This is part of a post I wrote following a very negative experience with a member of the press.
I encourage journalists who are interested in our story to contact me. I am almost always open to interviews with reporters who make an effort to ensure that we are comfortable with sharing our story and work to build trust; however, I also had an unfortunate encounter with a journalist who made me feel so vulnerable and disrespected (despite this person's good intentions) that I took Corin in Exile offline.
I eventually came back online because Corin in Exile is my means of accessing a community of fellow exiled Americans scattered across the globe. I have made friends and found support among dozens of other men and women in similar situations as well as advocates and sympathizers. I am very grateful to this community, and I couldn't bear the thought of losing it.
I was also devastated to lose my voice. Corin in Exile is an important outlet in a situation that has stripped me of power and control, but in this particular situation I also feared that my voice was being co-opted -- leaving me more powerless than ever! I came back online because I decided to trust my voice. It is strong enough to tell our story, and should I need to use it to defend that story, I hope it is strong enough for that as well.
I’m quite certain that most writers and journalists are conscientious and professional, but to avoid future conflicts and misunderstandings, I have listed a handful of boundaries and expectations below. Hopefully, these are all no-brainers, and I'm quite happy to clarify, amend, or discuss them further!
1. Know the Laws: please note the copyright notice (part of the disclaimer at the bottom of the page). I mean it.
2. Know the Ethics: please refer to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics for a refresher.
3. This Isn't Reality TV: this is our life, and I would ask you to respect that fact. I share certain parts of it in order to build a community and to show the human side of these policies, but it doesn't make the subject matter any less personal. It must also be said that I consider someone using our story – our lives – in furthering their professional ambitions to be tantamount to profiting from our hardship.
4. Respect Boundaries: exiles’ situations are legally complicated. I therefore find very threatening the idea of information circulating about us that I was not part of producing. We are vulnerable and portraying us gives you enormous power over our lives – not just how others perceive us but potentially real power over the outcomes as well. Public missteps could have a disproportionately large impact, so please tread carefully. By allowing you to translate this experience to others, we would be putting immense trust in you.
5. Listen Humbly: too often, good intentions make for the most belligerent allies, who can cause a lot of harm. Good intentions don’t earn you a pass when something goes awry nor will they automatically grant trust. Instead, please start by listening humbly. Unless you’ve also experienced “exile,” you will not instinctively “get it;” that’s not a failing – just a fact. But if you listen, you will learn more and earn more trust. And if you have a question, just ask (and don’t assume); I see no sense in being upset with someone for not knowing – especially if they are willing to learn.
6. Be Reflexive: think long and hard about your privilege and your assumptions around race, culture, and gender in particular. I’m so sorry I have to say this, but I apparently do: imagining or representing bi-racial/bi-national/bi-cultural couples as somehow exotic or erotic is perverse, revealing more about the imaginer than the couples. Bi-racial/bi-national/bi-cultural marriages do come with a handful of externally imposed and internally manifested challenges, but they account for a relatively small part of married life. Really, Leo and I are fairly ordinary people attempting to have a fairly ordinary marriage in totally extraordinary circumstances. He drinks juice from the carton. I hit the snooze button 5 times before getting out of bed. I iron his shirts. He does the dishes. Sometimes we go out for dinner and a movie (and he usually dozes off before the previews even finish). If such images are disappointing, unexpected, or not compatible with those which you imagined, then you’ve got some work to do within yourself before you have any business representing someone else.
7. Watch your Language: no doubt, adept writers and journalists can find other ways to describe us and our relationship, but as a reminder I must ask that you simply avoid racially, sexually, or culturally charged terms. Some folks are in a position to reclaim those words and use them in a way that they find liberating. Those same terms, however, can be used in hurtful, othering, and oppressive ways – even (especially) by folks with good intentions who haven’t done #6. Basically, please don’t use words to talk about us that you would be embarrassed to use when talking to us. Also, when dealing specifically with our marriage, please refrain from using “clever” cognates for the word “relationship” that insinuate our commitment to one another is somehow different (lesser). When in doubt, show our marriage the same respect that you would show your grandparents’ marriage (do Nana and Poppy have a “liaison?”).
8. Do get in touch with me! The only way we will see much-needed changes to the US immigration system is through publicizing its injustices. Like I said, I usually welcome interviews, but I might ask that we collaborate to ensure that your representation is true-to-life and will not cause us future immigration woes. The way I see it, collaborating on such a project is certainly better than working at loggerheads. Moreover, collaboration will help me to trust you – and ultimately to help you, meaning that you will get undoubtedly better information and access! I am therefore happy to play a role – provided that we can come to an understanding that respects and protects everyone.
Thanks very much! And feel free to email me: corininexile (at) gmail (dot) com