DOMA Activists Laurie And Caroline Hart Invite You To theLexperience
Partners Laurie and Caroline Hart are letting good vibes only into their online space for all things lesbian.
Married bi-national couple Caroline and Laurie Hart have spent the last ten years advocating for equality and acceptance around the world. Caroline, originally from England, and Laurie, originally from America, have used their story to fight for equal rights and campaigned extremely hard to help bring down DOMA and bring nationwide marriage equality to the USA. Now they’re taking the digital world by storm with theLexperience, a digital space that celebrates all good lesbian news and feel-good content. We chat with them about DOMA, meeting Edie Windsor, their hopes for digital lesbian communities, and what is next for theLexperience.
Tell us a bit about who you are and what role you had in defeating DOMA.
C: Laurie and I met online, back in August 2005. I am British and I was living in a tiny English village in West Sussex, Laurie is American and was living in Massachusetts. We immediately made an incredible connection on the world wide web and even though we were an ocean apart I knew the feeling I had for Laurie was something I’d never felt before. I was 42 at the time and had only just come out of the closet. On October 4th, I jumped on a plane from London to Boston to spend 8 days with Laurie, they were such wonderful days and I fell completely in love.
L: I will never forget the emptiness in me when I had to leave Caroline on the curb at Boston airport, I didn’t want to go back to talking on the phone. Although this was a way of life in the beginning, the way we learned about one another, even sharing personal details that had never been spoken. Now I wanted more, to see her smile, to feel her touch. The incredible bond we had right from the start is still something I still find hard to explain, it was kind of magical. It wasn’t just lust, but something so much more than that. I call it fate and no way in hell did I want to lose that!
Fast forward July 29th, 2006 after Caroline said YES! YES! YES! We said our I DO’S in a very intimate Hawaiian style ceremony, in Massachusetts surrounded by our three sons and family and friends. Then on the 18th August 2006 we proclaimed our love in a Civil Partnership witnessed by family and friends in a quaint English hotel in Midhurst.
C: Even though we had two families in two different countries, we made a crazy life together traveling back and forth for 16 months draining us financially and emotionally, before settling fulltime in Massachusetts. Then came the problems, Laurie couldn’t sponsor me for a green card, as the US federal government didn’t recognize our marriage. I had to leave the US every 6 months to maintain my B2 Visitors Visa, almost every time I re-entered the country I was questioned and sent down to border control for more questioning.
We reached out to GLAD Law and that was the first interview we did about our situation. I felt so afraid each time I entered the US, wondering what would happen. Normally Laurie would travel with me back to England but this time she couldn’t come because of the health of her father.
L: After the death of my mother on 2002 the bond between my father and I had grown even stronger, although I was always daddy’s little girl, after the loss of my mother, my father needed the shoulder to cry on and I wanted to be that person for him. My mother’s death and financial stress took a toll on my father’s health, which resulted in a major heart- attack. After a successful triple bypass, he seemed to be on the road to recovery. Two weeks later my father suffered a severe stroke and it changed his and my life from that day forward. With an ailing father and a wife facing discrimination every time she entered the so-called “Land of the Free” I felt like my life my falling apart.
The gorgeous couple
C: This time, when I re-entered the US alone, I was sent down to border control and interrogated for hours, two officers sat across from me and even though I showed them our marriage certificate and proved I had my own money, I was made to feel like a terrorist or something. They left me alone in the interrogation room with no offer of even water, for what seemed like an age, eventually they came back in and told me that they would allow my entry this time but the next time I leave I must stay away for at least a year, or face the possibility of an enforced separation of 10 years, or, at worst, a permanent ban.
Initially, I tried for a business visa, which after much expense, was denied, I talked with my immigration lawyer and she explained I had a choice. “You can either go over or under the radar” together we decided to make a public stand.
L: As an American citizen I was outraged, hurt, whatever you want to call it, but I felt that no one has the right to tell me who I should love, not even the federal government. When I saw the tears streaming from Caroline’s eyes, MY WIFE Caroline’s eyes I knew I had to fight not only for our marriage but for other LGBTQ couples facing what we’re going through. When you have superheroes like Ellen Degeneres who’s bravery and courage to come out to the world, even though it could jeopardize her career, or the fearless Edie Windsor, rest her soul, who fought years for equality, a warrior to me and I have no doubt to so many more.
C: By telling our story publicly we gained enormous support on social media, we had politicians, celebrities, sports stars and LGBTQ allies from around the world by sharing our story and sending their own personal messages of support. New York Congressman Jerry Nadler took our story up through Uniting American Families Act and Sharon Stone, Billie Jean King, Debra Messing and countless other known personalities took to social media to route for us. Our story really provoked a heartfelt connection and we did help change hearts and minds to support the fight against DOMA. GLAD Law chose our story, as the only bi-national couple, to include in their DOMA Stories, which went all the way to the judiciary committee in DC, in support of the landmark Edie Windsor case, United States v. Windsor.
It was truly one of the most memorable days of our lives when Edie Windsor won her case and DOMA was found unconstitutional, we cried, we laughed and we cried again, we finally felt equal. I will always be so very happy that I was able to thank Edie in person, she changed mine and Laurie’s lives forever. When Laurie and I met her, she was the sweetest lady, I hugged her and told her that I loved her more than the Queen of England and she was so touched, she kissed me on the check and told me she loved hearing wonderful stories like ours. We want to keep her legacy alive.
Why start a social media space for lesbians, women, and allies that shares only positive posts? Why do the benefits of this outweigh the possible cons of ignoring a more nuanced, less positive reality?
C: After the Presidential election, we felt devastated and we could feel it from our whole community, other LGBTQ friends were saying how afraid they were for their future. People were saying “how much longer will our marriages be recognized.” We felt like that too, together with Laurie I had been very visible and vocal LGBTQ activists and now I felt vulnerable. I had heard from immigration sources that the new administration was actually targeting activists and checking the social media of green card holders. We even sought the advice of GLAD Law Lawyer, Mary Bonauto on the subject.
L: Through the years of fighting for marriage equality Caroline and I many times received hate messages on social media, “You’re going to hell, God hates sinners” but then positive messages from people around the world would flood our Twitter feed, “You Go Girls”, “Keep Fighting”, these were messages from complete strangers and this kept us going with our heads held high. The love by far outweighed the hate. Although theLexperience is an uplifting site we follow political news very closely, we’re well aware of what’s going, how the LGBTQ people of Australia are currently in the fight of their lives on the freedom to marry and although we are a world apart, Caroline and I support them 100% we want to be a source of strength. As we know damn well what they’re going through.
A compilation of positive posts from theLexperience
That’s when we decided upon creating theLexperience, the idea was to only bring positive news, it is a place woman can escape to and be uplifted. We created our own colorful and powerful artwork, we wanted it to be intriguing, revealing enough to be clear but with a little mystery. We know that there are endless sites which fill their pages with negative news but our feeling was positivity feeds positivity, so that’s what we are sticking too. No mentions of Trump or his administration. As individuals, we do not distance ourselves from reality, we do stay completely informed.
You’ve amassed a large following in a very short amount of time. What does this suggest about what your audience, and lesbians more generally, are hungry for in terms of media representation and discourse?
C: It has been such a fantastic response to get so many followers in such a short time and we are so excited about it, it is so motivating for us. It makes us believe we got it right, sharing uplifting news and positive affirmations is what our ladies want from us. Our audience is represented worldwide and they are loving seeing themselves, we show as much diversity as possible, including all women, excepting those who are anti-gay. Women are definitely wanting to see interesting news spotlighting other women having success in all walks of life, from celebrities to inspiring women in the community, we’ve noticed great response for those news items.
L: Recently we featured an inspiring woman from India in what we call “Up Lifted.” She is doing amazing working for the trans community in India. We want to keep featuring incredible stories, giving women a place to let their voice be heard. Like I said many times, one woman can make a difference but many can change the world.
You have a “no trolls” policy whereby any negative posts and comments are removed – what impact does this have on how the online community you have created treats one another?
C: It has been terrific actually, so far we have only blocked 2 unwelcomed men who trolled the page and made derogatory comments. None of our followers have posted any negative comments, mainly they’ve been tagging friends in positive posts.
What kind of tangible impact has having made and being active in this network had on your lives?
C: It feels wonderful sharing positive news, it actually has made me feel more positive in myself, almost feels mantra-like and I absolutely love seeing the likes, loves and comments on the shared posts and feeling that it might inspire someone for the day to feel happier and represented. It was so touching to receive this message “I’m still very much in the closet but your story gives me hope for the day I decide to throw that door wide open and step out.”
L: theLexperience is my escape place! Although a lot of work actually goes into the site keeping it very active, from creating original content, researching current news stories, promoting female-driven films, to finding music to share on #TuneTuesday, which the ladies really love so I’ve now made it a daily post. And contests! We want to give back to our followers and we are very grateful to TommyX and Haute Butch for proving us with giveaways. I also enjoy reading the interactions between the women, showing affection towards each other.
What are your goals for theLexperience? Where do you see it progressing to, and how do you hope to get there?
C: We will keep up with our positive vibe, getting behind campaigns for marriage equality around the world, as well as promoting all things positive for women in general, because of course we are first and for mostly women, but with a lesbian angle in mind. Our next objective is to develop our website and, as Laurie and I met online, we want to include an integrated dating site to help other women find real love and friendship. We are living proof that you can find that online! We are looking for a main sponsor so that we can make a difference to some women. As business women who have had to fight for literally everything we have, we know firsthand how hard it is for lesbians, we have faced great hardship financially and emotionally getting to where we are today. For this reason, we want theLexperience to get out on the road and provide real help, we want to be able to give grants to deserving lesbian/women from business start-ups to scholarships. We have seen how motivation and hard work pays off, from spearheading a fundraising campaign we raised enough money to rebuild a tsunami hit school in India, to actively playing a role in the repeal of DOMA. In every way, we possibly can we want to make a difference for lesbian/women around the world, we need as much representation as we can get.
L: As Caroline mentioned a dating site, theLexperience dating site will be featured in the upcoming film HART currently in development. You can find out more about HART Movie at www.hart2hartproductons.com We are also producers/writers of the film based on our true story.
C: Each day we are excited to see theLexperience grow and we always keep in mind the words we live by inspiring, provocative, informative and empowering, starting each day thinking of those lifts us up.