The clock is ticking. If you are reading this, it means the policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is no more. As of right now, I no longer have to hide in a web of lies about the details of my personal life. Throughout my time in service under DADT, a week hasn’t gone by where I haven’t been reminded of the policy. It didn’t take long to numb myself to hearing “that’s so gay” or “that guy over there is such a fag”.
I think the existence of the ban on gays in the military has allowed a false perception to exist that nobody in the military is actually gay. This week will be an eye-opening experience for many people who have never encountered gay people in their daily lives. The realization that their battle buddy has been living a secret life on the side, and still keeping up in the fight is scary to some troops, and I think many people will be surprised to learn we’ve been here all along.
Now that it’s over, I don’t suspect things will change much. The mission will go on, but I will no longer be forced to hide who I am. Those of us affected by the policy will no longer have to be bogged down by the disquiet of living a double life.
I’m sure many of my coworkers assume I’m a bit of a shut-in who never goes out. Coming up with endless cover stories about what goes on during my free time is an art-form not easily mastered. These tales usually revolve around some event important enough to turn down a friend’s invitation to hang out ahead of time, but trite enough where they won’t want to join.
No one in my squadron has met my boyfriend, and the stories I tell about us during a long ocean-crossing are filled with cover-ups about “my buddy”. His squadron — yes, he too is in the Air Force, and is stationed with me — knows me as his “roommate,” and that lie has allowed me to attend military functions like his own promotion party and a farewell gathering for his previous commander. It’s not fair to him to have me lying about our relationship for the sake of a cover story. I happily pledge never to do that again to him.
Belittling the relationship I have with the person I love has left me feeling cold hearted, and hollow. Balancing the strong feelings I have for him with the cold exterior I put on with the uniform is never easy. Our intention has never been to appear at all “in your face” with our relationship, but like anything new or different, the bond we share will make us that proverbial elephant in the room. And so it starts: the next chapter of being gay in the military.