Military Housing: Trials and Tribulation

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Compared to many of my gay and lesbian colleagues, my time in service has treated me well. In general gay officers have it easier than our enlisted counterparts, and our options with housing play a large role.

Many newly enlisted troops are forced to live in small dorms with roommates. It’s usually not the barracks scene that would come to mind if your military experience consists of watching a movie or two. Think instead of a college dorm with a room mate or two and no dividers. In short it’s not the easiest setting to live out the double life of a gay service member.

At the start of my first assignment, I lived in a dorm on base. Even though I had my own room, kitchenette, and bathroom, I had neighbors all around me who would always stop to talk as I was walking out of my room. They would ask where I was going, what I was doing, and if they could join. Sometimes Friday would roll around and I’d realize I hadn’t left the base all week, a thought that would almost immediately remind me of some menial thing I had to pick up from Wal-Mart. Before I knew it, I would be in my car and headed for the front gate.

Since those days, I have made sure to live off base wherever I’m stationed. I have been lucky to have that option as it has given me the extra leeway to be myself (read: gay) in ways I would not have had were I to live in a cramped dorm room… And thus I empathize with my topic for today’s blog post: Marine Cpl Ashley Vice

I would call the charges brought against her a bit drastic, especially since straights in the military do this sort of thing all the time. In most cases I don’t think it’s a heartless scam people use to screw the military (read: DoD, read: US Taxpayer) out of some extra cash. The action is generally more innocent than that. I’d say in most cases it’s an attempt to save a relationship. Let me explain.

One of my best straight friends (let’s call him Jay) just got married to his fiancĂ©…well, at least legally they’re married now. Their wedding date is still yet to be determined. They are both officers, but have different career fields which have brought them to separate ends of the US. They will never admit it, but I have seen their relationship struggle over the years largely due to the long distance factor.

If you get married in the military, as a couple you can file for a “joint spouse” assignment which greatly increases the chances of the two of you being stationed together. Getting married also makes you eligible to live together in on base housing.

With all of these added benefits, it’s no wonder our military has so many 18 year olds getting down on one knee to marry the first girl they meet. They want to stay together. They want their relationship to have a chance. This is also why the divorce rates in the military are so much higher. Many of these unpremeditated weddings don’t work out so well.

Do I think my friend Jay should be brought up for charges of fraud, dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of pay, or reduction in rank like Cpl. Vice? Absolutely not! But sometimes love will make you do crazy things, like find a loophole in the system that allows you to stay with the person in your life who matters most. And like Jay, Cpl. Vice was probably trying to just find a way to make things work out with her civilian girlfriend.

Asking your straight friends to marry you is a pretty big risk. But to me it sounds like this loophole is exactly the thing which allowed Vice to keep her relationship going. Not only did it just keep going, they were able to make the relationship last for years, which is not an easy task when your relationship has to stay a secret.

I also know many heterosexual couples in the military who have gotten married, moved in together, and divorced in less time than that. Not one of them has made a headline on CNN, or been charged under the UCMJ.

– Officer X is a young, gay military officer who is currently serving on active duty despite the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on open service. He is a pilot and regularly flies throughout the world both in and out of combat. His views are his alone and do not reflect the opinions of the U.S. military, its branches, or any organization. Follow him on Twitter @TIMEOfficerX or email him