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July 17, 2012 6:19 AM   Subscribe

“I never thought I’d be able dance with a man like this on a military installation.” Erwynn and Will: The unlikely story of the first gay military union.
posted by like_neon (40 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
I thought the Marines were always "first in," but I guess they are also "last out" too, so it figures.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:35 AM on July 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Works for me. My one consideration when it comes to a person in uniform is would they take a bullet for the person next to them? If the answer is "yes," then I don't care about race, color, creed, religion, sex/gender or sexuality.

We're getting there.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:07 AM on July 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm not supposed to be crying (with happiness) at work, thanks for nothing. It was the kids giving them away who put me over the top.

though is it horrible that I was thinking that their relationship (especially the early parts, the relationship with the church, etc) would make a great made-for-tv movie? With a happy ending, of course.
posted by jb at 7:09 AM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I just came here to post this! But I had to take a few extra minutes to stop crying :) So wonderful.
posted by gaspode at 7:09 AM on July 17, 2012


As someone married to one....it's always the choir director.

Always.
posted by The Whelk at 7:11 AM on July 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


Coming out on base was much easier than Erwynn expected. Right after the repeal of DADT, his squadron held a farewell luncheon for him before he began a special duty assignment. In front of 40 of his fellow airmen, Erwynn announced that he wanted to thank a particular person for support and encouragement in helping him succeed. Everyone assumed he was referring to a colleague. Instead, he announced that this person was his partner and fiance, Will Behrens. Two beats of dead silence were followed by a standing ovation.

I pretty much lost it after that.
posted by like_neon at 7:13 AM on July 17, 2012 [12 favorites]


Great story!!!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:18 AM on July 17, 2012


It's really interesting that the aunts in the story are all "ooh, we don't approve of homosexuality and gay marriage and OMG I hope they don't kiss in front of the children" and then turn right around and say "....and we got them [some kind of risque sex toy thing] as a present" and "well, homosexuality is a sin but so is divorce, and we're all divorced".

Now, you can put that down to hypocrisy, but I think it's adaptability. I'm not entirely sure that trying to have all your mental systems be internally consistent all the time is really conducive to happiness or kindness.
posted by Frowner at 7:18 AM on July 17, 2012 [21 favorites]


This just made my day, seriously.
posted by Karmeliet at 7:25 AM on July 17, 2012


Frowner, there is no way on Earth that Aunties are going to miss a wedding, regardless of gender.
posted by The Whelk at 7:34 AM on July 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


Wonderful story, and one I really though I'd never live to see. And so we edge just a teensy bit closer to a better world for everyone.
posted by kinnakeet at 7:39 AM on July 17, 2012


Delightful. I'm so very hopeful that by this time next year we'll have had the various marital equal rights cases argued in front of the Supremes and will get a result consistent with most of the decisions thus far: that excluding a whole group of people from the same health and survivor benefits - and the 1000+ other benefits we hetero married folks take for granted - just based on a chromosome pair is wrong.

Maybe when more people see cases like this and think about how this man, who has signed on to be in harm's way on all our behalves, deserves to know that his loved one will be taken care of if something happens to him.
posted by phearlez at 7:42 AM on July 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wonderful, thank you so much for posting this.

And yeah, the conservative aunties with the risque sex toy thing was kind of priceless.
posted by corb at 7:43 AM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


My one consideration when it comes to a person in uniform is would they take a bullet for the person next to them?

What about the question: are they employed by an organization that exists to promote US empire through methods that include the murder of non-combatants in illegal wars of aggression?

It's ironic that the story notes there is little to suggest that Umali would find himself "on the progressive side of a culture war" but doesn't seem much interested in analyzing whether he's on the "progressive" side of a very different kind of war.
posted by layceepee at 7:45 AM on July 17, 2012


"There's no gay-borhood in South Jersey"

Well the seaside and Robobeth Beach are like ...right there in the summer and Philadelphia is like a hour away, max but whatever.
posted by The Whelk at 7:46 AM on July 17, 2012


It's ironic that the story notes there is little to suggest that Umali would find himself "on the progressive side of a culture war" but doesn't seem much interested in analyzing whether he's on the "progressive" side of a very different kind of war.

liberal says other liberals aren't liberaling enough, film at 11
posted by mightygodking at 7:52 AM on July 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


Frowner, I had a really interesting conversation with a friend of mine about that sort of thing. She married another friend of ours from a missionary Southern Baptist family in Arkansas (whose dad, coincidentally, then came out himself). It's been challenging for her to relate to his mother, in particular, because her identity in her faith and conservatism supersedes everything else. Consequently (and this is no surprise to anyone reading this, I'm sure), she contradicts herself ALL THE TIME.

My friend and her MIL were out at Starbucks once and her MIL made a point of saying how nice the young male barista was, but that she refused to give him a tip because he had a nose piercing. Incidentally, my friend is a perfectly lovely lady who happens to have mostly-purple hair. I wish I could remember some of the crazier examples but I may have been drunk that night. But the MIL could absolutely not fathom any other way of life, even though it's clear that most of her pillars made no sense in the world in which she lives.

So the image of those aunts really clicked with me. I guess it's a start. I was actually pretty surprised that they cheerfully admitted how they knew it didn't make sense.

Faith is a pretty powerful thing, though, and it brought these men together in the first place.

Darn these allergies.
posted by Madamina at 7:52 AM on July 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


I used to consider myself a dyed-in-the-wool queer activist who thought marriage was an okay goal for others but even though I was (almost always) in long term relationships, they were still perpetuating the patriarchy...yadda yadda. But as I mellow with age*, I'm a HUGE sucker for gays-in-the-military love stories. The only thing that provokes a stronger reaction is the stories of gays and lesbians who have been together longer than I've been alive finally able to get married.

They say that people get less liberal/more conservative as they age, but I like to think it's that I just start caring more about other people.

* Being susceptible to this particular case of the weeps may or may not have something to do with being called "Uncle Mike" for the first time this weekend by my sister-in-law's kids, like it was no big thing. It's the little things that catch you off guard and you don't realize that you care about such things until suddenly they do.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:59 AM on July 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


And yes, in in ideal world neither the institution of marriage or military would exist but LOOK HOW CUTE OMG THEY HAVE AWESOME KIDS *Cheek Pinch*
posted by The Whelk at 8:04 AM on July 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Coming out on base was much easier than Erwynn expected. Right after the repeal of DADT, his squadron held a farewell luncheon for him before he began a special duty assignment. In front of 40 of his fellow airmen, Erwynn announced that he wanted to thank a particular person for support and encouragement in helping him succeed. Everyone assumed he was referring to a colleague. Instead, he announced that this person was his partner and fiance, Will Behrens. Two beats of dead silence were followed by a standing ovation.

Can we take everyone who said things like "herp derp unit cohesion will suffer" in opposition to basic humanity, and put them in stocks in the town square for an afternoon? Just a few hours. I'll bring the tomatoes.
posted by stevis23 at 8:28 AM on July 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


Coming out on base was much easier than Erwynn expected. Right after the repeal of DADT, his squadron held a farewell luncheon for him before he began a special duty assignment. In front of 40 of his fellow airmen, Erwynn announced that he wanted to thank a particular person for support and encouragement in helping him succeed. Everyone assumed he was referring to a colleague. Instead, he announced that this person was his partner and fiance, Will Behrens. Two beats of dead silence were followed by a standing ovation.

YAAAAY!
posted by samofidelis at 8:30 AM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


The chaplain, Kay Reeb, asks, “Who giveth these grooms away?” It’s an awkward question. Neither man’s parents are here to represent the previous generation. So the union will be blessed by the next generation. The kids form a huddle in front of their dads. Will and Erwynn pretend to look nervous. “We do!” the kids shout in unison. The audience giggles and cheers.

The kids are all right.
posted by echocollate at 8:41 AM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I cried.

And I'm also simultaneously mad that we live in a society where we still have gay men feeling like they have to suppress this part of themselves, get married to women, make babies like Adam and Eve and then...divorce in a messy sad way after coming out.

What I'm looking forward to is the day when young men can just be gay and not feel like God needs them to fix or hide this part of themselves. And I want to thank these two men for moving us a few giant steps in that direction, because not only are they a military family, they are a religious family. As much beef as I have with religion, I think it's here with us for a looooong long time, and I'm looking forward to seeing it be shaped by the reality of who and how people actually are.
posted by bilabial at 8:45 AM on July 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


The honor guard—a ceremonial unit that can be requested by members of the military for special occasions—enters the chapel, takes its position, and raises swords in an arch over the aisle. The Black Eyed Peas’ “Tonight’s Gonna Be a Good Night” starts to play. The boys don aviator shades, and each kid takes a turn dancing down the aisle. The grooms go last.

This is awesome. Period.
posted by mrbill at 8:46 AM on July 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Aw, bless! They are adorable! It's so encouraging to see that both of them have some family support, whether extended or immediate. We're not there yet, but the aunts are a big step!
posted by snorkmaiden at 9:10 AM on July 17, 2012


In front of 40 of his fellow airmen, Erwynn announced that he wanted to thank a particular person for support and encouragement in helping him succeed. Everyone assumed he was referring to a colleague. Instead, he announced that this person was his partner and fiance, Will Behrens. Two beats of dead silence were followed by a standing ovation.

Yeah, gives you a warm fuzzy about human nature and group acceptance, don't it? And a very clear picture of why the biggest fights the haters have are over anything resembling integration and public acceptance.

The die-hard antis won't change their opinion and they'll always be around, just like they are over color or religion. But the vast majority of innocently ignorant folks aren't going to have their image of gays relationships as so weird or gross when they see people they respect/trust/like/value being just like every straight couple they know. Having them on tv helped, but having them in the next pew or sitting next to you in class means the ignorant can't assume they're being snowed by liberal hollywood, or whatever.
posted by phearlez at 9:25 AM on July 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Sweet story and definitely made me tear up.
posted by leslies at 10:28 AM on July 17, 2012


I am tickled this happened where it did. I haunted was stationed in Lakehurst awhile.
posted by Goofyy at 10:32 AM on July 17, 2012


I gave up on the article after the first page but when I came in here and saw all the gooey comments I gave it another chance, and of course, now I'm sitting here at work trying to blink the tears back.

I am so grateful for the incredible strides we are making towards acceptance. My wife's parents wouldn't come to our (same-sex) wedding. Now, 8 years later, they come to stay to watch our kids and never miss a birthday or holiday. The world is changing for the better - and we all get to be part of that. Extraordinary!
posted by widdershins at 12:36 PM on July 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Yeah, pretty much the same already quoted paragraph hit me in this article, and then it kept going. There are so many details in here which resonate with me, likely with anyone who has lived as an out gay person for any length of time.

This article is truly a wonderful document, and I'm so glad you posted it.
posted by hippybear at 7:32 PM on July 17, 2012


The Black Eyed Peas’ “Tonight’s Gonna Be a Good Night” starts to play.

Gaaaa. It's named "I Gotta Feeling".
posted by hippybear at 8:22 PM on July 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


So there's a guy in the comments there (I know, I know) who was basically going "and this is why they're bad". I wanted so much to reply to him with "please explain why this is bad without using any quotes from Leviticus", but that just struck me as terribly trollish.

And frankly, a story all about that happiness they're getting deserved, at the very least, one person saying "I am not going to troll, I am just going to be happy about people being happy".
posted by mephron at 9:54 PM on July 17, 2012


Aww… people in love! Getting married! With family members there to support them and cheer them on, even if they're contradicting themselves (do they contradict themselves? very well then, they contradict themselves. they are large, they contain multitudes)! And respect from their colleagues, and… Okay, big sappy moosh getting sniffly here.
posted by Lexica at 10:20 PM on July 17, 2012


It seems to me that, just as in the civilian community, as older generations depart and leave new people in charge, change is accepted; its simply more obvious when change occurs in the military, because the rules aren't unwritten social mores: they're Congressionally-mandated laws. And while most young military members don't personally give a rat's ass about who's allowed to marry whom, it's the old dudes in Congress that still wield the power and make the law the young guys have to live under.
posted by easily confused at 8:44 AM on July 18, 2012


US army allows uniforms in gay pride parade: 'US service members are allowed to march in uniform in a gay pride parade for the first time in U.S. history.'

Dammit, headline editor, don't you even look at the photo?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:45 AM on July 20, 2012


Dammit, headline editor, don't you even look at the photo?

I don't think tee-shirts and shorts are considered "in uniform".
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:37 PM on July 20, 2012


I read the criticism as being of the choice to write "US Army", since the policy is apparently now that US service members, not just Army soldiers, can wear their uniforms in Pride parades.
posted by Lexica at 2:09 PM on July 20, 2012


While I am eternally peeved at the stylistic choice to use 'army' to refer to the entire armed forces of a nation, I was more annoyed at the use when the people in the photo are clearly sailors, and thus the Navy should recieve credit.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 12:36 PM on July 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


A Year on, Marines Divided on Repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:52 PM on August 6, 2012


FP: Our First Openly Gay General
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:10 PM on August 10, 2012


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