Serena Freewomyn

Student Looking for LGBT Military Significant Others to Speak Out

Filed By Serena Freewomyn | November 23, 2008 4:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Politics
Tags: Don't Ask Don't Tell, Iraq War, military families

Yesterday I was listening to Josh Groban's Christmas album as I did my housework. (I know . . . it's not even Thanksgiving . . .) When it came around to "I'll Be Home For Christmas," the sound clips of military partners reading letters to their soldiers deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan made me stop and think.

Five years have passed since the start of the War in Iraq. During this period, the media has reported stories about soldiers who are sent to Iraq, only to come home with serious physical and psychosocial ailments. There have also been many reports about soldiers who have died. Lost in these media reports are the stories of the soldiers' significant others, and how they have dealt with suffering or deceased loved ones. And when it comes to LGBT partners, that silence is even louder.

One peace activist is trying to change that. Reyna Velarde is a graduate student a California State University Long Beach. She is collecting stories of military significant others to give a voice to the spouses and partners of soldiers sent to Iraq by highlighting their narratives in a staged performance.

According to Velarde:

This performance will be based on your stories. I am especially looking for the stories of LGBTQ military significant others because it is important to tell these stories from all perspectives, especially since 3 different states just took away the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry. While it's important to give a voice to all military significant others, giving a voice to LGBTQ significant others is that much more important to show the inequalities they face, and lack of social support they receive.

Thus far in my research, I have not received stories from the LGBTQ community. I understand that with the military's "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy, sharing these stories can be difficult, if not down right dangerous. All of the stories I collect will remain anonymous unless you wish to have your identity revealed.

I want your stories of the struggles being a military significant. Topics can include: how you met; pressures of staying together before deployment; the relationship - home and overseas; being away from your soldier; how deployment effected your relationship - for better or worse. I know it may be painful to think of some stories, so please do so with care. Even if you think your story is insignificant, remember, your story is very significant, and you may spark creative direction on my part. Please email your story to me at [email protected].

Finally, please share this message with anyone who has been or is currently in a relationship with a soldier who has been/is/or will be deployed. All types of stories are important, whether they are positive or negative. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. Also, if you would rather have an interview instead of typing out your story, contact me so we can exchange information and set an interview date. I am looking for stories until December 31st, so please keep them coming until then.

Thanks your support. I look forward to hearing/reading your stories!

I'm happy to hear that Reyna is making a conscious effort to include LGBT voices in her research, and I wish her the best of luck!

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And the lovely Obama administration has hinted that they're balking on this. So much for "Change".

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | November 23, 2008 8:13 PM

The Obama administration has not "hinted that they're balking on this." It would be good if every we didn't talk political cues from the Washington Times and other conservative news sources. They clearly do not have our best interests at heart.

President Clinton, to his credit, tried to get out in front of this issue to make good on a campaign promise. His inexperience with the military and military culture resulted in him being run over by it. From what I have read, President-elect Obama has learned from the mistakes of his predecessor, and is creating a more pragmatic and considered timetable.

As for the stories from the significant others of deployed military members, bravo!

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | November 24, 2008 11:37 AM

You (and they) are talking as if now was then -- as if there had been no work done both directly on this issue and on the general public perception of gay people ... in the last fifteen years. Gays-in-the-military is, while not as far down as hate crimes (queers as distantly human) or basic 1964 Civil Rights Act -- amended -- civil rights (queers as public-marketplace-but-not-my-home distantly equally human) on the phobic hierarchy, still not as high on the phobic hierarchy as the family issues.

In other words, it's far enough off the cutting edge not to have the political third rail quality it had in 1993 that the Obama people (and you) are trembling from -- and the polls show it.

Further, if positioned well as a combination of massive fiscal waste reduction in an era where the public is financially hurting, logical in a military needing all the competent forces it can get to the point that the lack thereof is currently restricting strategic options in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy, and the right thing to do with an electorate that expects change away from the discriminatory and pandering-to-the-right shortsighted -- and the sothers' stories sought here, expressed in an integrated format as anticipated can only help that, it's not that big a stretch.

Do I want the votes counted and the way smoothed before the DADTDP repeal moves? Need that question even be asked?

Do I want the Obama administration hitting the ground running NOW in concert with our organizers to get that prep work done so that this injustice does not stand one day longer than absolutely necessary? You betcha!!!

I mean, artificial timetables instead of benchmarked, results-oriented strategy is sooooooo....last century -- but so is using lame, outdated excuses to avoid all risk where queers are concerned.

Marla R. Stevens Marla R. Stevens | November 24, 2008 10:53 AM

I call leaving it off the original published "Agenda" (a la Stephanopoulis and his multiple anti-queer trial balloons) whilst simultaneously making subtle background noises that it was a "second term" issue -- if then -- and only including it in the revision after hearing from pissed-off inside players that that wouldn't do, "balking".

Thanks so much for the post- I will be looking for these stories through December. I have received 23 stories and would love to have more! My goal is to reach 50 stories by the end of December. Please pass this message to anyone you know who has a significant other in the military. Thanks again!

Reyna Velarde