The state of LGBTQ+ military service members is changing. Now, LGBTQ+ members are allowed to be out while serving. Although, many still fear repercussions about doing so. But, it’s a step in the right direction.
But, what about veterans?
If you already served your time in the military, whether you were openly out or not, you may face some of the same challenges as anyone else returning to civilian life, with a few additional hardships on top.
So, how can you return to “normal” life as a gay/queer vet?
1. Find Your Support System
One of the best things you can do when you get out of the service is to find a group of people who will be your support system. It might be your family, it might be an advocacy group, or friends you had before you enlisted.
Whatever the case, having that support group around you as often as possible can make a big difference when it comes to your mental health. Isolation and loneliness can be very dangerous for veterans, especially if you’re worried that you won’t be “accepted” or that your friends and family will think you’ve changed, somehow.
Find a group that cares about you for who you are. They may not understand what you went through, but if they are willing to listen and offer their support, that’s all you can ask for.
2. Search for a Fulfilling Career
Whether you receive a military pension or not, you can still benefit from finding a job that brings you satisfaction. Be aware of discrimination as you search for a job and start to take part in interviews. While it’s still very illegal, that doesn’t mean companies don’t do it.
It can help to do your research ahead of time for certain companies. Learn about their culture and environment. What do they represent? Can you see yourself working there and finding joy? The right job can give you a sense of purpose, and if it is an accepting and open environment, you’re more likely to enjoy working there for a long time.
3. Take Pride in Your Service
Some veterans have a hard time readjusting to civilian life because they can’t stop thinking about the service. Maybe you have regrets or things you wish you would have done differently. Maybe you loved it so much that you miss it.
Whatever the case, it’s important to remember why you joined the military. If you saw any type of combat, it’s important to remember what you were fighting for. It hasn’t been long that the LGBTQ+ has started to gain some rights, including marriage equality. Your service was/is a dedication to a free country, and you should be proud of that.
So, don’t be afraid to remember your time in the military. Using flag cases for veterans is a great way to display any medals or honors you received because you should show that off with pride. Connect with other vets, and reminisce about the positive sides of military life, as well as the joy of being back home.