an exotic flavor.
Immigration inspires strong feelings, and those feelings aren’t of happiness and gratitude. That is a shame.

Is there a gut-based case that we should be grateful to immigrants? I’d like to think so.
Xenophobia is basically a "gut-based" conviction, which is why no amount of droning on about the economic benefits of immigration will counteract it; we need to fight this feeling with other feelings.

The first feelings-based counterattack, or lesson in being grateful, Harford suggests is "do unto others as you'd have them do unto you," which leads us to ponder why people from our country (and this is true in both the UK and U.S.) who leave it are called expats while incomers are migrants. Harford then points out Matthew Iglesias saying "he wouldn’t get away with describing white Americans without college degrees as people 'without merit'."

Same is true of Brits here: immigrants have to meet standards -- whether that be of education, employment history, evidence of private health care, proficiency in the English language, invasive amounts of biometric data, willingness to live without any kind of benefits for you or your family, or a willingness to let their relatives age and die thousands of miles away without the comfort of family nearby -- that would never be asked of native citizens.

While there is (rightly!) outrage at the thought of people in Britain needing to pay directly for health care or being denied essential welfare benefits, these things have already been happening to non-British people in this country for many years (and of course continue and worsen all the time) without the outcry or solidarity that we're starting to see now that it's good, ordinary British people.

Harford goes on to say "There are many analyses of the costs and benefits of immigration. What’s not widely appreciated is that most of them simply ignore any benefits to the migrants — expats — themselves."

Indeed this has always been one of my gripes: immigrants are talked about as if we can't even read or hear the conversations, much less be listened to.

And when you think about it, it's bizarre that the benefits of migration to the migrants are so universally overlooked. Despite all these deterents, despite the hostile environments put in place, loads of people still do migrate so there must be something in it for them. Us. See, even I am in the habit of talking about immigrants as an Othered group, because that's the discourse I associate with power and with the people's minds I want to change.

The rest of Harford's paragraph there is interesting too:
Given this handicap [of ignoring the benefits of immigration to immigrants, remember], it’s striking that many serious studies find some modest net economic benefits. If I told you that a school or a hospital could pass a cost-benefit test even after ignoring the benefits to the pupils or patients, you might reasonably conclude that the school and hospital were impressive organisations. You’d also tell me it was a very strange way to do cost-benefit analysis.
I just think it's really striking that I'm someone who talks and thinks about immigration, not to an academic standard but still quite a lot, and a lot of these arguments are either totally new to me or else some of my own facile bullet points (like talk about immigrants and not immigration, which this does flawlessly and without even having to call attention to the fact it's doing that) fleshed out and extrapolated pretty beautifully.

Economics gets a bad rap for being an inhumane way to think about immigrants, and other humans, but here's an economist blowing us all out of the water on that.
hollymath: (Default)
Thanks to a link from a link on [personal profile] silveradept's latest collection of links, I found something that ties in with what I wrote about the Doctor Who episode "Smile" the other day.

It's an episode called "The Myth of Closure," of a podcast called On Being and it seems to be about several myths about grief that our societies have taught us, like that it's a linear process we progress through and emerge from in a straightforward way. And it does talk about immigration as a state that involves grieving for what's been left behind, no matter how positively the decision was made.
MS. TIPPETT: Pauline Boss is an Emeritus Professor at the University of Minnesota. Her 1999 book Ambiguous Loss coined a phrase that has become a field in psychology and family therapy. She grew up in a first generation Swiss-American immigrant family in Wisconsin.

And you said, “Homesickness was an essential part of my family’s culture.”

DR. BOSS: It was. I think it may be true for all immigrant families, but it certainly was for mine. And it was even in the village because there were many immigrant families there.

And so it became a sort of pathos that would be in the family when we weren’t even aware of it, except that I could see the sadness periodically, like when my father would get a letter from Switzerland, or worse yet, a letter with a black rim around it, which meant announcement of death in the family.

So, I was always aware that there was another family somewhere, and that there was some homesickness, except where was home? And I figured that home was in Wisconsin where we lived, but yet I knew he had this other family across the Atlantic that he pined for.

And my maternal grandmother was the same. And, of course, she refused to learn English. She said she lost her mountains, she lost her mother, she lost her friends, and she wasn’t going to lose her language. So I think that, too, is not unusual for immigrant families today, especially the elders.

MS. TIPPETT: One thing reading that about your family made me reflect on is that we talk a lot about immigrants, right? And especially now. And we even talk about things like people sending money back to family. But we don’t kind of acknowledge the grief or that homesickness or that sadness, that loss that must always be there, even when people have made a choice to go far away.

DR. BOSS: I think that’s part of our American culture that we don’t want to hear that. We don’t just deny death in our culture, I think we deny ambiguous loss that comes with things like immigration. And homesickness comes along with that and we really want people to get over it.

And they don’t. And in fact, it’s paradoxical. The more you want people to get over it, the longer it will take for them. And why not remember your former country, your former island, your former culture while you’re learning to fit into the new one? In other words, having two cultures is what it ends up being. And you have one foot in the old and one foot in the new. And one can live that way. That may be the most honest way to do it.
"We talk a lot about immigrants now," the interviewer says, and I don't actually think that's true. We talk a lot about immigration, in terms of swarms and statistics, but we don't talk about immigrants as people. We don't talk about the old people who've lost their mountains and their mothers and so refuse to lose their language. We don't talk about people who get black-rimmed letters or the modern equivalent.

We struggle to allow people any kind of actual grief because it's messy and awkward and makes us uncomfortable. But we'll never think of immigration as something that involves grief until we get past thinking of it as economic statistics or political debate. Until we think of the people and not just the abstraction: immigrants, not immigration.
hollymath: (Default)
Still typing on my phone (Andrew's got a new laptop but until it's set up needs mine 24/7 so that he can keep up a steady enough stream of Twitter) so I'll have to be quick.

I finally got to see last week's episode of Doctor Who and while generally I liked it (at first I was wary of the premise for how Russell Davies it sounded, but it didn't do too badly with it), there was one thought I had during it that has stuck in my brain.

So I don't think this is spoilery but obviously opinions on what counts as a spoiler differ. I'd say this is in the "it contained the following general types of plot device" category, but I suppose that might be up for debate too.

Because I'd seen a lot of people's reactions to this episode already, I knew one of them went something like "you can tell white people write Doctor Who because when he asks Bill why she wants to go to the future instead of the past, her answer isn't just 'I'm a black woman.' "

Similarly, I can tell the show isn't written by immigrants because it inescapably hinges on the colonists' assumption that they can be happy all the time because they're headed to this utopia that's been built for them where everything is perfect.

Even if it had lived up to those utopian expectations, that would not have stopped grief being there.

Moving so irrevocably away from home leaves you grieving for everyone you left there. Except in some ways its worse than if they died, because you know they're grieving for you too. Some people (if you're lucky, all of them if you're not) you will probably never see again, no matter how much you love them.

There'd be homesickness. There'd be nostalgia in the sense it was first intended, as a proper disease people even died from, as well as its colloquial meaning today. There'd be dreams about the voices of lost people. We're sometimes fine when contemplating the big things, but then cry because we remember the pattern on the dishes, the noise the door made when it closed, or the colors in the sky.

You couldn't have a colony without grief.
hollymath: (Default)
Chased down photo & references today, so citizenship application is DONE!

Need to sort out payment form and collect all the passports and marriage certificate and proof of passing the Life in the UK Test in a big envelope with all this. Then on Monday I can take it to the post office.

Having (extra) cake and (another) glass of wine to celebrate/destress. I didn't realize how miserable working on this today had made me until it was done.
hollymath: (Default)


I took this picture on Tuesday night, for the #loveknowsnoborders campaign, started by [twitter.com profile] ZoeJardiniere, which you can read about. It's close to my heart because while obviously I was able to move to the UK to be with my spouse, his income only barely exceeded the requirement at that time, £15,000. The current income requirement to bring a foreign (non-EU...for now, anyway) spouse to the UK is £18,600, which might not sound like much but that would've kept me out of the country for all but a few years of our marriage so far.

It's especially unfair if the British partner is a woman, a person of color, young (in your 20s, ages at which many people including us get married), or otherwise on the wrong side of a pay gap, which makes it even harder to reach that arbitrary income. (Part of the reason we ended up here rather than in the U.S. is that Andrew is more able to earn a good income than I am, which is basically just down to the patriarchy.) It's the same threshold all over the country, too, so it'd be much harder for people living outside London to clear that income threshold.

It's also infuriatingly inconsistent, not that we can expect better of our governments of course. This income is supposed to guarantee that neither the foreigner nor their British spouse need to resort to state funds -- which they're not allowed to do. But years later when I couldn't work and was allowed to apply for benefits, I found that I wasn't entitled to any income-related benefits because my partner worked more than 24 hours a week. It could be 24 minimum-wage hours a week and yet this was expected to be enough for us to live on? Even though it'd be a damn sight less than £18,600 a year. (A tweet I saw yesterday said that working full time on £7.20 an hour isn't enough.)

#loveknowsnoborders made for interesting reading yesterday, for all those who were able to celebrate thoroughly multinational backgrounds, raltionships, addresses and children, there were also people saying "my valentine hasn't been able to bring me to live with her in the UK for four years" or whatever, which my brain just rebels from being able to even imagine.

Clearly the hashtag is an aspiration and not a reality so far, but reading it gave me all kinds of feelings and I wanted to be a part of it. I didn't have the brains or energy to of a video, even if Andrew would've tolerated it which I don't think likely. So I just took a picture, where you can't hear the low in-your-throat growl he's doing, like a dog who isn't barking yet but is warning you, and tweeted it.
My husband hates having his photo taken but he hates systemic xenophobia towards me more! That's how bad it is, folks.
A decision is expected next week on what's known as the MM case, a judgment that will affect thousands of families affected by the Family Migration Rules. There's a good explanation of that case here, from last year.
hollymath: (Default)
Thanks to [personal profile] po8crg for realizing the Manchester angle on this meant we could write to people locally about it. (And for sharing his letter, which he might recognize in my one!)
Last night I was at a march through the centre of Manchester where we were shouting "No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here!" Of course I know that this is an aspiration and not a description, yet, but I'm dismayed to see how quickly we are proven wrong.

Unless we can stop it, there will be a chartered flight tonight from an airport the people of Manchester own, deporting refugees who in some cases never even had their claims processed and thus are being deported unlawfully.

You can find more information about it here: http://unitycentreglasgow.org/mass-deportation-charter-flight-january-31st/

Please use Manchester City Council's shareholding in Manchester Airports Group, who own Stansted, to prevent this flight, and any others as I'm sure the next ones are already being planned..

I'm an immigrant to the UK and I know how horrible our immigration and asylum system is. I know it's not keeping us safe, it's keeping us ignorant of what refugees and asylum seekers are actually like. Deportation ruins and even ends lives, and I don't want it to happen.

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