don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t hug farewell

This article (, about the emotional and other challenges faced by gay partners when one or both of them are active military, made the front page of

At a time when thousands of Americans are planning for the return of their loved ones from the Middle East, there is a subset that remains largely invisible. The government’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which forbids gays in the military to be open about their sexual orientation, has caused an unknown number of couples to have their farewells behind closed doors, to plan similarly discreet homecomings and, in the time between, to resort to sterile or anonymous messages as a way of staying in touch.

With their hearts and lives in upheaval, the gay partners of troops in the gulf voice frustration that they have not received the benefits that married couples get, or the same level of emotional support. Several such people–male and female, who agreed to be interviewed only if their names were withheld, out of concern that their partners in uniform could be traced to them–also complained about a lack of support among other gay civilians, many of them skeptical about the armed forces.

This latter part is particularly distressing. And I know in the past, it’s something I participated in; my skepticism of the U.S. military and its leaders, and my disapproval of its policies toward gay men and lesbians, led me to harbor suspicion of anyone associated with or enlisted in the armed forces. It was only through my very close friendship with a straight married Air Force couple in the early 90s, which also brought me into contact with a wide variety of their military friends, that I recognized my own prejudicial thinking.

No, I didn’t support this invasion of Iraq by the U.S. I was very much against unilateral action by my administration without wider global support, and I’m still saddened and angered about the lives lost–on both sides–and the damage done to Iraqi cities and cultural institutions. But my heart truly goes out to the people who make up the forces, and especially to those who are separated from their loved ones, and most especially to those who cannot even acknowledge the existence of their relationship, for fear of being discharged, verbally or physically assaulted, or even killed.