On May 13 we will be celebrating Mother's Day, recognizing all the wonderful mothers across our country. Whether it is by taking our moms to their favorite restaurant, calling them on the phone, or remembering those who have passed, this will be a special holiday for many. As a mother I've looked forward to this day each year since our son was born. However, at the same time, I am aware that this special holiday is somewhat tarnished for me -- tarnished with the realization of inequality.
My partner of 14 years is an active-duty military member. We lived many years under "don't ask, don't tell" (DADT), and now that the ban has been lifted, we can finally live as a family... or can we? Thanks in part to the misleadingly named Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the military does not acknowledge me as a spouse, nor do they acknowledge me as our child's mother. The only recognition I receive is the status of "caregiver." When I drive on base, I have special identification that says "caregiver." When I take our son to MWR events, I have to sign in as "caregiver." This one word, whether spoken or written, pierces my heart when I have to use it to describe my relationship to our son. All I want is to be recognized for what I am: his mother. After all, I've been here the whole time. I was there when he was conceived, I was there through the pregnancy and delivery, and I was there through good times and bad. I load the minivan and take him to gymnastics, swim lessons, and play dates. I am the one who will hold him when he cries as his mommy deploys again. But most importantly, I love him unconditionally, not as a caregiver but as his momma.
Finally some recognition...
On Thursday, May 10, I attended a Mother's Day Tea at the White House hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama. To my knowledge, this is the first time same-sex partners and spouses of military personnel have been invited to this annual event openly. I must say, this was the first time in 14 years I truly felt like I was a part of the military community. Not once did I have to shy away, lie, or avoid the fact I am the partner of a United States soldier. I will always have special memories from that day, but the best part of the event was meeting Mrs. Obama. I looked in the First Lady's eyes while shaking her hand and thanked her for inviting me, but most importantly thanking President Obama for ending DADT, and for his support of the LGBT community. I assured her that "we," the partners of gay and lesbian service members, truly appreciate what he has done for our families.
Words can't describe how honored and humbled I am to have attended such a prestigious event. While representing the American Military Partner Association, the thousands of others who are part of the LGBT military community were constantly on my mind throughout the event. While sitting there among other military spouses, I couldn't help but think of other partners and spouses of LGBT service members wishing they, too, could be a part of this event. I thought about my friend Anacelly, whose Navy wife just deployed to Afghanistan less than a week ago. Then I thought of Jim, who has been separated from his partner for over a year. Lastly, I thought of Meredith, mother of three and partner of a soldier, preparing for an upcoming move to a new duty station in a new state, on top of her partner's possible deployment. These are just a few of our stories, which sound like the "typical" life of a military spouse. However, these stories are anything but "typical." Like me, Anacelly and Meredith are considered just "caregivers" for their children, who are military dependents. Jim's partner is on a two-year assignment in Japan. If the military recognized Jim, as it should, and sponsored him for the overseas duty station like they do for heterosexual spouses, he could have accompanied his partner, and they would not be separated.
I hope this event and events to come include more LGBT military families. We are very loyal, dedicated, and proud partners of our men and women in uniform. Many argue that we want "special rights," which is farthest from the truth. All we want is to be an integral part of the military community, to be acknowledged and appreciated by having the same rights as our heterosexual counterparts.
Follow Ashley Broadway on Twitter: www.twitter.com/LGBTMilPartners