by Ariana Bostian-Kentes
That is my introductory sentence that I rehearsed over and over again in my head before attending my first meeting at the Michigan Military Family Support Forum last October. I had sent a nervous email to the facilitator when I first heard about the group, asking whether the inclusive language used in the posting really was meant to be inclusive (spouses, significant others, children, parents and relatives). I actually saw myself in the description; for once it wasn’t limited to military dependents or wives or husbands… But I had to know whether or not it was a mistake. Had I actually found a space where I, as an unmarried, same-sex partner of a Soldier, was welcome? Yes; the facilitator let me know there weren’t any other same-sex partners in the group but to come anyway. My partner had just deployed less than a month prior and I was feeling more alone than I ever had in my life. I needed this – I needed to talk to other people who knew what this lonely, frantic, desperate feeling was like. There had to be someone there who I could sit with face-to-face and who would get it.
Now that the first hurdle was jumped, I had to actually find the courage to attend. I envisioned a room full of military wives who would all welcome me when I entered but as soon as it was time for introductions, all bets would be off. I’d introduce myself as a “partner” and use “she” when talking about my other half and they’d look at me funny and slowly scoot their chairs away from mine, leaving me out of the conversations and out of the community…again. I debated with myself for days and made excuse after excuse not to go. Then I remembered the LGBT partners out there who don’t have the resources or the support system of people that I do – the ones who haven’t found others yet. Not everyone has a group of LGBT military partners on speed dial if they need someone to talk to at all hours of the night. I asked myself a question that I often ask my students when they’re considering coming out to their families: what is the worst case scenario and if that is what happens, will you be able to handle it?