(Image: Author and OUT Ally Family, Ms. Elise Thomasson, her husband, Capt Chris Weimer, with their daughter, Iris and their dog, Ivy at the LGBT-Inclusive Memorial at NM Veterans Memorial in Albuquerque, NM. You can read about the memorial here.)
OUT Ally Spouses must continue to speak for our transgender service members, since they cannot yet speak for themselves for fear of getting discharged. There are about 6000 trans military personnel who cannot yet serve openly, and DADT is still in effect for them. We can help change things by continuing to speak OUT for them, just like we spoke for the inclusion of LGB military personnel.
OUT Ally Spouses save lives. We live in a community of high risk of suicide, as both LGBT persons and military personnel have higher rates of suicide ideation. The ensuing Venn diagram for suicide risk, LGBT military personnel, is terrifying. LGBT persons are at high risk due to lack of support. We can be that support! I have personally intervened with two suicide attempts, and another person told me later that he was in a dark place, but kept coming to our GSA parties because I made him feel better, and he hung on. Unless you are OUT, how will someone know they can talk to you?
OUT Ally Spouses can find resources. Discrimination hurts, and not everyone has the energy to combat such discrimination all the time, and especially not during a crisis. OUT Ally Spouses don’t have such discrimination leveled at them, and so they have more intact emotional wherewithal to find appropriate resources. There is a lot of work to do: Not all chaplains will give pastoral care to LGBT service members or their family members. Even those ready to help may not have the training, and so OUT military spouses can call and find the best MFLC, the best MWR contact, and the best Key Spouse. And do spread the word when you find a treasure. For example, those coming to the A&FRC or the Family Advocacy at Kirtland AFB can feel confident of receiving competent and caring service. I spent some time making phone calls while at my last base in order to give other people a break. Tell your local OUTServe and Spouses’ Clubs that you can do legwork!
OUT Ally Spouses set the tone and serve as role models. Unfairly, some people label LGBT persons as defensive or angry simply because they stick up for themselves. But that’s not the case when Allies speak up. We can question the use of “gay” as a pejorative statement without being read as defensive. We educate anti-gay persons on the realities of current behaviors. Most importantly, we show other LGBT-supportive people how to advocate for equality through language and action. While talking about this blog post, I asked the husband what he thought. He said that he believed that an OUT Ally voice was integral to changing the culture of his office. An all-around great guy, he stood up for LGBT persons along with equality for the women he worked with, and his advocacy showed in a big culture change. It takes both LGBT and Ally voices to shift the paradigm, and OUT Ally spouses can be part of that positive change.
OUT Ally Spouses benefit, too. Of course, I started doing LGBT rights in order to serve others, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t state an unintended result: I benefited, too. I made strong, lasting friendships through this work. Since there are LGBT persons in all walks of life, I made a surprisingly broad and useful network that I could call on for career and family advice. Supporting marriage equality for others brought new perspective to my own marriage and helped our relationship blossom. My daughter has amazing role models in her life, and will grow up knowing that she can be anything she wants to be because her parents have shown themselves to be supportive.
Everyone benefits when a military spouse is an OUT Ally!