It's worth recalling that this proposed change will not greatly alter the number of gay men and women in the military. They have always been there, and always will be. What it changes is the intimidation and persecution they must fear from their own government as they risk their lives for the rest of us. What the law could change are some uniquely cruel aspects of life for service-members and their families. A reader writes:
My partner of ten years is on his third deployment. This one’s been the hardest on both of us. I won’t speak for my partner and generally don’t like to go there, for fear it will open a floodgate of anxieties for me. But life on the home front feels neither like a life nor a home at the moment.
When we PCSed (permanent change of station) to the foreign country we call home for the time being, we knew it would be a challenge for me to remain in country with him, since Status of Forces Agreements with host countries don’t acknowledge my situation. After working minimum wage government jobs for the SOFA status alone, I finally found a desk job that pays a fifth of my last salary stateside. Nonetheless, landing the job was a relief because at least I could stay in country with my partner, and a desk job was better than manual labor.
A month after that, my partner came home one afternoon and told me his unit was deploying. Fears for his safety aside, the logistics of this one presented a whole new set of problems. Returning to the States while he’s downrange isn’t a possibility. He’ll have at least another year here when he gets back. I can’t lose my SOFA status, nor would my previous employer want me back if I had to quit again within a year. So I’m staying behind here, alone, in the closet even to close work friends.
The expat community is small and exclusively military (or tied to it); chances are that someone knows someone who knows my partner. Worse than that, calls come at all hours here, and I dread every one of them, for fear it’s the call intended to wake me up. His family stateside would be the first to know, since I can’t be next of kin.
If we were to get married, it would constitute an admission.
It feels selfish and a bit whiney to be writing any of this. There are family members with far more horrific stories to tell and far bigger challenges to face. But what I’ve learned from the incredibly strong families I’ve met while working in this community is that you stand up for yourself and your loved ones. My partner and I can’t do it publicly so I’ll use this forum to say it: Whether the intent or the effect, my family has endured all of it the separation, the sacrifice so your loved ones wouldn’t have to. For that, we deserve your respect, if not a place at the table.
Oh, and about that place at the table? How dare any member of Congress who’s never served a day in uniform tell my partner he should only be allowed to stay in if he can conceal the role his family plays in support of him. Doesn’t Congress, with its dearth of veterans, at the very least understand that families are inseparable from their servicemembers' long-term commitment to country? Those of us living and working in the military community certainly do.
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