Thanksgiving-themed blog entries have come to be known to address what folks are ‘thankful’ for as they reflect on the Thanksgiving holiday and the holiday season at large. However, the holiday season is often challenging for many, myself included. I’ll be honest, during this time of year, it is not always easy for me to think of a litany of things I am personally thankful for.
Don’t get me wrong, I could scribble the ubiquitous list of trite platitudes that include: opportunities to spend time with family, adversities that have formed me into the person I am today, or my health and well-being.
However, around the holiday season my thoughts begin to circle around my large, gregarious family. For as long as I can remember, they have always made sure to come together during the holidays in my small hometown. As with years prior, they will carry on jubilantly with grand Thanksgiving Day plans, all the while not one of them blinking an eye at the fact that I am not invited, nor even spoke of, and haven’t been for a few years now. There won’t be a dramatic conversation lamenting my absence the day of. Instead, there will likely be a complete avoidance – or even denial – of the fact that the black sheep of the family, the outspoken and often embarrassingly fervent LGBT military family activist, evaporated from her family completely and suddenly as the result of a single decision from the top of the familial chain of command who was not comfortable with having a lesbian daughter. A decision that had cascading effects throughout the rest of the familial circle who dare not oppose or question the authority with which it was made.
As for those beloved ‘adversities,’ I am indeed proud of the person I am today. And I acknowledge the role those adversities had in molding the woman I know myself to be. However, I am just plain tired of these battles (e.g., DADT, extension of earned federal benefits to same-sex spouses, nation-wide marriage equality, etc). I am disheartened that so soon after finally achieving strides in equality, our LGBT military community is again faced with the prospect of the same repetitive adversities. My gratitude for adversities has waned, as has my tolerance of the euphemism by which they are so often packaged as ‘opportunities for growth.’ What were once motivating obstacles have recently evolved into pernicious movements that are challenging my hope with worry. Yes, I am referring to the recent election results as well as recently publicized leadership appointments named by our President-Elect. However, I will unquestionably, and with great passion and honor, roll up my sleeves once again in defense of the LGBT military community to ensure our current rights are not stripped away.
Lastly, regarding my health and well-being; I can’t say that my spirit is as healthy as it was when it wasn’t saddled with the anxiety and uncertainty ushered in by the recent election.
All that said, I still refuse to believe that there is little to be thankful for, even as I struggle with demons during the holiday season. I refuse to despair. More accurately, those who I have had the pleasure of spending holidays with over the past few years, those who have held my hand through adversities, and those who continue to enrich my health and well-being with every encounter – my “fAMPAly,” the members of The American Military Partner Association (AMPA) – they are who refuse to let me despair.
The members of AMPA are a reliable and unwavering source of love and support for me and so many others in the LGBT military community. My fAMPAly reminds me that even when it can feel like I am isolated, I am never truly alone. While we all have our differences in opinions, I have never felt that I couldn’t lean on my fAMPAly, regardless of the geographical distance that may separate us. And for that, I can say unequivocally, and with great ease, I am and will always be, extremely thankful.