Wednesday, January 09, 2013

The Parting Kiss....DADT, Past and Future

 [Originally posted on the OUTMilitary Blog Magazine]

Last week, with more excitement than I can put into words, I packed my overnight bag with clothes, notebooks, my laptop, and few 'necessaries' and prepared to attend my first training conference for the US Coast Guard Auxiliary in Newport, Rhode Island.  My soulmate and partner, Danny, was my 'second brain,' going through a checklist of items he was afraid I might forget in my excitement.  ("Camera?  Phone?  Meds?  Extra Socks? Laptop Cord? Phone Charger?")

And so, after 32 years of waiting to have even one of the smallest, tangental of  formal roles in the services, we said our brief, very temporary goodbyes as I headed off.

We hugged.  We kissed passionately.  We held each other so damned close, clinging to each other, him knowing what this meant to me, and me sorting through emotions: anticipation, fear, excitement, doubt, insecurity. determination.

And as we engaged in that last, long passionate kiss before I left, i was struck - suddenly and powerfully - by the poignancy of that moment.

"How many men," I said to Danny,
  "How many hundreds or thousands of men have been here and said goodbye to their partners - most for periods of time longer than my short trip, and most to far-flung places and in the line of fire - and then had to carry this secret in their heart, never allowed to speak of their love, their passion, their longing, once they returned to duty?"

I burst into tears.

How heart-wrenching, how utterly gut-punching a thought that was.

We are on the edge of a new world, where we can now love openly and without most of the fears of the past.  I have it relatively easy.  To those of you service members who lived through the bittersweet days of loving another person and yet remaining silent - my heart, my gratitude, my thanks, my support, my love - goes out to all of  you.


Fast Forward to the training session.

I ran into a young (30 years old) guy at an after-hours gay event in Providence, RI.   He wasn't part of the Coast Guard AUX training; rather, he was a Navy man.  A Navy man who entered the service during the days when he had to hide, and who was still dealing with reflexive responses to inquiries about his orientation.

Being at a gay event, he was nervous - very nervous.  We struck up a conversation, and he admitted how uncomfortable he was.  Apparently, his partner had simply 'dropped' him off at the event against his will in an effort to help him 'open up.'  This poor guy was torn - surrounded by guys just like him, and still terrified that someone might 'find out.'

As we talked, he told me how he had developed instinctive reactions and responses to squelch any suggestion or inference that he might be gay.  And he found that even though "it was OK now," he continued to move and operate in those reflexive patterns.

"And I hate it when I do that," he said.

"I want to be open, to be out, to be me.  And every time I have the chance to do it, I have this knee-jerk response to cover up and protect myself."

We talked long into the evening.   I was happy to see that he finally relaxed and enjoyed himself, and others, and the event itself.

But I was also struck by how hard some old habits die. And how pervasive some fears can be.  And how the need to support, help, and 'walk our brothers and sisters through the process" remains, despite legal changes in the wind. 


1 comment:

Will said...

It's painful to think of the lives ruined, the talents wasted, the fear an imposed self-loathing caused by the military's party in general and by DADT most recently.

The hate groups are still spewing lies about the alleged dreadful consequences of having gays in he military (in point of fact, we have been there from the beginning, probably a lot of gays in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars), but the sex scandals that occur continue to be heterosexual in nature.