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Friday, April 30, 2010

Serve Our Country—Repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Serve Our Country—Repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Hello, Invisible Reader. Do you know that I'm getting married next month? That's right. After swearing off marriage after my first and only heterosexual one that ended in divorce in 1985, I'm taking the plunge again on May 30th, 2010. My fiance and I live in Florida where gay marriage is not allowed so we are traveling to Iowa where it is legal. Our marriage won't be recognized in Florida but we'll know it's legal and we hope that some day it will be legal in all fifty states. Screw DOMA.

If you read the article "Serve Our Country -- Repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell", you'll see why DADT is very important to me. I was a career soldier. If you've been following this blog, you already know that. You also know that I am an 80% service connected disabled Veteran. As a lesbian Army retiree who is marrying another lesbian, my soon to be wife is not entitled to any federal benefits, NOTHING. Not that it has anything to do with DADT, but the repeal of DADT is a stepping stone, I believe. It is a stepping stone towards the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

You see, Invisible Reader, when my heterosexual counterparts marry, they are entitled to extra money from the VA if they are disabled Veterans. They are entitled to receive benefits at the "with dependents" rate. When Terri and I get married next month, we won't be entitled to any extra money because the VA is a federal agency and as such, they don't recognize gay and lesbian marriages. We are a non-entity as far as the VA is concerned. Screw DOMA. Screw DADT. Repeal them both.

So what does this have to do with the repeal of DADT? Everything ... I think. If DADT is repealed, women like Retired Naval Captain Joan Darrah won't have to live in fear of being found out and discharged. If DADT is repealed, will the military then award spousal benefits to same sex couples in committed relationships? If so, then how will that carry over once service members are released from the military? Will the VA then award us disabled Veterans spousal benefits the same as our active duty same sex counterparts? One can only hope. I want my soon to be wife taken care of, too. If I should die because of a service connected disability, I want her taken care of for the rest of her natural life. If DADT is repealed will that force DOMA to be repealed? Or is that just wishful thinking on my part? Am I living in a fantasy world, Invisible Reader, for wanting what  heterosexual married couples take for granted?

Don't Ask Don't Tell didn't come into play until my last year of military service, 1993.  Before that time I was subjected to witch hunts. I didn't come out until 1985 or 1986. It wasn't until long after I divorced my husband that I finally came to the realization that I was/am a lesbian. I've said this before in my blogs but for the benefit of you new readers, those who knew me best, including my own family, knew all along I was a lesbian but chose to let me figure it out on my own. After that personal discovery I lived in fear for the rest of my military career. Even when I was "still straight" I'd been accused of being a lesbian. There were those who suspected that my marriage was one of convenience and that my husband and I were doing it for two reasons: Number one we were doing it for the extra money; Number two I was using my ex-husband as my "beard". Neither was true but you take a strong female soldier who doesn't take any crap and it's automatically assumed she is a "dyke". I was terrified for the remainder of my military career. I kept my little secret (a very large, potentially very dangerous secret), well hidden and told no one. I didn't tell my family, none of my lifelong friends, I trusted no one except my partner and that's because she had as much to lose as I did. I did not fraternize with anyone I worked with and I kept my social life completely separate from my military life. I invited no one to my home and my partner and I went nowhere in public where we might be seen together. That's a terrifying way to live. When family came to visit we slept in separate bedrooms. We were that afraid.

Even now I keep my life private to a certain extent. Oh sure, you can Google my name and the word lesbian will come up associated with it and I'll be "found out". I don't think they can take anything from me now. My VA mental health care providers know that I am a lesbian. I had to be honest with them if I'm ever to get well. But at my request, which they've honored, nowhere in my records does it say that I am a lesbian. Nowhere does it make reference to my "partner" being a female.

At some point or at what point, do we stop living in fear? My fiance works for the County.  Just this morning she told me that if gay marriage is ever approved in the state of Florida, some of the people in the County Office are saying they will refuse to marry same sex couples because of their "religious beliefs". Terri asked someone else from that office, "Is that legal? Can they refuse to marry same sex couples?" The answer was "No, they cannot. They are County employees and if same sex marriage is legal, they have no choice to perform them, regardless of their religious beliefs." Someone else was telling us last weekend that in their state you can "marry your first cousin but it's illegal for same sex couples to marry." Wow. Inbreeding at its very best. Lets promote THAT!!

Bottom line Invisible Reader, read the article about Retired Naval Captain Joan Durrah. Then go out and do whatever you can to help promote repealing DADT and DOMA. Until DADT is repealed, thousands upon thousands of service members will continue to live in fear and isolation. It's a lonely place to live, Invisible Reader. I know, I've been there. I hated it. It was a frightening, very dark closet with no light at the end of the tunnel. Show support for DOMA, too. Repealing DADT doesn't end the battle. Veterans need help, too. I want to be able to take care of my soon to be wife. I want to enroll her in DEERS. I want to get her a dependent ID Card. I want to draw VA Benefits at the with dependents rate. I want to make sure that if I die due to complications of a service connected disability, she is taken care of for the rest of her life.

Be an Invisible Reader. Don't be an invisible activist. Speak out. Volunteer. Do what you can to help.

Until the next time, Invisible Reader ......

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