It’s been more than sixteen months since Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed and openly gay service members have been allowed to serve. According to military officials the change has gone pretty smoothly, with little of the feared negative affects.
But is that because people have been overwhelmingly accepting, or is it because in practice, not much has really changed?
When the law was repealed, for better or worse, I thought that we would see some real changes in the make up of our military community. I thought we would be welcoming gay and lesbian partners and spouses into our Family Readiness Groups.
But from personal experience, this isn’t the case. There have been a couple gay soldiers who have come out in my husband’s unit, but none of their partners have joined our family groups or events. We have seen the televised homecoming kisses between two gay partners. And we’ve heard about the battles over the spouse clubs at Bragg and Little Rock Air Force Base. But day-to-day, in real military life, it seems pretty status quo.
Because here’s the thing, just because you can legally do something, doesn’t mean you are necessarily going to do it. Especially, if the what you are now legally allowed to do is still socially unacceptable in your community. So although you can be openly gay and serve discrimination against gay and lesbian service members still exists. And furthermore, maybe some gay service members feel that even though its okay for their comrades and commanders to know they are gay, they are not comfortable integrating their personal life with their military life?
A few weeks ago, my husband’s unit hosted a holiday ball. One of the male soldiers attended with his boyfriend. He introduced him to the commander and they danced during the traditional first dance. Most of the soldiers were intrigued, to say the least, and there were a lot of eyes on the couple’s table the entire night.
You know who were total cool cucumbers about the whole thing? The spouses.
I didn’t see a single spouse bat an eye. The response pretty much went like this:
“Oh, that’s cool … can you pass the wine?”
I understand (as much as any heterosexual person can understand), that coming out is scary. That laws do not always equate to social norms. And that the fear of discrimination still exists for openly gay service members. Obviously, I don’t speak for it as a whole, but I actually think the military spouse community is more accepting of openly gay spouses than you would expect. Many of us may come from conservative backgrounds, lean right when it comes to politics. But when it comes to loving a soldier, we are usually able to find common ground. For the most part, the spouses I know are very welcoming to the idea of having openly gay spouses be a part of our community.
The Fort Bragg incident, in my view, is a spouse world anomaly.
Heck, they are already part of our community. They go through the same hardships and joys that heterosexual spouses do. The bond that military wives share, that makes us a tight night community, is based on our shared experience not our backgrounds. Military friendships cross racial and socioeconomic lines, so why wouldn’t they cross the lines of sexual preference?
Again, I only speak from personal experience. What about your unit? Are you and your friends accepting of openly gay military spouses?