Lesbian Military Engagement by Steph Grant // Katie + Amber
Hey guys! Steph here. I hope you take time to read the Q & A below. I think a lot of people can relate and might need to hear it.
More than anything I love it when people choose to talk openly about topics that are close to their hearts. There are so many times when we feel alone and it gives us hope to hear that there is someone out there going through something similar. That is why I finally chose to share my story with the world. I know by doing this it has made a difference…even if it only helped one person it would be worth it. For most of my life I kept my being gay a secret because I felt I was forced to. Coming out is NOT an option when you grow up in the church. If I didn’t lie about it I would lose so many people that were important in my life and not mention everything that was familiar to me. Certain beliefs were instilled in me from a very young age that made it extremely difficult to come to terms with the fact that it was not a bad thing to BE MYSELF and I was allowed to form my own opinions. There is absolutely no reason to feel shame and guilt for wanting to be happy in a loving relationship. Hiding and lying about who you are is so damaging and ultimately keeps you from being happy. I hope what Katie & Amber share below (and every couple’s love story that I share) touches you as much as it did me. If you know someone who was a lesbian in the military during #DADT who would be brave enough to share their story please email me HERE.
I not so secretly love it when my clients are on board with themed engagement sessions and don’t want the typical “hands forming a heart” pose (not that there is anything wrong with that. Just not my style.) I want to go to airports in small Texas towns and get lost in gigantic airplanes. I want to meet veterans with stories for days that want to take you on a trip in their past. Believe it or not, this happened on Katie & Amber’s engagement session in Lancaster, TX. We met the nicest guy and a couple who was celebrating 50 years of marriage! We chatted with them for awhile and of course I took their photo by one of the planes. They were just the nicest folks. Katie has been fascinated with planes ever since she was a kid and actually builds them for a living. I thought how perfect would it be to have planes in our shoot. Took a bit of planning but it was a success. I love the love you can see in their eyes. I also love that we had brunch mid engagement session so we could regain our strength after playing around in airplanes all morning.
Amber and Katie just recently came into my life and they are two of the greatest. I got a few friends together for a little Promote Love event for #GivingTuesday. We made sandwiches and passed them out within our city to people who were hungry. These two showed up with bags of warm clothes and blankets to pass out too. So happy to have this memory with them. I also drove them down a one way street and managed to get us all out of it unscathed. I like that memory too. Really looking forward to photographing their wedding in April!
1. Tell us a little bit about your time in the military.
Katie: I was 17 when I enlisted into the Navy. I hadn’t even started my senior year of high school, yet I knew it was something I NEEDED and felt overly compelled to do. In 2003, I shipped off to boot camp just outside of Chicago. A quick 8 weeks passed, I graduated, and then started my job training. I was in school for roughly a year and then chose to go to the east coast and be stationed on a ship with about 850 folks. I travelled around a little bit; we went to The Bahamas, Cuba, Spain, Seychelles, Suez Canal, Italy, and a few more. It was a pretty invaluable experience for such a young person. After a couple of years on the ship, I left and got stationed in Fort Worth for my last 2 years. I completed my 6 year enlistment in 2009 and then found my way back into the civilian world. It was pretty much the best decision I’ve made. I feel that one decision paved the way for my life and my career.
2. How did you feel when don’t ask don’t tell was repealed and the LGBT community was finally allowed to join and openly serve in the military?
Katie: That was such a weird time for me. I’m one of the most patriotic people you’ll ever meet, for real. In saying that, how do I describe to you what it feels like to want to live for something other than myself, to want to protect my friends and family, to want to serve a country that I love unconditionally and one that supposedly loves me back… but with conditions? They love the fact that I volunteered to give my life for the cause of a greater good, but they didn’t love the fact that I loved women. There’s no describing that feeling. I can’t explain how many times I felt stupid for being a part of something that wanted nothing to do with me. Well, let me rephrase that. They wanted me, but not all of me. Imagine going to work knowing that at any time you could be fired because someone found out you had a date with a woman the night before. It causes someone to be a recluse. It makes people lie. It forces people to be deceiving. It even made people kill themselves, much like our world today where we’re surrounded by folks that feel as though we’re doing something disgraceful.
My whole time in, DADT was alive and well. All I knew was how to hide and how to be secretive. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t go the whole 6 years without ever telling a soul, but I did go the whole 6 six years only confiding in a small amount of people that I trusted wouldn’t “blow me in”. I found myself following all the rules and trying to be the best at everything I did: my job, ironing my uniform, polishing my boots, shooting firearms, etc. so that IF someone did decide it was necessary to punish me for being lesbian, that would be the only thing “negative” they would have to say about me.
I guess, to be as short and to the point as possible, I love that people aren’t being forced to hide their sexuality any longer. I makes my heart smile and I’m hoping that they’re having a more positive experience than when I was in. The tough question would really be, why is it that someone would want to join an organization and volunteer their life for them if the organization/club wasn’t ok with them and their lifestyle? The quick and honest answer is because there were more important things at stake…
3. Have you ever found it difficult to be a lesbian in the great state of Texas or when planning your wedding?
Katie: I think we’re already a pretty private people, but being in Texas makes it easy to be that way. The part that makes it a little rough in Texas is the deep southern, religion driven mentally that our lifestyle is wrong, wrapped with a bunch of “bless your hearts”, and even more “we love you anyways”. Fortunately, we haven’t had any issues planning our wedding, but we do a lot of research to make sure that we don’t put ourselves in a position to be disappointed.
Amber: We’ve had a really good experience planning our wedding. We decided early on to just ask whether two brides would be an issue and so far everyone we’ve worked with has been very supportive.
4. Where did you guys meet and what was the first thing you remember about each other?
Katie: My first thought when I saw Amber was, “Wow, she’s beautiful.” On our first date, we sat at the restaurant talking and laughing for hours before Amber got us cut off.
Amber: Katie loves to tell that story! I may have thrown my phone at one point… but now she knows I wasn’t drunk, I’m just a klutz. And we met online! The first thing I noticed about Katie were her blue eyes and her smile. She just came across as so genuine and still does.
5. Favorite trip that you two have taken together?
Katie: Even though Amber tried to kill me at the ski resort, mine would be Banff. How could it not be?! My lady said yes to marry me and I turned the dirty 30! And! Banff is absolutely gorgeous. I’m a beach person myself, but visiting Banff opened up my eyes to beauty off of the water.
Amber: She refused the bunny slopes!! I tried. And I agree. We’ve taken a few trips, but that has been my favorite as well. I love the mountains! The whole trip was just surreal.
6. What do you think really makes a marriage last?
Respect, commitment and communication.
Lesbian Military Engagement by Steph Grant