On September 30, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT), the law which compels military personnel to not reveal their homosexuality will be gone. President Barack Obama certified its repeal on July 22. The time for military bases and communities to prepare for this change is growing short. What does the repeal of DADT mean for the straight spouses of closeted LGBT soldiers?
It means freedom from fear. It means that now we can proceed with counseling, HIV testing, consulting an attorney about separation or divorce, without worrying that if our privacy is compromised in any way, someone will out our military spouse and deprive our families of income, health care, and benefits. It means that we can stop hiding.
It may take a while for military chaplains and counselors to catch up with the dynamics of working with our families of mixed orientation marriages. It’s an adjustment. The Straight Spouse Network is here as a resource for all counseling professionals who need to learn about our perspectives and experiences.
Changes will come to the social life of military families as LGBT partners and children of previously closeted soldiers become visible. As this visibility becomes more acceptable, it is our hope that military personnel will not feel it is quite so important to marry a heterosexual to appear “normal”. We hope that straight spouses who are currently isolated into silence and complicity by fear will be free to seek support for themselves, and free to be honest about their marriages and the effect on their families.
Already, straight spouses of military personnel contact the Straight Spouse Network for free and highly confidential peer to peer support. We expect that there will be an increase in their numbers as gay spouses come out or are outed by others. We have had a 25% increase in the number of spouses who seek our help in just this year alone. Clearly, as the times are changing, so is the demand for the information, support, and affirmation that we offer.
The Straight Spouse Network is a nonprofit volunteer organization. We rely on donations from those whom we assist, and the people who love and support them. If you are a professional who makes use of our resources, if we’ve helped you in the past, if we’ve helped someone you love, please consider making a donation. You’ll receive our newsletter and be able to keep up with all the latest developments affecting mixed orientation families. Best of all, you’ll help families like ours gain stability, understanding, and healing as we go forward.
If Congress gets its act together, and puts aside bickering in order to get the job done, we may finally see an end to Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the policy that requires homosexual members of the armed services to keep their sexuality a secret.
The usual scares about combat and morality and morale are still being flung from the mouths of our statesmen. What is never mentioned are the children.
The children of gay service members.
Gay soldiers have children. Who knew?
Well yes. They have children whom they adopted. They have children conceived by artificial insemination, or surrogacy. And of course as most of us on this website know, they have children by marrying a straight person who either doesn’t know or thinks oh well it doesn’t matter. After a few years of marriage and children, we discover how much it does indeed matter.
Now, the children of gay soldiers married to straight spouses will be probably participating in base life. Daycare. School. After school. Swimming lessons. Tennis lessons. Baseball team. Shopping at the commissary. And going to reunions on base when the soldier returns.
Meantime the straight spouse is told by the soldier to keep it quiet. Don’t get tested. Don’t go for counseling. Don’t file for divorce. Don’t consult an attorney.
Don’t tell. Or else it is all YOUR FAULT if they lose their job. Because YOU TOLD.
Besides, for the straight spouse who lives on base or takes advantage of services for families there, it is downright embarrassing. Because, you see, gay people don’t have families. Gay people are obvious. You should always know em when you see em, just don’t tell on em. Besides, if there really were gay people on base, how could we keep telling all those great jokes?
Meantime, there are life partners of deployed gay soldiers who wait daily for an email or text message that says “I’m alive”. Because if the soldier is not alive, no one will be paying that official condolence call. The official next of kin, parents, siblings, might not “approve” of the gay partner or the children. So they may not tell them. If they do, it will certainly add to their burden of grief to have to break the news.
Even where gay marriage is legal, gay soldiers do not get married to their life partner. Because that would be telling. And you know, gay people do not have families. Because they’re so gay.
Meantime, when soldiers return home from Afghanistan and Iraq, their families show up on base for a big celebration and reunion. Their spouses and children are all there, celebrating, experiencing the joy of the safe return in community with all the other families who have endured deployment.
Except the gay partners of gay soldiers and their children. They cannot be there. That would be telling. Someone might notice the two mommy or two daddy family. And tell.
They rendezvous somewhere off base. Somewhere no one will see. Sometimes the returning soldier has to hike a distance away from the base to return secretly to their family.
Because that would be telling. That would be telling that gay soldiers have families.
While Congress dithers as usual, we want this question in front of all directly affected by Dont Ask Dont Tell:
When you are on the base, who do you want to be your neighbor, or share community activities at daycare, sports, commissary, clubs, golf? The gay person whose straight spouse is keeping the secret, often in an emotionally abusive situation, or the gay soldier or officer who is openly gay and in a relationship, who may have a family?
Oh thats right, we forgot. Gay people don’t have families. Thats why they have to hide. So you never find out that they do. Shh. Don’t tell.
Lt Dan Choi was discharged from the United States Army today for the crime of revealing that he is homosexual.
You may remember Lt. Choi, as we wrote about him earlier in this blog. Members of our group had the pleasure of meeting him at an event in Rockland County, NY. Choi is a graduate of West Point, and has been twice deployed to Iraq. He is an Arabic linguist, with skills that are in high demand.
But he’s gay. And he’s honest about it. So he’s gone. Honorably discharged for a reason that requires him to be dishonorable, and dishonest.
What does this mean for straight spouses and our families? Plenty.
While Lt. Dan Choi and others who serve honorably are required to be discharged under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell if they disclose that they are homosexual, there are plenty of straight spouses who are married to gay people who are still active in the military. They are unable to seek help for themselves because they are afraid of outing their spouse, and losing the benefits active military and their dependents rely on. They are afraid to get counseling, see a lawyer about divorce, or confide in a friend, for fear that someone will “tell” and their family will be financially ruined.
Some of those wives are in abusive relationships, and know about the homosexual activity their husbands are engaged in, both on base and while deployed. They suffer in silence, afraid, isolated, cut off from the normal support systems of military families, because they are terrified that someone else will learn the secret. The Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy actually enables spousal abuse.
Gay people who have families with a partner cannot divulge that relationship. If they are killed in action, it may be days before the partner knows. The partner is not notified, because after all, there are no gay people allowed to serve in the military. The partner cannot legally marry them, even in states where gay people can be legally married, because that would be telling. The partner does not receive survivor benefits, and they and their children cannot take advantage of support systems for families of deployed soldiers. After all, people who serve in the military are not gay, remember?
As the government sanctioned oppression of all spouses and partners of active duty soldiers who are gay but not supposed to be continues, we here at the Straight Spouse Network wish nothing but the best for Lt. Choi. We are confident that he will continue to display the honor, valor, courage, and honesty he has shown in service to his country. We also have reason to believe he will continue to practice the West Point Honor Code “A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do” in all his future endeavors.