Meet EJ: Military Spouse and LGBTQ+ Advocate
Submitted as part of our Do Ask. Do Tell. Cause Campaign. Read More →
Q: What does Only Human mean to you?
A: Only Human means that at the end of the day, we are all the same and should be treated and regarded as equally valuable, and beautiful. It means recognizing and embracing the absolute wonder of our potential, while also accepting that we will inevitably have missteps and learning curves along the way. We are exquisitely imperfect. We’re only human.
Q: How would you describe being the spouse of a Marine Corps officer? What are the best and the most challenging parts?
A: The best part of being a Marine spouse, by far, is being part of the larger military community. The Marine Corps brings people together from all walks of life, and as a result, you get to meet some of the most diverse and interesting people you could ever imagine. Additionally, we try to take care of one another and look out for each other almost immediately upon meeting -- it’s actually quite analogous to what I’ve experienced in the LGBTQ+ community.
Being a Marine spouse is interesting because while being a Marine remains her profession, much of my life is impacted by the demands of that profession, such as moving every couple of years and enduring long periods of separation. I am grateful for all the advances in technology, however, that make being apart much more bearable than previously.
The worst part of being a Marine spouse, I think, is moving so frequently. There is an inherent lack of stability, and as a working professional myself, it is difficult to balance my own professional aspirations with the needs of the Marine Corps. I am a licensed mental health counselor, and with every move, I need to reapply and transfer my license to that state. I am presently licensed in 4 states and I’m working on a fifth (North Carolina).
Q: What is the most rewarding and challenging part of being a LGBTQ+ military family?
A: The most rewarding part about being an LGBTQ+ military family is the community of friends and allies -- most of whom we’ve come to know through various duty stations, through my own work, and through organizations like MMAA. The military community in general has a special bond. But belonging to a smaller, marginalized community forges those bonds even deeper, it seems. The reason is related to the most challenging part of being an LGBTQ+ military family. Meeting new people and trying to make new friends always comes with the risk of rejection, or fear that people’s views may actually more align with policies such as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell or even the ban on transgender military service.
Q: What is it like being part of both the LGBTQ+ community and military community?
A: I am so proud to be part of both of these communities. Each one has its own legacy. It is a pleasure and privilege to work in support of the LGBTQ+ community and the military community through various forms of advocacy. It’s particularly fulfilling, however, when the work supports these intersecting communities. That’s why I’m so passionate about supporting MMAA.
Q: How did you feel and what did it mean to you when transgender military personnel, members of both the LGBTQ+ community and military family, were being dismissed after the transgender military ban?
A: I remember the exact moment I heard about the transgender military ban. I was working for the Marine Corps at the time and I was in the breakroom getting my coffee and all of a sudden my phone starts lighting up with text and facebook messages. At the same moment, the news anchor on the tv starts covering the “breaking news story” as well. I stood there staring at the TV-- first in disbelief, then in disgust. Being in mental health and working with transgender individuals professionally, I’ve read the research regarding transgender service and healthcare. I knew this ban rooted entirely in prejudice. It felt like we were going backwards; back towards the days of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and DOMA. I will be so grateful and relieved when the ban is reversed.
Q: What will it mean to you when the transgender military ban is reversed?
A: When the ban on transgender military service is reversed, I believe it will be a victory for the entire LGBTQ+ community. It means that transgender individuals seeking to serve their country through the military will be allowed to do so. That in and of itself is a beautiful thing. I hope it also means that transgender service members will have the opportunity to serve just as any other service member. Right now, every transgender service member unjustly bears the responsibility of demonstrating the value of the entire trans community to the military.
Q: What will the reversal of the transgender military ban mean for our country?
A: I think the reversal of the transgender military ban means that our country will be defended by the absolute best, brightest and most qualified service members. Opening service to individuals based on their abilities and desire to serve, and not on erroneous, politicized factors can only strengthen. I also believe that it will be an important and symbolic step towards righting an egregious wrong. I hope that step sets the tone for our country to take pride in building strength through diversity.
Q: How can the community support LGBTQ+ individuals that are currently serving in our armed forces or veterans?
A: Being an engaged citizen is the number one way, I believe, for the community to support LGBTQ+ service members and veterans. Even in the smallest of local elections, ask about LGBTQ+ policies. Before you donate to an organization that claims to support military families, service members or veterans, ask if that includes all military families, all service members and all veterans-- including LGBTQ+. And then make your decisions according to your conscience. It’s important to ask, be vocal and deliberate in your support so that people know that LGBTQ+ issues are important.