We have a wonderful online community at AMPA; our private online support network just for military partners and spouses is a place for same-sex partners to ask questions, share stories, and generally feel supported. But sometimes I can’t help wonder what it’s like to be in a military community and not part of a marginalized group. I was excited to get the opportunity to attend the SpouseBUZZ Live brunch this week with a few AMPA members. More than anything, with the impending deployment looming about, I was excited to meet other military spouses who have dealt with this before.
According to their website, “SpouseBUZZ is Military.com’s blog for military spouses. It’s a virtual destination where spouses click, connect and share their experiences. The blog features a variety of perspectives as our contributors are affiliated with every branch of the Armed Forces.” It’s sometimes hard not to be cynical just a year after the repeal of DADT, but I gave SpouseBUZZ the benefit of the doubt. What did we have to lose?
AMPA partners Jim, Ashleigh, Lori, Shaina and I met in front of the Miramar Officer’s Club where Jacey, the mistress of ceremonies for the day, greeted us with her enthusiastic flair. She made sure we understood that today we were to share with everybody what constituted military love. In a way, I thought she already knew who we were. Wasn’t the act of “putting ourselves out there” military love? But, at that moment, we were just more military spouses filing in to the O-Club (and probably looking a little bewildered at her outpouring of energy).
With about 180 other people, we settled at dining tables and performed some quick, obligatory, getting to know you exercises. The poor, seventeen-year, marine wife and mother of four had no idea what she was getting into when she chose our table. But she didn’t leave.
Jacey started us off with a talk on military marriage. We learned that the biggest secret to a blissfully happy military marriage is that the honey “badger of blame” (http://tinyurl.com/
We discussed social networking and Facebook as an excellent tool (provided OPSEC is acknowledged) to stay connected and informed. The takeaways here were: if your spouse’s unit does not already have a Facebook group, make it happen. This could be commander approved, or simply social. The five of us agreed that we could probably teach everyone in that room a thing or two about social networking.
After a talk from USAA on financial advice, we were split into groups according to kid-status. Those with kids grouped with similar age groups, while those of us without congregated into groups of “pre-child,” “child-free”(do not plan on having them), and “child-less” (had them, but no longer do). In our group of twelve, including Lori, Shaina, and myself we talked about what Top Ten List our group could come up with. We had to have a commonality to stand on, and we decided our list should be, “Top Ten Things to Do with Your Spouse Before You Have Children.” Although our group had diverse suggestions (as the three of us seemed to be the oldest and probably didn’t have children yet for different reasons), the group was very eager to hear about our particular experiences as same-sex military partners. The group strongly felt that we should have created a group, compiling our specific needs (as the moms with special needs children did) into a Top Ten List for same-sex partners. They were thrilled to have us with them, but felt we should also share our specific concerns.
After the event, we spoke to Jacey and Amy, the managing editor of SpouseBUZZ. Lori addressed concerns that she had about integrating same-sex partners in these events, and making sure our community felt included. It was clear to me that Amy and Jacey have been concerned about this issue for some time. They are more worried about singling us out and offending us, so have chosen, until now, to let us come forward if we wanted to. But, as Lori explained so well, sometimes it’s hard to know that we’re welcome when nothing is ever addressed. Although Jacey may be worried about putting us into a category of “special needs,” it is actually the federal government who has done so. Until DOMA is repealed, we do need a different kind of support.
It seemed as though Jacey really listened and took our advice. She is aware that she needs to incorporate us in examples of military life, and that it is not singling us out, but including us. They seemed to be very interested in ways of “normalizing” our community, and Amy even asked me if I’d be willing to blog, “not necessarily solely about LGBT things, but about being a military spouse.” She had tears in her eyes when she spoke of the unfair obstacles we face, and told me it would be great to have another perspective.
I think there is great potential for AMPA to be involved in the SpouseBUZZ community. I have received Military.com emails for about 4 years now, but have always shied away from involving myself in the straight military community. It is my own fear and prejudice that has blinded me from what was a welcoming resource that did not know how to reach out to us.
As I surfed through their site this afternoon, I found this article titled “What the Repeal of DADT Meant to Me” (http://tinyurl.com/DADTMeans), written by a same-sex military partner just 10 days ago. This, to me, amplifies the sincerity that Amy and Jacey showed us today. They have our voice(s) on their website, but are unsure as to our needs in person. The site continues to describe itself, claiming that, “when you visit SpouseBUZZ, you can expect to get a taste of what it’s like to be a military spouse in a post 9/11 World. SpouseBUZZ offers a glimpse into the lives of modern military families.”
They are definitely headed in the right direction.