[Editor?s Note: Northern Lights welcomes guest post submissions such as this one. Please click on ?Blog Yourself? in the masthead for more details. Submit posts to submissions[at]ldslights.org. As with all posts, the view presented is that of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of all blog contributors. This is guest post was submitted by FoxyJ. She blogs at foxyj.blogspot.com. She’s been married to Master Fob for nearly 6 years and they have two children.]
In a recent editorial in the New York Times, Stephen Benjamin describes how he and a friend were both recently dismissed from their posts as Arabic-language translators in the Navy. Stephen Benjamin is gay. While many of his comrades knew about his orientation, once the military found out, he was dismissed from service in accordance with the ?don?t ask, don?t tell? guidelines currently in place. As Benjamin points out, the wisdom of dismissing so many highly-skilled servicemen during a time of war is becoming more and more suspect. It turns out that ?don?t ask, don?t tell? may actually be harmful to the military.
One night when my husband and I were dating, we attended the temple, and then stopped on the way home to talk. He told me that he had always felt attracted to men and not to women. I wasn?t sure how to react. We discussed his feelings briefly; he assured me that he had never acted on his feelings, had undergone counseling, and was ready to get married. After that initial conversation we unofficially instituted a ?don?t ask, don?t tell? policy in our relationship. There were several points during our engagement when I could tell that he was struggling, but he didn?t tell me what was going on. I didn?t know what to ask, so I didn?t. We got married, we attended Evergreen conference twice, and occasionally had superficial conversations that mostly managed to sidestep the issue. When I discovered that he had been looking at gay pornography on our computer, I didn?t say anything. For a while we engaged in a competition to see who could erase the browser history before the other one noticed. The issue only came up when I kept pressuring him to attend the temple with me. He didn?t want to, we had a brief exchange about the reasons (I think we even avoided the word ?pornography?), and I left the issue alone.
On the surface, it seemed like ?don?t ask, don?t tell? was working for our marriage. We told ourselves that it was, but the secrets soon started eroding our foundation. My husband grew more distant, confiding more and more of his feelings in friends because he couldn?t talk to me. I grew more frustrated and angry because I could feel him slipping away and didn?t know what to do to about it. We finally reached a point where he decided that marriage was not what he wanted out of life; in a way, I can see where he was coming from. The kind of marriage we were stuck in was not the kind of life people should have. But then something changed. He decided that honesty was a better policy. He started to tell, and I started to ask. We are starting a journey of renegotiation and renewing trust. Unburdening our secrets to each other has strengthened our intimacy. I have discovered that a person who is completely closed off leaves no open spaces through which others can enter. Asking and telling are scary, but they are also necessary for growth.
The US military?s current policy places homosexuals in a difficult position. Even though many are eager to serve their country, they are either discouraged from joining or are forced to hide to live a life of secrecy. For many who do decide to serve, the secrecy becomes unbearable. The unofficial reaction of their comrades is usually supportive, but the official reaction is unyielding: being homosexual and being in the military are incompatible. Many would come to a similar conclusion about mixed-orientation marriages. We tried to make our marriage work using the same sort of compromise; if the issue was difficult to deal with, we simply wouldn?t talk about it. However, like most people in the military are learning, the benefits to be gained from talking about ourselves far outweigh the imagined dangers that keep us locked in ?don?t ask, don?t tell.?