I’m still in the aftermath of last Thursday’s epic smackdown (alright, it was a pretty civilized meeting) with the Pentagon. I was glad the meeting went well, but “fun” would be the last word I’d use to describe it.
What really made Thursday a day I’ll always remember was meeting and connecting with the other military partners, and several servicemembers.
The sense of relief we had at finally meeting each other was palpable. It reminded me again that this is what queer people have always meant when they say “family”. There wasn’t a single one of us who hadn’t made a good friend by the end of the day.
The most exciting thing for me was meeting other bloggers. I met three that I follow and like: Alice from the Campaign For Military Partners’ blog, Keori of Pam’s House Blend (who was a BEAST in the meeting), and Gay Soldier’s Husband, of Servicemembers United fame.
In the hotel meeting room that morning, we introduced ourselves.
“I wanna know one thing,” I said when we were done. “Which one of y’all is Gay Soldier’s Husband?”
After that we abandoned formalities and went straight to hugs. The man who stood up had been in my top three guesses. He’s like a live action version of his blog — like, he’s just so, so sad that “Clay” has to go through what he’s been through, and would do anything to make it better. Later at the meeting with the Pentagon he spoke softly, yet forcefully, about that. He also has a huge smile and makes witty comments. All in all, he’s just the sweetest dude you could ever wish to meet.
After the Pentagon meeting, he and I lobbied at the office of Maine Senator Susan Collins. We had plenty of time to talk and exchange stories. I got to hear all about him and “Clay” — their real names, where they live, where their families live– everything that I was prohibited from knowing before because of this pain-in-the-ass law. And of course I told him all about me and Captain Awesome. It was strange to say her name out loud to another military-affiliated person. Strange, but a relief.
Gay Soldier’s Husband and I are tight!
My other new best friend was the only other Black chick (the only other woman of color, period) who came to the forum. I’m gonna call her Lyra. I had heard she was coming from her girlfriend, Chief (we struck up a correspondence when Chief commented on a post of mine). Chief’s deployed in the Middle East right now.
Lyra and I are tight too! We hung next to each other for most of the Pentagon meeting– I don’t think I can make it clear how STRESSFUL the Pentagon was. Some people were mildly nervous, while other people actually felt shaky. It wasn’t just fear of discovery — it was the knowledge that this was our only chance to have even a little control over our and our partners’ lives. Our one chance to talk to an institution with a 200-year history of homo-hating.
So anyway, Lyra and I chilled together. There was no awkwardness between us. It was great to be brought together by circumstances, only to find out that we would have like each other outside of those circumstances, too. She’s very smart and sensible.
Lyra threw it DOWN in the meeting — pointed out to the Pentagon that we’re not some other species, that we’re military families just like theirs. Basic stuff, I know, but it seemed like it was all news to the Pentagon. (It must’ve been, or they wouldn’t still have this policy.)
She had come from a long way away, so I invited her to my house after the meeting because she didn’t have anywhere to go. (I guess I just revealed where I live. Still, you have three million people to sort through before you find me. Good luck.) It was great to chill with her and hear all about her and Chief. And then, we called Chief on Skype in Iraq and talked to her. So I got to “meet” them both. Again, it was so great to see their faces, learn their real names, hear about how they met and about their families.
Lyra and Chief are so cute together! They reminded me of myself and Captain Awesome.
I was sad to say goodbye to my new friends.
Nerves of Steel! Sinews of Iron!
But these were only some of the bad-asses. Every single partner had been through a lot of shit, and still come out able to smile. One partner came to the meeting PREPARED. She had typed up all these facts and statistics about herself and her families. She actually was representing ELEVEN queer military families. They’ve been supporting each other for years. Between them they have 12 children and seven grandchildren.
The Pentagon people about fell OUT when they heard her say grandchildren– you could tell they hadn’t even really thought about the children, let alone the grandchildren . Between all those families, they had 29 deployments and 300-some years of combined military service. Most of them are pretty high up the ranks, too.
You can’t ignore that.
Then, there was a woman who was five months pregnant with twins, her wife’s babies. The wife in question was going to be in Iraq when her children were born. The pregnant one asked the Pentagon dudes how they expected their soldier’s kids to be taken care of, when they would have gotten full health care if she were just a surrogate mother.
They didn’t have a ready answer.
Another man had come from Europe just to meet with the Pentagon.
Others were living in the States while partners were stationed overseas–in places like Germany, where straight families are allowed to go.
Others were prior service and had maintained their relationship during that.
Some had dealt with investigations. Others had lived –and in some cases are living this second– with people blackmailing them.
Still others had given up jobs and moved to follow their partner– without any assistance from the military’s family readiness groups, or any help finding a new job — without anything at all.
So these people were not faint-hearted. Every man jack of them was a complete champ. Nerves of steel. Sinews of iron, and all that.
The woman representing the families summed it up best at the end when she said, Look at what we’ve done. We’ve done everything straight military families do and then some. And we’ve done it alone. Nobody helped us. We had no resources. But we came up with our own.
Pentagon, you can’t doubt our partners’ dedication to you. ‘Cause they still stay in despite all you do to them.
We survived and made it look GOOD.
Confirmed Bachelor, over and out.