Gay Military Spouses and Acceptance in Your Unit


It’s been more than sixteen months since Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed and openly gay service members have been allowed to serve. According to military officials the change has gone pretty smoothly, with little of the feared negative affects.

But is that because people have been overwhelmingly accepting, or is it because in practice, not much has really changed?

When the law was repealed, for better or worse,  I thought that we would see some real changes in the make up of our military community. I thought we would be welcoming gay and lesbian partners and spouses into our Family Readiness Groups.

But from personal experience, this isn’t the case. There have been a couple gay soldiers who have come out in my husband’s unit, but none of their partners have joined our family groups or events. We have seen the televised homecoming kisses between two gay partners. And we’ve heard about the battles over the spouse clubs at Bragg and Little Rock Air Force Base. But day-to-day, in real military life, it seems pretty status quo.

Because here’s the thing, just because you can legally do something, doesn’t mean you are necessarily going to do it. Especially, if the what you are now legally allowed to do is still socially unacceptable in your community. So although you can be openly gay and serve discrimination against gay and lesbian service members still exists. And furthermore, maybe some gay service members feel that even though its okay for their comrades and commanders to know they are gay, they are not comfortable integrating their personal life with their military life?

A few weeks ago, my husband’s unit hosted a holiday ball. One of the male soldiers attended with his boyfriend. He introduced him to the commander and they danced during the traditional first dance. Most of the soldiers were intrigued, to say the least, and there were a lot of eyes on the couple’s table the entire night.

You know who were total cool cucumbers about the whole thing? The spouses.

I didn’t see a single spouse bat an eye. The response pretty much went like this:

“Oh, that’s cool … can you pass the wine?”

I understand (as much as any heterosexual person can understand), that coming out is scary. That laws do not always equate to social norms. And that the fear of discrimination still exists for openly gay service members. Obviously, I don’t speak for it as a whole, but I actually think the military spouse community is more accepting of openly gay spouses than you would expect. Many of us may come from conservative backgrounds, lean right when it comes to politics. But when it comes to loving a soldier, we are usually able to find common ground. For the most part, the spouses I know are very welcoming to the idea of having openly gay spouses be a part of our community.

The Fort Bragg incident, in my view, is a spouse world anomaly.

Heck, they are already part of our community. They go through the same hardships and joys that heterosexual spouses do.  The bond that military wives share, that makes us a tight night community, is based on our shared experience not our backgrounds. Military friendships cross racial and socioeconomic lines, so why wouldn’t they cross the lines of sexual preference?

Again, I only speak from personal experience. What about your unit? Are you and your friends accepting of openly gay military spouses?

About the Author

Erin is an Army wife of seven years and the mother of two little girls. Her Army wife resume includes five deployments, five PCS moves, four duty stations, and a few stints volunteering with the family readiness group. She has been documenting her family's military life experience since 2008 on her blog The Unexpected Army Life.
  • Rquick

    Wow kudos to them for attending. I know if I were part of a gay couple I’d be loathe to have everyone watching me etc. My husband and I are totally accepting of gay soldiers and/or spouses (really just gay people in general). It still surprises me that people still get so immature about same sex couples. Seems so ig norant and low class to me.

  • I’m on the board of Military Spouses of Michigan, a relatively new spouse organization serving the entire state of Michigan. Although Michigan doesn’t have an active-duty base, we do have lots of Guard, Reserves and active-duty families living in the state who need support. Our group, from the very start, has accepted all spouses and partners. As you said in your piece, “They go through the same hardships and joys that heterosexual spouses do.”

    • I should also say that one of our Board members is a same-sex partner.

  • guest

    People in the unit all knew and know about there being gays in the unit. But the partners of these servicemembers don’t participate in functions. We’ve gone out on some double dates with them, but otherwise they want to stay out of the drama. I can’t blame them.

  • Heather

    I really couldn’t say what it’s like at my husbands current job. He is only one of 30 green suitors out of 150 people. With other units, including the ones he deployed with, yes, there were some and no one seemed to have any problems with it. One of my husbands best mechanics was a female years ago and she was/is lesbian, but what difference does that make? My husband has never had a problem with gays serving in the military. He came in in 1992 and I joined in ’93. Each of us has known our fair share of gay/lesbian soldiers over the years and it has never been an issue for either of us. Sexual orientations plays absolutely no part in the ability to perform the duties as a soldier, marine, sailor, airman, etc.

  • jay walls

    Well that is why I make it a personally policy not to socialize with fellow service members in my unit. And I also have a very strict policy on my contact with spouses. Basically be polite, but not be any more friendly, but respectful, and not being cold. I address all military spouses, as only by their prefix. MR. or MRS. If they serve in the military, and obtain ranks outside being a warrant officer, then I address them by their rank. Even though they want me to address them by their first name, I refuse to do so. Why? Because e it’s over familiarization. There is more.

  • jay walls

    And social functions??? This why the military needs to abolish them altogether. And what chaps my hide is command makes them mandatory. Just so they can make unit members sick with such extreme liberal policies. Well Like I said. My wife and I have better things to do, better places to go, and better people to see. I’ll repeat that. Better people to see, than go to some rinky, on post club, with people I see and deal with all day, all week, for 5, 6, 7, 8 or more days in a row, and watch all their goofy behavior, and all of their other mannerisms, of their carrying on. That and listen all that teeny bopping clap trap music, as well., figuring the military ONLY recognizes that kind of music, and real music like country, blues, rock, or rockin country, cajin country, rockin blues , country blues.

  • jay walls

    I meant to say not in between kind of music, and reak music.