On the 6th of September I got my US Military dependent ID card. The TSgt who issued it was “very excited” and kept apologizing unnecessarily for being so. It was her first same-sex ID, after all, even though we weren’t able to get an appointment until three days after they were allowed to be issued. She was appalled that Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi National Guard Units had refused to issue any to their lgb families. She was sweet and earnest and eager and I’ll never forget her.
This blog was a lifeline to me as I muddled through being an unrecognized military spouse of a deployed servicemember under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Writing was a painful-yet-cathartic venting of steam that saved me from the stress associated with worry, hiding and lying… not to mention the ever-present sting of injustice.
Since repeal, some joyful ‘firsts’ have brought me back to this keyboard – but not always. I wrote about Clay’s coming out at his promotion, attending our first formal banquet on base as a couple, and of course the incredible opportunity we had to go to the first Commander In Chief’s Inaugural Ball after repeal.
But we have also attended the State National Guard Ball, had family pictures taken on base by a photographer, staffed a Military Partners and Families Coalition booth at base Family Day, and organized the first lgbt outreach event (in the form of a potluck) on a National Guard installation. Each of the events were weighty affairs that warrant more than a passing mention; yet the more integrated I become into ‘normal’ military life the less I feel the need to vent my spleen here. As I was able to come out of the shadows by degree, so lessened my need to decry my invisibility.
It was my hope that, in telling my story, people might be moved enough to reconsider their prejudices. America did hear our collective stories, and something shifted. (The voices were always there of course, but our country wasn’t ready to fully listen. Our ears were slowly opened by generations of activists whose courage and sacrifice paved the way to where we find ourselves today.) A minority never achieves a civil rights victory without the express consent of the majority. Consent can only happen after we are moved to empathy for those whom we think are apart from us – different. This change only occurs when folks begin to see themselves in our stories. Never stop telling. Please.
I would like to report to you that I was a fearless, brave storyteller – but that would be a lie. I was scared. Terrified. Walking down that hallway in the Pentagon I thought my heart would beat right out of my chest. Same thing at Clay’s promotion and each formal event where we were the only same-sex couple. But I guess I did it anyway because I was more scared of doing nothing.
Something shifted in me, however, the moment I had that dependent ID in my hot little hand. Clay asked me, “How do you feel?” Safe. Included. Honored. Proud. Grateful. Comfortable at last in a place – in a role – that before today was thick with the asterisks and caveats that set us apart from other military families. It has never felt better to be ‘ordinary.’
The most important thing for me, however, is that the US military took care of one of its own on the 6th of September – by recognizing and taking care of his family.