First things first: Now that my husband is out, and we have given a few interviews about coming out in the military, our real names are out there for everyone to see. “Brad” and “Clay” have been the pseudonyms I used to protect my husband from being outed and discharged under the recently deceased DADT policy; and although there is now the inevitable cross-linkage from various sources, I have decided to hang on to our fake names for the purposes of this blog.
It gets a bit messy from here on in, however… There are personal details that I have blogged about that I’m sure Clay won’t be comfortable sharing with his military buddies. Anonymity gave me a certain freedom to bare my soul, yet loss of that same protection is a price I’ll gladly pay for the freedoms we have gained. Considering all this, I’m not sure how to write about our experiences as we move forward into the virgin territory of being an out married couple in the military.
And speaking of marriage… We eloped and made it legal at the beginning of the month – although we had a big church wedding back in 1994 and will always consider that to be our true anniversary. It wasn’t legal anywhere at the time, but back then we were wanting to express our commitment to each other in a tangible and lasting way. After gay marriage became legal we could never partake because it was considered a violation of the DADT policy. I consider our legal marriage a righting of a technical error, rather than a new beginning. No one will ever be able to tell me, nor our friends and family, that we haven’t been married for 17 years.
Today Clay is back on base for his first Drill after dropping the gay bomb. It would be easy to say that nothing has really changed and, truth be told, some differences are subtle: One of his guys remarked that he seems to be standing a bit taller. He’s also more open and relaxed in our communication when he is on duty – which even comes across in text messages.
There also used to be this weight – this creeping tension – that would slowly build as he prepared to go on duty. It would suffuse everything until he came back home, and then slowly dissipate. I never really recognized that it was there until his coming out made it disappear. It was replaced, in fact, by an eagerness to get back to a job that he loves to do.
The most profound change has to do with his relationships on base. Suddenly his friendships are deepening. People that he had kept at arms length out of necessity are now reaching out to him. “I’ve barely said two words to this guy in years, and now we talk all the time” has become a common refrain. I hear this and my heart is glad. How often in our lives to we get to take a situation of pain and regret and turn it around completely?
Now that I have seen in person the mutual respect that he and his guys have for one another – a respect that has grown over the years in spite of Clay’s best efforts to hold back – I wonder who the hell it benefited to keep him in the closet all these years? Obviously his guys don’t give a shit. His command didn’t bat an eye! It’s painfully clear that the real damage to unit cohesion would have been to rip him away from a job that he does well, and from the guys that consider him an integral part of the work that they do in their service to our country.