Need to Remember

This holiday season I need to remember.

I need to remember that, although my soldier is safe and sound beside me as I write this, there are thousands of gay and lesbian soldiers serving right now in Iraq and Afghanistan.

There are no perfect families – most of us become acutely aware of our varying levels of familial disfunction this time of  the year.  Stress levels soar as we deal as best we can with competing demands and obligations.  For the partners of our gay and lesbian servicemembers, there are additional layers of stress heaped upon all the others.

I know you’re out there.  Thousands and thousands of you.  I know it’s hard to be alone over the holidays.  I know how hard it is to keep talking in code when you desperately long to say, “I love you.  I need you.”  I know what it’s like to be afraid that you let something slip that will get your soldier kicked out.  I know what it’s like to hear the fear and pain in your soldier’s voice and not be able to say the soothing words they need to hear the most.  I know what it’s like to fight back the sickening fear each day the phone doesn’t ring.  I know the sting of injustice felt every minute you realize that your love isn’t valued, your love doesn’t count, your love isn’t allowed.

Those of us who are lucky enough to have our soldier home with us right now still live with the daily reality of having to hide our relationship and the very real fear of violating DADT in any number of ways.

But you are not alone.  Servicemembers United is reaching out to the partners of our gay and lesbian soldiers.  We are still in the beginning stages, but there is strength in numbers.

Feel free to contact me anytime: partners@militarypartners.org

If any of you feel the need to talk to a mental health professional, The Soldiers Project provides “free confidential counseling to those who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan AND their loved ones… spouses, children AND same sex partners, boyfriends, girlfriends, extended family etc. Anyone who has been affected by the deployment of their loved one.”

More to come…

**If you or your partner need (or might think you need) help dealing with the effects of wartime service, the following organizations provide free, confidential, and gay friendly counseling:**

The Soldiers Project

Give an Hour

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“Institution” of Marriage

There are many rights and privileges we rightly cherish as American citizens.  Who today would support a ballot measure supporting a ban on Jews or Blacks moving into your neighborhood?  Such ‘covenants and restrictions’ were quite commonplace well into the 20th Century – in fact, my friend Alex showed me the developer’s pamphlet he found in his  attic, which explicitly mentioned keeping out Jews and “other undesirables.”  In the 20th Century, such “covenants and restrictions” were applied to Jews, African Americans, Asians, Hungarians, Greeks, Mexicans, Slavs, Italians, and on, and on, and on…

The Supreme Court overturned these disgusting and ludicrous ‘restrictions’ at a time when public opinion was still very much for keeping them in place.  Hmmm…

How about the right to vote?  At first, only white men with property were allowed to vote in our country.  When my grandmother was born, women were not allowed to vote.  Native Americans were not allowed to vote in federal elections until four years after women were given the right.  And not until 1964 were the prejudicial barriers that prevented the majority of black Americans from voting finally mowed down.

Let’s talk a little about “traditional” marriage.  Marriage throughout history has included all sorts of laws and traditions that would make you squirm – you know, the women-are-the-property-of-their-husbands tradition… or that you must marry an in-law once your husband kicks the bucket… or DOWRIES (better pay me to take that pesky woman off your hands…) or that married women weren’t allowed to own property until 1900… Polygamy  (having many wives) was legal until 1862…  Marital rape was not illegal in all 50 states until 1993… Bans on interracial marriage were not overturned in the U.S. until 1967…

Who in their right mind would stump for ‘traditional’ marriage?  People would laugh (or cringe) at voter initiatives promoting such traditional craziness, right?  Our grandparents and even our parents were legally prohibited from enjoying many of the rights we easily take for granted today.

Lets not forget that those rights (marriage, voting, citizenship, property, civil, etc.) EVOLVED over time to include groups that were TRADITIONALLY prohibited.  One of the greatest things about our country is that were were able to grow and expand these rights to groups that were TRADITIONALLY excluded.

In my lifetime, being gay was considered a mental illness.  It’s legal to fire someone simply for being gay.  Regardless of talent or ability, you will be discharged from our Armed Forces if you admit to being gay.  We are not allowed to adopt children in many states, despite the paucity of homes for unwanted children, and the overwhelming research that shows gay families raise happy and healthy kids.

Indeed, our grandchildren will look back on us an wonder how we justified denying gay people the right to marry – just as we wonder how our forbears justified enslaving an entire race, or prevented them from voting once they were free.  Or how our ancestors justified banning Jews, or Italians, or Irish from moving into our neighborhoods.  Or how we thought women shouldn’t vote or be allowed the right to use contraceptives.

How will you tell your grandkids how YOU voted???