“Oh, your spouse is stationed on the aircraft carrier? What does he do?”
“You want to open up a Navy Federal joint account? What branch is your husband in?”
Gate Guard coming onto base, after looking at our military ID’s: “Wait, both your names are Carfield? Are y’all sisters or something?”
His response after we tell him we’re married: “What? You can do that in the Navy?”
No, We’re Not Sisters or Something. We’re Married. I’m a Military Spouse.
These little snippets of conversation are just a few examples of what I’ve heard as a same-sex military spouse. Mostly, the questions above were just innocent assumptions. But it goes to show you how very different military life is when you are a same-sex military spouse. Every single time I show my ID card to the gate guard, I wonder if they’re smiling at me because they saw my sponsor’s name is Kali Carfield, or if it was just because they’re genuinely being kind. Call me paranoid, but I swear there have been male gate guards that have looked at me funny after looking at my ID. Is it because of my sponsor is a woman, and not a man? Maybe. It could very well be because I drive a really old car that looks like it should belong to a grandma, and they’re simply squinting at me in confusion. But honestly, should I have to wonder if someone is assessing my sexual orientation as I’m entering the place I call home?
I know of thousands of same-sex military couples exist that are denied those benefits because the state they are stationed in doesn’t recognize their marriage.
Finding a “tribe” of support to provide comfort and understanding is pretty difficult when you are a same-sex military spouse. It always seems like the resources everyone else finds helpful just don’t apply to you. Or there is the awkward experience of having to explain yourself to said resources when they simply have no idea how to comprehend that you, as a woman, have a wife, not a husband. It is not always safe to talk about your same-sex spouse at work, at the gym, or at the store. As a same-sex spouse, you become hyper-aware of the opinions of those around you, because it could mean getting ridiculed, harassed, or judged. Now add in the complexity of being a military spouse, and you’ve got one heck of a job trying to find support.
Luckily, my wife and I live in a marriage equality state— good ol’ Washington. I was able to get a military ID, medical coverage, and we currently live on base. Not all of us are so lucky. I know of thousands of same-sex military couples exist that are denied those benefits because the state they are stationed in doesn’t recognize their marriage. The hardships for these couples are vast. Imagine not being able to carry out your service member’s last wishes if something medically happened to them, simply because your marriage license is just a waste of a piece of paper to the hospital’s legal department. Even though the state my wife and I live in has marriage equality, there are many military affiliated people and organizations we have run into that still don’t have the proper knowledge to help serve us.
One day, after being thoroughly exhausted by the lack of a military support network, I typed into Google, “Same-sex military spouse.” After a lot of digging, I found the American Military Partner Association (AMPA). At first I thought I had simply come across another organization that supported all people under the umbrella of “military spouse”. Once I looked into their website a bit more, I joyfully realized that I had found a network of other military spouses that were LGBT* like myself. I had found a group of other same-sex military couples that knew exactly what I was going through! After becoming a part of the Facebook group and page devoted to AMPA, I was able to connect with other same-sex military couples in my area. I also gained the ability to post questions I might have about same-sex military issues and receive responses from some of the most well educated people I’ve ever met. I had finally found my tribe.
Imagine not being able to carry out your service member’s last wishes if something medically happened to them, simply because your marriage license is just a waste of a piece of paper to the hospital’s legal department.
My struggle to find AMPA proves how difficult it can be to connect with your tribe. Even if you’re not a same-sex military spouse, you could be encountering the same issue of trying to find a group of individuals you really connect with. I urge you to continue searching for your tribe if you haven’t yet found one (Read: 5 Tribal Members Every Military Spouse Needs). I have found comfort and peace knowing that my AMPA family, or fAMPAly as we call it, is always there for me when I need them. And as military spouses, we need that peace of mind in our lives. Don’t underestimate the power of a tribe. A lion will attack an elephant that roams by itself, but will refuse to go after an entire herd that is united and strong.
Find your herd. Find your tribe. Roam free.
*LGBT is a shortened version of the very long acronym LGBTQIQAA. It stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, Questioning, Asexual, and Allies.
Katelyn is an English Language Paraeducator for the Bremerton School District who is currently pursuing her undergraduate degree to become a teacher. She loves coffee, camping, cook-outs, the color green, and her favorite season is autumn. Katelyn has been married to her wife Kali since March of 2014. Katelyn has a personal blog that she updates with personal anecdotes about her life. Feel free to check it out here. She hopes to provide a unique twist about what it means to be a military spouse today.