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.
We got a cab to the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego and walked to the entrance. Standing there and looking around to see Marines throughout the lobby, we both thought, “What the hell are we doing here?” We looked at each other, took a deep breath, and stepped inside. We were careful from the very beginning not to be too close to each other. At one point, while the one of us who passed land navigation as a lieutenant in Quantico, VA managed to get lost on the way to the bathroom, our hands bumped and we quickly pulled them back. We made our way to the bar because the glass of wine and cocktail we had while getting ready weren’t taking the edge off as effectively as we’d hoped. A Marine I knew from work walked up and introduced his wife.
There is an enormous pressure–perhaps self-induced, I admit–to prove that I can do my job as well as (if not better than) anyone else. I had always placed this pressure on myself, as all of my gay military friends had, because I felt I had something to prove, even if no one else knew I was doing it. For my entire career I lived with the idea that people–from conservative civilian lobbyists to my fellow Marines to my Commander in Chief–believed I was incapable of succeeding as a Marine because I was gay. They thought we had no place in the military, and therefore it was up to us to be beyond reproach and the very best in our fields. In many ways that pressure has since been compounded, because it’s no longer a secret struggle.
The world is watching as we expose our true selves. Those who opposed repeal are scrutinizing every one of us, waiting for the opportunity to say that repeal was a mistake. As an officer and a leader of Marines, I lead from the front, setting the example for junior Marines and officers and to prove that there is no need to describe my service as that of a gay Marine, but just a Marine. Because of this, every word I say, every order I issue, every email I write, and every look I give is a conscious effort, as carefully thought out and worded as the letters, essays, and interviews I gave prior to repeal. Each and every moment of my life holds in it the possibility of discredit and disservice to my Corps. I cannot fail the Marines who are counting on me to pave the way forward as a Marine in a post-DADT military.
Last year, around this time actually, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James Amos, came to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego where I was working as a Series Commander for recruit training. I was in the middle of my second cycle in that position, and I was eager to hear what our Commandant had to say about the status of our Corps, from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to personnel issues, particularly the policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” I had been following the news on DADT closely for a year, for what are now obvious reasons. Gen Amos had recently testified before Congress that the existing policy was working fine and he was not inclined to repeal the existing policy while Marines were engaged in combat operations on two fronts. The results of the Comprehensive Review Working Group had been compiled and released, and the Marines were clearly the most resistant to changing the 18 year-old policy.
Sunrise brings joy
Sunset brings reflection
The nights are cold and lonely
but I never remember the rain
New days will come
I am scared of new days
I worry about the weather.
I had a conversation via text last night that I should have had a year ago when my relationship that spanned the previous four years ended. I’m clearly a glutton for punishment, but even today I refuse to believe I was wrong about the relationship. We had something very special, something I’m not sure I’ll find again. I’ve said before, true love is when the one you love and the one who loves you are the same. Whether this was true love, I guess I can’t ever really know. I think it was. But apparently I was the only one of us who felt that way.