What is it like to be a same-sex couple in the military? Is it any different than being married to someone of the opposite sex?
No, not really. But there are some things that I've noticed during my time as an openly gay Marine Corps spouse and veteran.
I was in the Marine Corps when Don't Ask, Don't Tell was still in affect. But once it was overturned, we actually had a Marine check-in as married to another male. When that happened, a Staff Sgt. made a horrible comment -- but my commanding officer took action and that Staff Sgt. got in huge trouble.
At that very moment, I knew things in the military were about to change even more. Below is my experience, and mine alone.
Once the Supreme Court repealed the Defense of Marriage Act, making same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states, I saw the military take that seriously. My wife gets the same respect any other Marine in her rank would get. Here are my experiences -- some bad, some good.
Our first marriage enrichment retreat. After my spouse and I got married in February, 2015, we both decided to go to a free, three day marriage retreat. I was very concerned that because it was taught by a chaplain, we would not be welcomed. But when I emailed the host and expressed my concerns, to my surprise I was told that the Chaplain there supports same-sex marriage.
I was truly relieved. The host did come to us and tell us that all of the videos were not updated and portrayed only opposite-sex couples, but we didn’t mind it, we understood. And other people there did ask us how our family felt, what we go through day to day -- and we gladly answered.
But not everyone was kind. One couple at our table did not want to make conversation with us at all. It felt kind of cold. And the other couple kept asking us pretty personal questions, like did our parents approve? What about kids? Do I still get benefits? I do not mind answering the questions, but it can come off very small minded and it surprised me that many people still think marriage is only between a man and a woman.
Military benefits: What does that mean now? I am technically a military spouse, but do I still get the same benefits as non-same-sex couples? Yes, I do get an ID card, Tricare healthcare, and access to the PX and commissary.
Getting an ID card was fairly easy. I took the required documentation to the DEERS office, and was actually pushed to the front of the line. I don’t know if they were excited or what, but we felt very welcomed and comfortable. I thought Tricare was going to be the biggest issue but it was fairly easy. My spouse called Tricare and they actually referred to me as her husband. but that was quickly corrected and the lady on the other end was genuinely sorry and had no issues.
Spouse Clubs and the Family Readiness Officer. I feel like this is the biggest disappointment. When I was in the military, there was a spouse club where they gathered together and did all the fun things. Once you get married, your command knows and usually the FRO reaches out and makes you feel comfortable. Well, I got nothing. No invite to the spouses club, which I know exist, no welcome packet. Nothing.
To some, it may not be a big deal but I would like to know about my spouse's command, what things are going on, and how I can help out. When you feel comfortable in a new place and around new people, it makes the experience a lot easier and truthfully fun. I wonder if this has happened to anyone else.
The unit and military friendships. I have felt nothing but love from the other service members and civilians that my spouse works with. My spouse comes home joking about how other higher-ups comment on her absent wife since I work full-time in a very busy job. They treat my wife the same, they put my name on invitations. We recently got personally invited to go the Commandant's house. We got to wine and dine with other important personnel, and watched the marching band and silent drill team perform.
Just being us. Most of the military couples we know have children -- and we cannot have kids the traditional way. Many people do ask us if we want kids. Of course we do, but we will get questioned to death about how we will go about doing it.
Many times when we are in public and there are kids around, we tend to stay more reserved and not demonstrate affection for each other because children will look at us oddly, and you can tell their parents, mostly the mother, will feel uncomfortable trying to explain the situation.
And in the the military there are some couples that just do not get it. They will not approach me, but will just look with judgement. It is very hard not to call them out, but how I act reflects on my wife as well, so I cannot just fly off the handle and approach the rude person just staring at me or us.
For the most part, I do not feel as though we are treated any differently. I served my country proudly and honorably, and my spouse is still serving our country. The military takes any discrimination against same-sex couples very seriously. And while there are some things that I would change, such as the FRO issue, everything is completely the same as an opposite-sex couple and for that I am grateful.
Tamara, a veteran and military spouse, is originally from the Midwest. In her free time she enjoys reading, exercise and watching scary movies. She works full-time, is in her third year of college and loves to write to express herself.