Imagine working in a profession that you entered because you had an unrelenting passion for the ideals associated with that job? But, once you begin, you realize that you will secretly live your life as a lie.
Linda (name changed), is a female soldier in the National Guard, who entered military service to uphold the ideals of the Army and serve her country as a devoted patriot. As a teenager, she never considered another career. An unquestionably noble undertaking, but bittersweet for this young woman. Along with being a combat veteran having served overseas, she is also a gay woman, forced to work under the constraints of the antiquated 1993 Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law, a discriminatory rule that prevents gay members of the armed forces from serving openly.
What this means is that while she works everyday to defend the freedoms of all Americans, she is unable to talk about her personal life, or inadvertently disclose the fact that she is gay. While at home in the suburbs, she lives a typical middle-class existence with her partner, but when she enters the workplace, she is suddenly single and straight. She must go to work everyday and hear the obnoxious gay slurs used by many, cannot enroll her spouse in any of the military benefits, cannot bring her spouse to work-related family functions, and cannot engage in casual conversations about what she did over the weekend. She must be promoted quietly without her partner by her side, while straight members of the military can have their spouses present and also have them deliver a speech on their behalf. When she brings her young child to functions, she has to prompt her child not to speak of their home life, or to mention her “other mother,” for fear that the truth will be revealed. Phone calls and emails are edited and washed clean of any reference to affection of another.
A recent study has shown that 73% of troops polled state that they are comfortable with lesbians and gays. (Zogby International, 2006) The stress associated with living in silence is an incredible burden that most people do not consider or even think about, yet is a reality for over 65,000 members of the military. You will not read much about their personal stories, for they are afraid to share those stories for fear of losing a wonderful career that they have dedicated years of their life to achieve. So they continue to serve courageously in silence. They are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice and for that deserve our unfailing respect and complete acceptance.