Everyone has an American dream. But what is the story of those not having this dream, who are finding themselves here searching after love?
Ten years ago, I was a new graduate, who went to a university through my own means, in a country which was both conservative and secular, caught in the middle of Europe and Asia. I made a brave choice, considering the situation in Turkey, and planned an academic career for my life, where I started to climb the steps to professorship one by one.
My sexual orientation was confidential during this process, until I met Sarah with the Fullbright program from America, who was assigned as a lecturer to the university where I was working. Sarah was one of the most hardworking persons I had ever known, and she won over everyone around the university, especially me.
Our friendship turned to a relationship within five or six months, and she started to carry the burden with me of the intolerant perspective of Turkey against LGBTQ individuals. This made our relationship stronger, but it also made our small city unbearable for us.
While thinking about these problems, her PhD acceptance letter from U of M was sent to her family in Boston. We were on the verge of critical decisions. We had many moral and material obstacles in front of us: visa, money, taking a leave.
And what was I supposed to say to my family, who had no idea about my sexual orientation? I felt extremely trapped and desperate. Sarah had to make a decision about going to U of M, and we were running out of time. No matter how much she loves Turkey, Sarah wanted us to live in America, where we can have more freedom and better standards of life.
I listened to my heart and decided to create a new life with her in America no matter what happens. I applied for a tourist visa, which was approved. I came to America in September 2011 with a radical decision, leaving the country where I was born and all my ideals behind. I was in a complete cultural shock. My English was not that good and that made me feel more unqualified with each passing day.
It would be impossible for me to be a part of this country without the support of Sarah. I shuttled back and forth between Turkey and USA for 3 years with regular intervals in order not to be classified as an illegal immigrant. Even today, I still feel the effects of anxiety disorder because of the judgmental looks of customs officials, as they interrogate me on everything up to the passwords of my personal social media accounts.
Once I felt confident about myself with English, financial affairs and emotional matters, I applied for a master’s program at Eastern Michigan. After I was accepted to the master’s program, Sarah was not with me anymore. I was legally a student and did not have to shuttle back and forth between two countries. However, I had already started to live a survivor life.
To keep my self-esteem, I have to stay here and finish the school no matter how. I do not feel sorry for any decisions I’ve made to date. I feel I belong neither to Turkey nor to America right now. But this country has treated me very generously. Despite the discouraging practices of the current government, America was where I realized I was a human in this world, as coming out of my ethnic origin and LGBTQ identities.
No matter what happens, my only wish for myself is to contribute to people who somehow ended up living here, and to live in peace.