He and she are not supposed to even be there, but they are. Moreover, like their comrades, most queers on duty in the Persian Gulf have lovers and partners at home anxious about their welfare, yet neither these soldiers and sailors nor those who most love them and now wait for them here can show that they care for each other.
The NYTimes yesterday:
At a time when thousands of Americans are planning for the return of their loved ones from the Middle East, there is a subset that remains largely invisible. The government's "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which forbids gays in the military to be open about their sexual orientation, has caused an unknown number of couples to have their farewells behind closed doors, to plan similarly discreet homecomings and, in the time between, to resort to sterile or anonymous messages as a way of staying in touch.
With their hearts and lives in upheaval, the gay partners of troops in the gulf voice frustration that they have not received the benefits that married couples get, or the same level of emotional support.
What follows are excerpts from the stories of two couples. The first:
A woman in the Northeast, whose lesbian partner of eight years is an officer on a ship that has been at war, does not have access to family briefings offered at the nearby base on the status of the ship's crew. But even if she did, "I wouldn't be comfortable going there: I'd be worried about what questions would be asked of me."
She is also troubled by the thought that if her partner was incapacitated, she would not be the first person contacted by the military. "We've got to navigate through this crazy system virtually alone," she said.
The second story is that of a Washington lawyer, partner for five years of a soldier now deployed in the gulf, who describes the difficulties which cannot be overcome by their planning, their wills and mutual powers of attorney.
"It wasn't a goodbye kiss at the base like I saw on TV for so many other people," the lawyer said. "We've learned to make adjustments."
Since the soldier departed for his current duty, his partner has felt left out, even among professional colleagues whose spouses are overseas, because he has to remain protective of his partner's anonimity.
The lawyer was plainly eager to tell his story, but spent several minutes making sure that any account he gave a reporter would be scrubbed of details that could identify the partner.
In daily e-mail messages, the lawyer said, he must choose his words carefully, and avoid gender references. He does not end those messages with his name.
"I write it and I censor it as I go along," he said. "But I say 'I love you.'"