On Marines, equality, and my date to the Marine Corps Birthday Ball (Part 3)

Continued from Part 2

I have spent most of my career being single. Anyone who has been in a relationship with a Marine knows it’s difficult. Long hours, short-notice trips, weeks in the field, months on deployment, weekends/holidays/birthdays missed–these affect all of us. DADT just added another complex layer to an already difficult endeavor. For someone to be in a relationship with me, he would be to required accept the fact that I was going to lie about who he was if I mentioned him at all. When asked by commanders and coworkers if I was married, I’d say no even if we lived together. It is the epitome of a double life: on the one hand there is a special person who makes the unique challenges of your life remotely bearable, while at the same time you’re denying to anyone interested that he even exists. If you do let down long enough to go out in public together, your head is on a swivel, always looking out for anyone who may see you doing something that could get you in trouble. Even going to the gym could be a challenge–you want to spend the time together as a couple, but if there are Marines at the same gym, you’re just “workout buddies” and it becomes even worse: he has to stand there while you deny your relationship in front of his face. How many times can you do that before you just give up trying? I have no idea what that must have felt like for the men I dated. I do know that it killed a piece of me every time I had to do it.

I never compromised my integrity–I did what I had to do to survive. When my recruiter asked me in 2002 if I was gay because it was easier than explaining the DADT policy to a straight person (which I must have been if I wanted to be a Marine), he wasn’t trying to violate the policy. I wasn’t about to let his careless question keep me from my dream of becoming a Marine, so I told him no. In recruit training, I had a drill instructor who regularly motivated the platoon by suggesting that “females and faggots” were the only ones who couldn’t do what he was telling us to do, and if we were men we would try harder and do better. Like any good recruit I bit my tongue, yelled louder, moved faster, and did my best to prove to everyone around me that I was good enough that they wouldn’t wonder if I was gay. When I was drugged and assaulted on a trip in 2004 that resulted in my unauthorized absence from work the next day, I declined to file a report at the hospital because doing so would have elicited questions from my command that would have likely ended up in a DADT investigation. When my name was mentioned in the investigation of another Marine in 2005 I contacted an attorney at SLDN and waited for a call from investigators that thankfully never came.

The Marines I worked with over the years who said and did these things never knew they were talking to or about a gay Marine–I’m confident if they did that they would have been professional enough to choose different words, or not let their suspicions turn into witch hunts. But I knew, and every time I swallowed an objection, ignored a comment, or kept my mouth shut in a discussion I thought of all the people in my life who made me the man I was, and silently apologized to them for not being able to show the Marine Corps just how proud I was to be me.

September 20, 2011 changed all that. For most Marines it was a non-issue. For some it was the day the homos infiltrated the Marine Corps. For me, it was the day I got my dignity back. I wouldn’t have to stand there and listen when confronted with ignorance, I didn’t have to endure another conversation in which I was told that gays didn’t belong in the Marine Corps, that they shouldn’t be allowed to share the same barracks or serve in combat, that they shouldn’t be allowed to marry, or that their parents had failed and that’s how they came to be gay in the first place. I didn’t have to pretend I was single if I wasn’t. But it was all easier said than done; I had spent nearly a decade avoiding personal relationships with fellow Marines and had learned that pursuing romantic relationships was futile. For years I’d had an excuse to be single (not to mention that I was legally required to be), and now that I didn’t have to be it was harder than I expected it would be. The idea of ever having a fairy tale wedding had been my impossible dream for so long that finding Prince Charming came to seem like the easy part.

I took Brandon to work with me on November 10 to show him where I work, and hopefully set him at ease with some of the customs, courtesies, and traditions of the Marine Corps. On that day, as every year, the Marine Corps Recruit Depot has a uniform pageant that showcases Marines and battles from throughout our long history and culminates with the cutting of the traditional birthday cake. Attending the ceremony allowed him to get a snapshot of our history and also gave me the opportunity to explain some things like when to stand, who the people were, what the different uniforms and rank insignia meant, etc. He was completely overwhelmed, but really tried and I appreciated it. I took him back to my office and showed him where I work. I showed him the sign in front of my building with my name on it under “Commanding Officer”. I pointed out and introduced him to a few of the people we would probably see later. I was trying to be cool about it, but the whole time I was constantly thinking to myself, “I can’t believe this is happening.”

It was unlike any time I had ever shown someone where I work before. Over the years I have brought my family to events and showed them my office. My mother giggles like a little girl when we drive on base and the guards call me “sir” and salute. She’s even asked if we can drive off-base just to come through the gate again. My parents came to my boot camp graduation in Parris Island, saw me play with the Marine Corps band in Twentynine Palms, saw my graduation from Officer Candidate School, and watched my grandfather pin on my second lieutenant bars when I was commissioned. They came to my change of command ceremony last year when I assumed command of a company for the first time, and my mother sobbed when one of my Marines delivered flowers to her. On a few rare occasions over the years I ventured to take a boyfriend on base, times that I couldn’t bear to not have the person I was seeing at the time there, if only to witness the big events–a promotion, a graduation, a deployment. Looking back, though, I wonder if it was even worth it; in the stress of those situations I barely even looked at him, afraid that someone might see the way I looked at him and know–as one always knows–when couples look at each other.

After the ceremony, we left and tried to have a normal day. I changed back into civilian attire and we went to have lunch. After lunch, we went home and watched a movie, trying to ignore the anxiety about the evening that was to come. It felt like I was getting ready for a first date, which I guess I was. Ironing his suit that had made the trip in a suitcase from his home in Indianapolis, getting dressed in my Blues and realizing the jacket was a little tighter than I remembered, sharing the bathroom while he trimmed his beard and we did our hair–things I’d done many times before, but never quite like this, and never for such a big event as the Marine Corps Birthday Ball. I realized that gays take forever to get ready, even when one of us is a Marine.

Continued in Part 4

Author: Matthew

I'm a Marine officer studying Material Logistics Support Management at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA. I like to talk and write about all kinds of things: politics, religion, atheism, cars, motorcycles, sailing, books, movies, and anything else that strikes my fancy. The views expressed here are my own, and are in no way intended to represent the United States Marine Corps, Department of Defense or any of its components.

26 thoughts on “On Marines, equality, and my date to the Marine Corps Birthday Ball (Part 3)”

  1. ” When I was drugged and attacked on a trip in 2004 that resulted in my unauthorized absence from work the next day, I declined to file a report at the hospital because doing so would have elicited questions from my command that would have likely ended up in a DADT investigation.”

    This…this breaks my heart. As a former hospital corpsman and command SAVI, I think this story right here epitomizes one of the greatest tragedies of DADT–unfortunately your story is not unique, and I can’t tell you how many times I have heard it. That men and women in uniform were forced to be silent victims while other men and women in uniforms were allowed to continue their service without reprimand is one of the few things that makes me truly ashamed of my service. Thank you for your service, sir.

  2. Okay, I have to ask. You barely HAVE hair. How on Earth could it have taken forever to do it?

    Sorry. I know that’s a weird question, but dude … I always figured that’s why servicemen kept it so short, so you could just rub the top of your head a couple times and call it done. 😀

  3. “For years I’d had an excuse to be single (not to mention that I was legally required to be), and now that I didn’t have to be it was harder than I expected it would be. The idea of ever having a fairy tale wedding had been my impossible dream for so long that finding Prince Charming came to seem like the easy part.”

    100% stabbing on the right spot!

  4. Someday your Prince will come — and I will love to see the wedding photos
    (and if it’s Brandon, great, but whomever he will be, he will get a great guy)

  5. “I never compromised my integrity–I did what I had to do to survive” – Integrity is not an easy thing to keep. One should never choose between the job one loves and a person they want to be together. Shame on The System to make people lie

  6. I’ve read all 3 parts now. I think I’d love your mum! I’d be asking to drive through the gates again as well. I had a boyfriend in the army once. He was a private so there was no Sir here. He did however call his superior Sir. I was chatting with his commander over a beer 1 day who asked me if I had been in the military. I said “Mick, it will be a cold day in hell before I call anyone Sir!” He laughed. He thought it a shame that more visitors didn’t have a more relaxed attitude to the base. Again, you make a cute couple. Well done.

  7. There is so much i could comment on, but that the threat of being like “females and faggotts” is used as a way of motivating men is so wrong on so many levels and insulting to females and gays.

    1. I agree you are a man, you are a woman, gay or lesbian makes no difference as to your capabilities as a human being. I am against changing Marriage to include same sex but that is another subject and the only subject I disagree upon with homosexuals. You are equal human beings whether you are Straight, Homosexual, Bisexual, Marines or civilians and can only be judged by you actions to better yourself. Even though we disagree about marriage, you are striving to be the best you are capable of being and I applaud your service!

  8. I really commend you for being so bold, Captain! I recently left the military, so I understand some of the stresses. It was difficult to express myself in the Army, even though I am not gay. I always wanted to speak my mind about social debates, but felt pressured and even fearful of others around me for doing so.
    I found myself at a loss, creatively, emotionally, and all around mentally. I was unable to be myself, and plainly, felt that it was no lifestyle for me. I am glad to see that someone can stick it to them – especially in the Marine Corps! Of all places!
    I understand that you are an officer, and – well – let’s be serious here – have more prestige than the lowly enlisted I once was. Do you think you would be as bold if you were a Sergeant? Lance Corporal? Private?
    From my personal experiences, officers tend to operate a little more independently then their enlisted counterparts.

  9. “When I was drugged and assaulted on a trip in 2004 that resulted in my unauthorized absence from work the next day, I declined to file a report at the hospital because doing so would have elicited questions from my command that would have likely ended up in a DADT investigation.”
    I could never write those words with such courage and determination.
    Your is truly the soul of a warrior-born.

  10. Oorah Sir! Well done. I was discharged from the 3rd Mar Div. in 2002 for violation of the DADT, so I feel your pain and have seen the ugly side as well.

  11. Breaks my heart… ” I have no idea what that must have felt like for the men I dated. I do know that it killed a piece of me every time I had to do it.”

    You’re stronger than you give yourself credit for. You deserve all and much more. More men like you need to serve our country. The “men” who are sexist, narrow-minded, and weak do not deserve to call themselves men. It saddens me to see that he was your superior.

    Keep on keepin on. We all love you and your beau, Brandon. Y’all are adorable.

  12. As a fellow Marine and officer I am really proud of you!! I am so glad you had a positive experience. It will take time…but just like African Americans and women..you too will be fully accepted. You know how our military is…wayyyy behind the power curve. Thanks for putting yourself out there. People need to hear this. Can’t wait for your next post!

  13. “sharing the bathroom while he trimmed his beard and we did our hair–things I’d done many times before, but never quite like this, and never for such a big event as the Marine Corps Birthday Ball. I realized that gays take forever to get ready, even when one of us is a Marine.”

    “did our Hair-things” hahah I love it!! the whole section. hahahaha

  14. I am a 10 year veteran of the Marine Corps and I got out 4 years ago. This is such a tough issue to tackle and at first glance I would say it is a bad idea to warrant or enlist gays into the Marine Corps. I am sure Marines thought it was a bad idea for Blacks as well as Women. I had prejudices towards most black people (youth confrontations and criminal statistics support that view). Although, in the Marine Corps I had met many men I would do anything for, to this day. I know some of them are definitely black and my guess is some are gay (for that matter they were also Mexican, Puerto Rican, Asian and even Jewish). I guess the point here is, do not judge a whole group because on a personal level people are all either likable or not no matter sexuality, race, or religion.

  15. After I wiped the tears from my eyes and the goosebumps settled down, I just sat and thought about how similar my life has been. I am one of the original MARSOC recruits and found myself in Iraq off and on, mostly on, for most of five years. I never had much of an opportunity to have a lasting relationship because of my constant deployments, but now that I find myself in a more permanent position in Washington DC, the thought has crossed my mind. I too am an officer in the Corps, a Major, and have found myself in the unusual position of working within a civilian agency. I do not work in an environment where jokes about gays or degrading comments about “faggots” are heard at all, but my experiences in the field through the years were full of them. Your comments about your head swiveling when you were out with another guy brought back feelings that I too experienced. I haven’t “come out” as yet to my fellow co-workers, I see it as none of their business. The feeling of relief at not having to hide anymore is like 10 tons off my shoulder. One thing that rang so true to me was what you said about integrity. So much of who I am as a Marine is centered around integrity and honor…no longer are we asked to compromise that for a failed policy, born of ignorance and bigotry. I’m a prouder Marine today than I was before the repeal of DADT. And I’m proud of the Marine Corps for how deliberately and forthright they have embraced a new policy of acceptance. Semper Fi Marine.

  16. What an amazing story to read in its entirety a story that is very near and dear to my own personal life as a Marine. Hats off to you Sir, for paving the way. Hoping this year’s 237 Birthday, will be as incompasing as yours. Almost a month out and date locked in, I’m nervous to see the outcome, but proud to finally be able to confidently take a date after 8 years of service. Semper Fi!

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