Belonging as a Military Spouse
by Margaret Weis
September 20, 2012 was the one-year anniversary of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. This discriminatory policy prevented gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members from serving openly in the American military. This meant that for the first few years I was with my spouse, she couldn’t speak openly about me or our relationship. She went to military functions alone, didn’t attend family events on base, or talk with her fellow service members about her personal life.
This also meant that when we married in June of 2011, she was at risk of being discharged simply for marrying the person she loves. Fortunately, the repeal went through, and now she can serve openly.
Susan deployed this past April to Afghanistan. In the first few weeks of her being there, I began to feel incredibly lonely and isolated. Being a military spouse has its moments that are like this, but most families have a military support system around them. However, with a spouse who is a Reservist, that support system isn’t so readily available. People in her unit are spread over a four-hour radius. And so, I found myself at home longing for someone who understood what I was going through.
I decided to reach out to a few friends who are also military spouses, which helped a lot! Then, I learned about the American Military Partners Association (AMPA), an organization for same-sex partners of military service members. This group has helped me feel more supported and understood than I could explain. Having other people connected who are experiencing the same struggles as my family, and who are also struggling with inequality, has significantly changed my experience of this deployment.
This group has given me a sense of belonging. As a same-sex spouse, I am not afforded any of the benefits that a heterosexual spouse would be granted. I receive no benefits from my spouse’s military service, not even health insurance. The list goes on and on of the inequality families like ours experience. In essence, I do not belong to the military family, because I am treated differently than other spouses. It is unfair.
But I do belong to this amazing group of same-sex partners across this globe, who love and serve with their partners. We work together to bring awareness to the issues of inequality that exist for families like ours, and we support one another as each of our families serve this country. Our hope is that someday we can all belong as equal members to the military family that serves with honor and loyalty, together.
Margaret Weis is the Ministerial Intern at First Parish of Watertown, Unitarian Universalist. A former counselor, she lives north of Boston with her wife, Susan, and two rescue dogs.