My name is Caitlin and I am a Registered Veterinary Technician up in Ontario, Canada. I grew up here all my life, but have grown up with a sense of adventure and a thirst for travel. I’ve traveled to 3 continents and 15 countries, and little did I know that on my last adventure I would meet the love of my life.
I volunteered with an amazing organization called World Vets, which provide teams of Veterinarians and Technicians to 3rd world countries to spay and neuter, provide vaccinations and deworming, and a general education on diseases, prevention and safety regarding large and small animals. They also provide a team that travels with the U.S. Navy during their two summer humanitarian deployments: Pacific Partnership (to South East Asia/South Pacific, and the trip I decided was calling me) and Continuing Promise (Central and South America).
It was on this deployment, as a Canadian civilian, where I met my partner Cris, a United States Naval Aviation Maintenance Officer.
It was a whirlwind of four and a half months and we had a blast exploring the 5 countries we visited. It was an eye opener to the world of the military; a crash course so to speak. As we grew closer, I could start to see the pressure of her job and how serious it was. I was on “vacation” and enjoying myself while she was stuck on the ship most days working and dealing with issues related to her squadron.
I became her confidant and learned a lot about her and myself through this process. I think it was great that I got to see that side of her, while on deployment. I got to see how she interacts with fellow coworkers, other sailors. How she was a mentor and helped others.
Once back on solid ground, back in the U.S. we had a little over 2 weeks to spend together, before I went back to Canada, to really assess what we had between us. It was great to know my partner on the ship but it was amazing to get to know her outside of her job. With stressors gone and the chance to just be ourselves, without the worry of DADT over our heads, we truly bonded and our relationship flourished.
It was really tough the first few months we were apart. We were so used to seeing each other every day while we were on deployment, and now all we had were text messages and video chat. No physical contact. I was definitely an emotional wreck. I would say that this is the hardest thing I have had to do: Be strong not only for myself, but also for my partner, while we are apart.
I think another hard part was hiding who we were to each other while at military functions or just visiting her at work. I’ve never had to or needed to hide who I was from anyone, and all I ever wanted to do was hold her hand and kiss her. I’m not a huge PDA person but when we don’t see each other for months at a time, I just never wanted to hold back. I had to understand that DADT is what the U.S. military enforced and it was my girlfriends career at stake. I can’t even explain the thrill and amazement when I went to visit the most recent time. It was after DADT had been repealed, and she picked me up in her khaki uniform and planted a big kiss on me, in public! I was beaming from ear to ear.
The hardest part so far is getting a plan together for the rest of our lives. It has proven very difficult to legally get myself into the U.S. on a working visa to be with my partner. It is very important to us that I do things legally and the right way. I could easily just travel and be down there, but where would I work or how would I support myself and what if something were to happen to her? I would have no income, no medical insurance, and be invisible as a spouse to the U.S. military system. It just was not the safe option. I have had a few offers for employment but all seem to not understand the VISA process or are not willing to do all the paperwork. I recently had a very good lead and then at the last minute found out that the quota had been filled for this year. So here we sit, still separated by our countries.
It was definitely hard at first to understand how a country as powerful as the U.S. is so far behind on equality issues, and that even though DADT has been repealed, there are still many people out there trying to deny equal rights to the LGBT community. In Canada, we don’t have this issue. We have had legalized gay marriage as an entire country since 2005, the 4th country to do so, and the first in the Americas. I look forward to the day that all U.S. citizens have equal rights, whether you are gay or not, and I will be celebrating with them, where ever I am.
We’ve been blessed in our lives to have an amazing support group. Our family, friends, and coworkers have been very supportive and helpful. Even Cris’ fellow coworkers in the Navy have been overwhelmingly supportive to both of us. Its just the “not knowing” part that can be stressful. I would say my best piece of advice would have to be, take things day by day. Try not to plan too far in the future, because what we think should happen may not, and we need to be prepared for the unexpected, good or bad. Day by day, hour by hour, do what ever you need to do to keep sane.
Cris and I are extremely happy together and look forward to the day that we will be together, in the same place, for more than a visit. Until then, we will look at this as an adventure, filled with twists and turns. The most important part is that we are in this together as each other’s support.