American Heroes

I’ve written before about my experience serving in the pre-DADT military, and the status of lesbian & gay service members has continued to be cause near and dear to my heart. In the days before & during DADT, the military was a less-than-welcoming place for LGBT service members. Those who served lived with the constant fear of “outing” and investigation, arrest, courts martial, and sometimes even physical attack. In every case, discovery meant certain expulsion from the military, regardless of one’s record of service or ability, and the less-than-honorable discharge would become a proverbial scarlet letter, affecting employment and one’s standing in the community forever.

For those who remained in the military, the ever-present fear kept them firmly entrenched in the closet, unable to speak openly or acknowledge their own families in public. I wrote a short story a few years back about a lesbian soldier whose partner endured the indignities of military send-offs and welcome home ceremonies that never allowed for the emotional connections or public displays of affection afforded to their straight counterparts. One didn’t risk a kiss or tender touch, let alone expect to be treated with the same dignity as other military spouses upon your wife or husband’s death. That was just the way it was.

Then history shifted. DADT was repealed in 2011, but standing federal law still prevented recognition of LGBT patriots’ families. Just before DOMA fell in 2013, I received a letter from an Army National Guard Sergeant, who had read my first novel about a lesbian serving in the military. AJ had already completed a tour of duty in Iraq, and was preparing for yet another deployment to Afghanistan with her unit. We struck up an email correspondence in the ensuing months, comparing notes on the military’s progress and the progress still needed. She shared her fears that her family wouldn’t be taken care of should something happen to her, because marriage still hadn’t been possible prior to her deployment. It angered and saddened me to hear her story, knowing there were so many others like AJ, serving our country in the midst of a war zone, yet still unable to quite find that elusive security for their families.  

 DOMA was struck down while AJ was deployed. Soon afterward, policies were revised that would protect military families. More states repealed their laws to either allow same-sex marriage or to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states. This month, Virginia became the latest state to recognize other state’s marriages. Virginia. That just happens to be AJ’s home state. Her Guard Unit hails from the Commonwealth of Virginia and they were leaving Afghanistan any day. The symbolism was something I couldn’t ignore. Sometimes fate is pretty cool. But expressions of love are profound.

1960320_581351918619000_935343532_nOn Saturday, The 1710th Transportation Company arrived home in Virginia to the cheers of their loved ones. Facebook was flooded with joyous and loving pictures of many reunions, with one that stuck out like a beacon in the night. In the crowd stood a woman proudly holding up a large hand-made sign that said: “My wife is MY American Hero.” She stood there among the other wives and husbands without fear or reservation of any kind because this was her right, to stand there beaming with pride, awaiting her soldier. Her wife. The image and its significance brought tears to my eyes. Catie’s one simple act of love and devotion. A brilliant testament to a human victory finally won.

The march of equality moves on. Welcome home to all our American Heroes.

Indeed.

Thanks for reading. Peace~ LM

 

Rebound is coming!

Sapphire Books 2014
Sapphire Books 2014

Women’s basketball star Conner Maguire has the world by the tail. She’s at the top of her game, in demand, and life is good. One day the unthinkable happens and her world is ripped apart. That split second event forces Conner to re-evaluate her entire existence. A beautiful warrior with a shattered heart and incomparable spirit may be the key to conquering her fears, if Conner can open her heart enough to see the world from a new perspective.

The Different at the Lammy’s

I was in New York last week for the amazing honor of being a finalist at the Lambda Literary Awards. The nomination, my first-ever trip to New York City, and sharing the company of so many gifted writers, were experiences that I will long remember. Little did I know the most important lesson I would come to learn had little to do with the awards and everything to do with humanity and real strength.

My nephew met Sandy and I at our hotel. He made the nine-hour bus trip to support me and I was thrilled to have him with us. Because we live so far apart, I rarely see Chris, and it’s rarer still that I have the opportunity to observe him simply going through his day. Chris suffered a spinal cord injury as a young child, and uses a wheelchair to get around. He’s luckier than some because he has the use of his upper body, but still the simple act of traversing a city block is a challenge that I had never realized until spending the day with him. I lost track of how many times the ‘cuts’ in the corner curbs, designed to be ramps for the disabled, were blocked by piles of garbage, parked cars, dumpsters, or even clueless, able-bodied people oblivious to his attempt to cross the street. I was appalled at the number of businesses in the city had only stairs to access them. It made me angry for him. On more than one occasion, I watched taxi drivers look directly at him, his arm raised to hail them, and they drove right by. They made my blood boil.

And then I realized something amazing. Chris was always smiling. The injustices I witnessed and reacted to were things that I guess are commonplace to him. He noticed my irritation and said, “It’s okay. I’m used to it. We just do the best we can; either figure out a way around the problem—or not.” From that moment, I began to watch in wonder at the positive way he interacted with the world around him. He always sought the bright side of everything, and it’s true what they say about getting what you give. I noticed that people around him responded to his positive outlook and beaming smile. I had always known Chris was an athlete and motivational speaker, but to see the way he interacts with everyone he meets was incredible.

At the Lammy’s, Chris made more than a few new friends. To think I had been worried he would be bored at an LGBT Literary event. Ha! Even there, he made easy connections. In his wise way he drew a correlation between the biases endured by LGBT people and those with disabilities. He related a story to a group of attendees about how he’s often told by religious people that they will pray for him. “Pray for me?” Chris said. “What they’re saying is that I’m damaged or unworthy.” How many of us have gotten a similar message because we’re queer? Chris instinctively understood the parallel. “We don’t need their prayers to be fixed, there’s nothing wrong with us.”

Then author Nicola Griffith took the stage to accept her Outstanding Mid-career Writer’s Award. Her words summed up what I had yet to analyze:  “I’ve spent my whole writing life feeling like a stranger in a strange land: the foreigner, the cripple, the queer. But tonight this award says: You belong here. We value who you are and what you do. We see you, we know you, you’re one of us.” Chris squeezed my hand and I realized that was what has really bonded us. Although I’ll never know the difficulty he overcomes daily, being one of the different is the shared experience that makes us the same.

When you get right down to it, isn’t that true of everyone?

Peace~LM

Lynette Mae and Wild Girls, Wild Nights

“Risking it All” is a story that I first began writing about the experiences of a lesbian couple who are both police officers. It’s a unique situation to be the cop taking risks, and at the same time, the wife or girlfriend of the cop, fearing for your lover’s safety. During the course of our careers, my wife and I have had a few instances where we were thrown into some dangerous situations simultaneously. Initially, I had intended to write an action story, focusing on the police drama. But, very quickly, I realized that wasn’t the real story.

This is a tale about two women thrust into a harrowing, life-and-death experience, complicated by the very real danger to the one they love. Duty prevails. The women are professionals who do not hesitate to act. But it’s the aftermath that truly pushes their emotional boundaries. The extremes are amplified—terror and euphoria—action and reaction. Sometimes no words can convey the depth of intensity that translates to pure physical need. Our heroines are living on the edge and risking it all. They live and love with intensity and passion.

Thanks for reading,

~LM

Everyone who posts a comment will automatically be entered into a drawing for a free copy of Wild Girls, Wild Nights!

And hey, if you love stories about lesbians in uniform, living and loving in the midst of danger and suspense, you’ll love the writing of Lynette Mae. LM’s first novel, “Faithful Service, Silent Hearts”, was a 2012 Golden Crown Literary Society Finalist for best dramatic fiction and debut author. Her current release is “Tactical Pursuit”, a 2013 Lambda Literary Award and Golden Crown Literary Award finalist. Both novels are now available from Sapphire Books.