As a committed and patriotic partner of a gay servicemember who has served a tour in Iraq and is preparing to deploy to Afghanistan, one word best sums up my experience: INVISIBLE.
To an entire branch of our government, I do not exist. I am in a loving, devoted relationship with a brave service member who, with courage and my sacrifice and support, has fought for our country on the ground in Iraq. But his family -- our family, means nothing to the leaders of our nation. In fact, if the Department of Defense learned of our relationship, my partner would be subject to investigation, prosecution and a possible dishonorable discharge: consequences severe enough to ruin his entire future.
While my partner serves our country during these wars, I receive no benefits (medical benefits, family separation allowance, etc); I cannot access the family and spousal resources on the military base out of which he serves, or take part in military family events. I have no access to "military spouse" support groups and networks. When my partner graduated from military training and when he left for Iraq I had to stand on the sidelines -- to vanish, disappear from his life and pretend I did not know him. I was proud to see him off, but heartbroken that I could not give him a hug and what could have been a final kiss goodbye.
These are just a few examples of how invisible I feel, and how invisible I remain.