The community enjoyed another “first” on February 10th when USS San Francisco pulled into port in San Diego. U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Thomas Sawicki, having won the lottery for “First Kiss”, reconnected after seven months with his boyfriend, Shawn Brier, in the Lip Lock seen ‘round the world.
Soon news media crews across the country swarmed over this story in a sensationalist frenzy; the same frenzy as when the first Navy lesbian kiss showed up on America’s radar on Dec. 23red, 2011, shortly after the law known as Don't Ask Don't Tell baring gay and lesbian military members was repealed. While it may appear America has been in the throes of a three-year long Pride Parade, there exists a cultural shift and it’s not lost on us by a long shot.
This is why you should care:You are a Military Spouse or Partner. Chances are if you are reading this, you have felt the pangs of gut wrenching loneliness and longing while your loved one is deployed. Each morning you rise and go about your day while the longing churns inside like a tear-stained, message-in-a-bottle, shipwrecked within your stomach. You are technically alive, but a lot of this life is spent on auto-pilot, waiting for that eight minute phone call that lifts you from the depths.
Reuniting with your loved one is what you live for: it is the calorie drenched Chocolate Lover’s finish line after our marathon through the valley of “carb counting." You devour these moments, and well up with tears watching others get their moment. For U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Thomas Sawicki and his boyfriend Shawn Brier, this was their moment, plain and simple.
This is History in the making. Due to our own experiences under DADT, we are quite aware that a mere four years ago, this Kiss would not have been possible. There are countless thousands of military couples who have hidden their love, families, and themselves in order to serve their country.
The pride that the LGBT community feels and celebrates with this couple’s first Kiss is a culmination of decades of serving in silence and not being able to meet their partner at the gate, in port, on base with all the other fanfare and families. First kisses in our community had to be done away from prying eyes, in the car, in secret, so we would not risk their careers.
We also acknowledge all of the brave men and women who pushed for the repeal of DADT, against the current, at great personal and professional risk to themselves in the name of equality. We ride upon their shoulders, but we do not forget their efforts or sacrifices.
The reason this First Kiss made headlines nationally means we still have work to do. This is that double edge sword the LGBT community balances on. On one side, we are thrilled to finally see visibility and acknowledgment on a larger scale, while on the other; we want to reach the place where this is no longer a glitterazzi moment, but just a beautiful moment. It is important to recognize the real people involved.
We are guilty of attaching our own story to Thomas and Shawn’s moment. For them, it was the excitement and thrill of a couple’s reunion after a long deployment. For us, it becomes every reunion that didn’t get to happen, and every kiss that happened in secret; when it should simply be acknowledging love.
We can’t give thanks until everyone can sit at the same table. After DADT was repealed, we breathed a collective sigh of relief, felt “all was good and decent in the world” and we could get back to our next Netflix binge. It was later clarified that this repeal only meant that the service member could serve openly, without risk of being discharged for being gay. It did NOT include any protections, benefits, or outreach for the spouses, partners, and families of those that stood by their Sailor, Soldier, Marine or Airman year after year. That didn’t happen until September 2013.
We acknowledge the incredible strides our country has taken in inclusivity and YES, we celebrate all our forward steps and allies! We still have a lot more work to do, but today we celebrate with a Kiss.
Adaire Salome-Keating has been a member of American Military Partner Association (AMPA) since the beginning; rabble rousing, soap-boxing for Justice, and posting awkward 80’s Love Songs for the group to enjoy. She divides her time into uneven quadrants of Motherhood and stolen moments of taking care of the households between San Luis Obispo and Monterey. Usually, she is cleaning out her car, since that’s where she spends a good chunk of her time. She writes for the blog http://adventuresofaddgirl.com/ and for AMPA.
Photo: Navy Petty Officer Second Class Kyle Carlstrom