Slate has an excellent article about the first gay wedding on a US military base. These newlyweds actually met in church – a church that is virulently homophobic. Both remain religious, but are finally able to shed a lifetime of shame and fear. It’s a great time to be in the military.
Tech. Sgt. Erwynn Umali (right) and Will Behrens (left) at the McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst chapel, where their civil union was held on June 23, 2012. [Photo by Jeff Shrugg…many more available on Slate]
Tech. Sgt. Erwynn’s career was nearly threatened when their congregation staged a terrifying ‘anti-gay intervention’.
The secrecy of the relationship began to wear on Will. He started to make excuses for not attending church. This left the congregation without a choir director and raised red flags, in the community and with his wife, that something was wrong. On Feb. 17, 2010, when Will came home from work, all of the lights in his house were on. He saw several familiar cars parked out front. His father, who lived two hours away, was waiting for him in the street.
Terror mounted in Will as he walked into his living room with his father. There, he found his wife, three pastors from the church, and one of the pastors’ wives. Will backed into a corner as the others sat around him. After an opening prayer and a heavy silence, one of the pastors turned to Will. “I don’t know how else to say this,” he prefaced. “Is there something going on with you and Erwynn?”
Will told the truth. “Yes,” he said. His wife jumped up and ran out of the room, followed by the pastor’s wife. Will knew what was coming next: They would try to “cure” him and save his marriage. But he was done pretending. “I can’t do this anymore,” he said. He walked out of the house and got into his car. The group chased him down the block and called him on his phone, urging him to come back to the house. Instead, he drove away. He texted Erwynn: “I’m coming home.”
Will’s life had exploded. But the hiding wasn’t over. Under the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, Erwynn could lose his job if anyone reported to his commanding officer that he was gay. If an investigation was opened, irrespective of his job performance, he could be discharged, just like 14,500 other servicemen and -women purged under DADT. Will collected two carloads of possessions and took them to Erwynn’s one-bedroom apartment. There, they began their life together in cloistered isolation, not knowing how long they’d have to maintain their secret.
There is still a lot of work to do to truly provide equality for LGBT couples. Nearly every dual-military gay and lesbian relationship has a built in death-clock. It needs to be fixed! Unfortunately, transphobic issues aren’t even on the DoD’s radar, other than ad-hom snipes at Bradley Manning. That being said, clearly progress is being made. Let’s send all the bigots into the closet… muttering their epithets under their breath rather than into the microphone.
Note to bigots: You’re the freak now.