On Marines, equality, and my date to the Marine Corps Birthday Ball (Part 1)

Last year, around this time actually, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James Amos, came to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego where I was working as a Series Commander for recruit training. I was in the middle of my second cycle in that position, and I was eager to hear what our Commandant had to say about the status of our Corps, from operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to personnel issues, particularly the policy known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” I had been following the news on DADT closely for a year, for what are now obvious reasons. Gen Amos had recently testified before Congress that the existing policy was working fine and he was not inclined to repeal the existing policy while Marines were engaged in combat operations on two fronts. The results of the Comprehensive Review Working Group had been compiled and released, and the Marines were clearly the most resistant to changing the 18 year-old policy.

The general opened the session by introducing his wife, who was traveling with him. He said that he wouldn’t be where he was today without her many years of sacrifice and support. I honestly have no idea what he said after that. I was overcome by the contradiction between that statement and his testimony on keeping DADT in place and spent the next twenty minutes alternating between finding the appropriate wording for asking the Commandant a question and convincing myself that I should just keep my mouth shut. Anyone who knows me also knows that once an idea enters my head, there’s really only one way things can go–I am, after all, a Marine.

I waited for the questions to begin, raised my hand, and was handed a microphone. “Good morning, General. My name is Captain Matthew Phelps, I’m a Series Commander with India Company, 3rd Recruit Training Battalion. Sir, in light of the recent issue of the proposed repeal of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, can you tell us how, as leaders, we can reconcile the conflict between stressing the importance of family support for our Marines and denying our gay and lesbian Marines even the opportunity to have a family?” He responded as one might expect a man in his position to respond: Congress had asked his opinion, he gave it, and there was nothing for us to discuss until they reached a decision. A few weeks later, Congress voted to repeal the law upon certification by the President, Secretary of Defense, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. On September 20, 2011, the law was finally repealed.

The stress of living under DADT is not something I can begin to describe. Whether you’re straight or gay, there is little that comes much more naturally than who you are attracted to. Whether you want it to be true or not, you still know, and you know that there’s no changing it. Now imagine that everything you know and love could disappear if anyone found out who you’re attracted to–even if you never acted on it. Imagine you could be fired and humiliated for it, or even go to jail. Imagine that all it has to take is a rumor or suspicion, and that an accusation from anyone could be devastating to your career. How would you deal with people you work with, who stand next to you in formation? How would you approach your job knowing that saying the wrong thing to the wrong person could provoke them to taking their suspicion to your commander?

Even now, as I learn to live without the stress of hiding my sexuality from my fellow Marines, I am realizing the sacrifices that gay, lesbian, and bisexual Marines have made since even before DADT was enacted. At certain points, it was everything I could do to keep from going insane. When I couldn’t stand it anymore, I searched for outlets to vent my frustration. Most often, these outlets came in the form of telling people what I could about what I was going through, confiding in friends and family, and trying to convey this frustration to the general public and anyone else who would listen, through carefully planned and worded essays, letters, and interviews.

I sent this letter to the Marine Corps Times in response to a letter to the editor that appeared in the February 2, 2009 issue, but it was never published. In May 2010, I wrote this letter to President Obama as a part of the “Stories from the Frontlines” campaign by Servicemembers Legal Defense Network but didn’t sign it, as doing so would have been a violation of DADT. I appeared as “Michael” on KABC-AM’s John Phillips Show December 17, 2010 (just days before the vote in Congress to repeal the law) to discuss my personal experiences under DADT. I worked with SLDN on arranging interviews with other various outlets and spoke with producers of some of the shows. As repeal approached this past summer, I was interviewed by Chris Heath of GQ Magazine for “Tell: An Intimate History of Gay Men in the Military“, where I was quoted as “Marines #2”. For the actual repeal day, I spoke to a few news outlets in San Diego and appeared again as “Michael” in interviews on the local Fox, NBC, and CBS affiliates (links here, here, and here). I returned to the John Phillips Show (this time as “Matthew”) again on October 12. While attending the 2011 OutServe Leadership Summit in Las Vegas, I did interviews for this article in Frontiers magazine and this one in Der Spiegel, a German news magazine. Throughout all of this I became increasingly involved with SLDN, OutServe, and the Military Acceptance Project, who awarded me one of the first MAP Salute awards.

Despite all of this work with the media, I always obscured my identity not only for the sake of anonymity under the law, but also for the sake of avoiding the attention being so vocal could have brought on me and my Marines. While there was a part of me dying to just let people know and get it over with, I didn’t want my Marines to find out I was gay from newspaper headlines, and I didn’t want to give the impression that I was seeking publicity. Speaking to the press was not about recognition for myself, it was about providing a voice to those who were most impacted by DADT but weren’t being heard in the debates. It was never about me, it was about all of us. I was in a position where I felt I could speak safely and I did. As a Marine, it is my duty to defend those who cannot defend themselves, and I therefore had no choice but to seek and seize opportunities to do so.

All of the work I and countless others did had paid off and the law was history, but although that chapter was closed and that most difficult time was behind us, a new chapter was beginning. I was among the many people who thought it would be easier with DADT behind us, and in many ways it has been. Whereas I used to get frustrated trying to figure out how to answer questions about my personal life without being specific in referring to dates’ and boyfriends’ names, or even clubs and neighborhoods, I can just be honest. [Despite repeal opponents’ insistence that sexuality doesn’t come up in day-to-day military life, I would invite any of them to come with me to work and see that the opposite is true. Not a day has gone by since repeal when it hasn’t come up in some way or another.] My entire chain of command knows and has been supportive. Contrary to what you may be thinking, this is where things get tough.

Continued in Part 2

Author: Matthew

U.S. Marine Corps officer living in North Carolina. The views expressed here are my own, and are in no way intended to represent the United States Marine Corps, Department of Defense or any of its components.

223 thoughts on “On Marines, equality, and my date to the Marine Corps Birthday Ball (Part 1)”

  1. I am so proud of you for taking him. I just wrote a paper on DADT and Freedom of speech. I have learned so much from Col. Cammameyer and how this has been a stuggle for all of us. You are very much appreciated and have the right just like any other to have love and wanna share it.

    Happy Holidays and I hope to meet you some day…


    Find me of facebook

  2. First off, thank you for your tireless dedication and service to this nation. Secondly, I am proud that you are able to finally be yourself and express your love openly while still wearing the uniform.

    As a gay veteran myself I know the hardships that are endured under DADT. I meet my husband after I received PCS orders from Italy to Nebraska. It was the hardest 2 years on my life. We were living together and I always wanted to take him to the squadron funtions, but I knew that would be the end of my military service.

    Kyle Myrick

  3. SEMPER FI MARINE … I will offend a few and speak plain … It is who you are inside and how you perform your duties that counts … Not what your Johnson does when you are off duty … You just keep on turning out Marines that let the enemy die for his country … Let our troops come home whole … OOH RAH …

  4. Brother, from working with you in the past I can honestly say you are one of the best Marine Officers I know and would serve again with you anywhere.

    Semper Fi!

  5. Matthew,

    Three cheers, brother! You’re an inspiration and I’m so proud of you. You already know how much I cherish our friendship, but I want you to know how much I cherish your mentorship. Thanks for all you’ve done and continue to do. The Marine Corps is a better organization with you in it, and we’re all very proud.

    Semper Fidelis, brother,

    Neal Simpson
    Captain, USMC
    Commanding Officer
    Company C
    1st Battalion, 1st Marines

  6. Sir; you have my respect and admiration. I was an Army NCO back in the ’70s, when DADT would have been considered impossibly advanced. Through your efforts and the efforts of so many other since “my day,” it became an impossible impedance, and so was justly jettisoned. Thank you for your service to your country, your Corps, and your civilization.

  7. I have actually stopped arguing this issue with people who are anti-everything, anything, anyone because it becomes a circular discussion that inevitably ends up being about 2 issues — 1. Sex 2. The Bible.

    So, now, when the subject comes up I simply ask, “When did you know you were straight?”

    The blank stares. Blinks. The deafening sound of diffused silence is priceless and telling.

    Exactly, I say and the conversation ends.

    Bravo, Matthew! Semper Fi

    1. i may be a woman married to a man and have 2 children,i have never been with a woman but i have to say love is all that counts no matter who you love so if because i love my mom or sister would you think bad of me cause they are female too i see no reason to make a big deal of it they are not trying to make you change your way of loving who you love so why would you want them to change leave them alone and let them find love and happiness where they may

  8. Thank you, Capt. Phelps, for your leadership and service, both as a Marine and as a gay American. Good luck as you continue to explore this “new world” you have entered post-DADT. I’m especially pleased that you were able to maintain your career until after repeal as we have lost so many good men and women along the way, both officers and enlisted.

  9. As a former Army infantryman I never understood why anyone cared about who the man next to me was having sex with. The only thing a combat soldier cares about is CAN YOU SHOOT STRAIGHT TROOOOOOOOOPERRRRRRR!!!

  10. Matthew:

    Congratulations, good testimony. And welcome to the 21st century, man!
    Now, I have to ask…how far along is your home state into this century? Can you/will marry your guy?
    It’s always been a puzzler to me, as a Canadian, why America has such troubles dealing with equality issues.

    The Canadian Armed Forces had no DNDT policy. I think it just didn’t register as a “big deal.”

    Same-sex marriage became legal in most provinces in Canada through civil court decisions beginning in 2003, and in 2005 The Government of Canada legalized same-sex marriage countrywide. Again, it just wasn’t a Big Deal.

    That’s the way my partner and I have lived our lives, “out” – in a manner of speaking – by just making No Big Deal about our relationship. We’ve only once experienced any hassle, and that was from a redneck trailer trash bimbo who just didn’t know any better. He had no manners.

    So…is there a wedding in your future?

    Good luck, bonne chance, buena suerte, vaya con dios and a big Canadian Hey There! to you and your guy. Make it good.

    Hang on in there, baby.

    Will T.
    Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

  11. My position is this: You’re not there to screw, you’re there to defend your nation and defeat enemies of your nation. So who cares what anyone’s preference is? Unfortunately, people are bigoted fear-riddled idiots, so they come up with all these policies. I’m sorry you had to get shot at from both sides, so to speak. I’m proud of you.

  12. Here in Brazil we saw how is hard to face it, revently Sergeant Fernando Figueiredo and Laci Marinho companion were arrested after taking relationship, Thank you so much for sharing your story

  13. i’m glad that you are one of those who isn’t afraid to be true to who you are – as you know, those are exactly the types of individuals that ended up filling almost every page of our Marine Corps history book.

    Semper fi brother, and thanks.

  14. Wow, what an incredible story, and I commend you on your emotional strength and integrity. I, too, am a Marine officer, as was my partner. He was killed in Fallujah early in the war. The loss was devastating, but it was compounded by the policy that forced me to grieve privately. I could express the pain of losing a fellow Marine, but I couldn’t tell anyone why his death was causing my world to go dark. It felt like my heart was the epicenter of a magnitude 10 earthquake. It just turned to liquid. No words can express the pain of grieving in silence, of not being able to speak of my ineffable pain. I wonder how many others had to do the same. Finally, though, that won’t ever have to happen again.

    What I would give to have been able to attend this year’s Ball with my partner, but I’m crazy happy for those, like you, who were able to go with their dates. I went without a date, but I know my partner was there. I love him still.

    1. This brings tears to my eyes. I’m so sorry for what you had to endure — I cannot imagine it — and I hope that it will at least hope to ease the pain if you can now talk about him freely.

      1. ““` You have my most profound sympathy and heartfelt condolence for your loss. As a recent widower myself, I have experienced myself the fresh (if unwelcome) lesson in just how severely the loss of one’s soulmate lashes the bereft soul, the pain continuing day after week after month. I don’t know if one ever “gets over” the loss of the beloved other, even as one “gets used” to it enough to at least “get by.”

      2. Thank you for your kindness. After the repeal, I put his picture on my desk. That feels mighty good.

    2. I am so sorry to hear about your partner and how you were denied to grieve publically for him. I have been with my partner for 34 years now and never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be in a relationship. It was something I dreamed about when I was in the military 74-77. I hope you find the love that you need for the rest of your life.

  15. glad the official “repeal-ing” happened on my birthday!

    Thank you for your service to this nation, to your HEART, and for being a BRILLIANT light shining thru the darkness for so many others…

  16. So proud of you! I am glad to see DADT repealed. I’ve never understood why it was anyone’s business who anyone loved. Thankfully, you can at least live your life honestly.

  17. Simper Fi. Fellow Marine. And bi. Married (hetero relationship). But yeah – I fell in love with some of my men; some of them under my command. (A Sgt.; you know it can be tough.) But I never expressed it; I treated them fairly, just like everyone else. I knew the rules. And I obeyed them. After all: I am a Marine. I kept my conduct – both on duty and off – professional towards my men. Even though there were some . . . I would have died for them, or them for me – in a heartbeat. You understand. But I would do that for any man – if I have to. You know the thing.

    Will there / would there be abuses if gay relationships were allowed in the military? Sure. But abuses occur anyway. Look at the male-female relationships. Humans won’t change. But everything else is up for grabs.

    I always kinda dreamed of a unit made up of ‘special Marines’ – kinda like a gay Roman Legion I once read about. It seemed to me those would make good fighting me, for love would be binding them all together. It would be a good thing, in my humble opinion . . . but I doubt they’ll ever go there. But you never know. It might just happen. Especially if there’s the right ‘push’ by the right people somewhere . . . you know the drill.

    Take care, Marine. And thanks to all my fellow vets out there . . . for it all.
    ~ from one crazy Marine 😉 to another

    1. I suspect you mean the Sacred Bad of Thebes. Here are excerpts from Wikipedia:

      They were a troop of 150 male couples that formed the elite force of the Theban army in the 4th century BC. The inspiration for the Band came from Plato’s Symposium, where the character Phaedrus says:

      “And if there were only some way of contriving that a state or an army should be made up of lovers and their beloved, they would be the very best governors of their own city, abstaining from all dishonour, and emulating one another in honour; and when fighting at each other’s side, although a mere handful, they would overcome the world. For what lover would not choose rather to be seen by all mankind than by his beloved, either when abandoning his post or throwing away his arms? He would be ready to die a thousand deaths rather than endure this. Or who would desert his beloved or fail him in the hour of danger?”

      Each lover and beloved was selected from the ranks of the Theban citizen-army. They became, in effect, the “special forces” of Greek soldiery, and the 40 years of their known existence (378–338 BC) marked the pre-eminence of Thebes as a military and political power in late-classical Greece.

      The Sacred Band fought the Spartans at Tegyra in 375 BC, routing an army that was at least three times its size. Defeat came at the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC. The Theban army and its allies broke and fled, but the Sacred Band, although surrounded and overwhelmed, held their ground and nearly all 300 fell.

      The town of Thebes erected a giant stone lion on a pedestal at the burial site of the Sacred Band, which still stands today. Excavation of the site turned up 254 skeletons.

  18. Wow, as a teen who suffers from what you experienced all those years, I must say that I really look up to people like you who do what it takes to make change in our country. It’s just so amazing, and you are so powerful for doing all the things you’ve done. Please know that there are many people out there like me who are very appreciative of every action you take to serve our country and help out in regard to GLBT rights.

  19. I enjoyed reading your post. I agree with you that now -without DADT -is going to be tough for many of our soldiers and their families. Change, even when desperately needed and fought for, is never easy. The uncertainty while people adjustment from old to new is when many feel more vulnerable. Lots of compassion and support to everyone!

  20. Thank you for sharing your story, sir. As a straight man, I can never say I understand what you went through. But the more people share the stories, the more others, I hope, will come to see and understand the harm that policies like DADT and the DoMA cause.

  21. Marine, I am proud and grateful for what you are service. My son will be going to bootcamp in June, and with officers like you to set an example for him, I know he is making a great choice.

    My sweetheart served 34 years in the Army and was always very vocal about his feelings on the whole DADT/bigoted mindset: he was NOT impressed by those people at all.

    I hope you will continue to serve and be an example of what Marines are supposed to be. Semper Fi.

  22. Thank you for taking the time to share your private feelings and experiences this past Birthday Ball. You strike a common chord among those of us who have served in secret. Here is wishing to you that one day, I will stand holding the sword as you two walk down the isle and make it official.

  23. I’m so happy that I stumbled on this post! I come from a long line of military personel including my Dad (Navy) and my brother (Marine) and I could not be prouder of them. I’m also a big believer in equality…actually, let me rephrase that…I don’t even think it should be an issue who someone loves and I look forward to the day when that is a true reality…the day when no one cares either way. We are all human, plain and simple, and should not be defined by our race, religion, gender, sexuality, etc etc. I’m so happy that DADT was repealed and that you had a wonderful experience at your birthday ball! Many props to you for standing up for what you believe in even when you had to do it on the sly, not many people would have had the courage. You, Sir, are a fine example of our nation’s military.

  24. I’m happy to hear of your efforts in continuing to fight for equality through this post. I salute you, sir! I hope you continue to fight for the rights of the LGBT community and show the world that just because one is not straight, it doesn’t mean that he/she should be deprived of certain freedoms that straight people enjoy.

    While I am straight myself and am not directly affected by such discrimination, I think it is important to continue fighting for equal rights. And I totally support you in your battle against discrimination against the LGBT community.

    1. ““` I think your post here is sensitive, thoughtful, and valuable. But may I add one thing? You say that because you personally are straight, you are not directly affected by homophobic discrimination. To my way of thinking, in the same way our civil rights poineers declared that as long as one Black man was unjustly imprisoned merely for standing up for his rights, none of us are truly free; as long as any soldier/sailor/airman/marine is browbeaten, let alone BEATEN-beaten for his sexuality, I am not whole, either. Only when the pain of unequal treatment is ended for all is it truly ended for any. <>

    2. Straight women in the military have had a hard time with DADT as well — “Sleep with me or else you’re gay” is an unfortunately common extortion technique. Well, it was. Not anymore. 🙂

  25. God Please bless this man
    He fight for his right as human being
    as We do all gays and lesbians will fight our right
    as human being

    go fight handsome..

  26. I can’t help but remember my article that was published in my college’s student publication back in 2006 with these sentences: “Now imagine that everything you know and love could disappear if anyone found out who you’re attracted to–even if you never acted on it. Imagine you could be fired and humiliated for it, or even go to jail.”

    Yeah, man. Whether we like it or not, ‘we’ are all STILL suffering from the eyes of a discriminative world. Sigh…

  27. You and people like you lead who from the front provide fantastic role models for others out in the world who struggle to make sense of the senseless. Congratulations.

  28. This is an amazing account of your journey and I thank you for sharing it. You have articulated so well the internal struggles that many of us — military or non-military — feel at some point, about the need to measure up and/or do things as well (or better) than others. I’m so glad you finally got to share the Marine’s birthday celebration with your guy…and to be able to bring together two pieces of your life that are clearly very dear to you.

  29. Thank you so much for your service and for your bravery in coming forward, prior to and after repeal. The ability to live freely and true to ourselves is one of the primary American values you defend, and I hope someday LBGT equality will be one of those things we don’t have to think twice about. Again, the bravery you’ve demonstrated here should leave no doubt that you were meant to be a soldier.

    You are an inspiration…thank you for these beautiful words.

  30. congrats on the repeal of DADT…You have been a vocal leading example of reason, courage, eqaulity and bravery. To be a public speaker on the stuggles of all members of the queer community serving in Armed Forces, you have become a real model of what it means to be serving your country. A model Marine. And a model human. Thank you for sharing.

  31. Most organizations have a predilection to scapegoating someone/some group over whom the organization has power. Congratulations to you for standing up with courage, but also be on the lookout for who the next scapegoating target will be. Scapegoating gays won’t just go away. It will be replaced with scapegoating some other group. It is the nature of organizations.

  32. Thank for this. You give me new reasons to “support the troops.” Actually, scratch that. I have ALWAYS supported the troops, men and women in military service, even when I didn’t agree with where they were fighting. I’m just so glad that gay men and women can serve officially so their contributions are finally recognized.

    I have never been in the service myself, but over the years I’ve met gay people who served in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and every other place US troops have been deployed. Most have been humble men ( a few women in there too) who, like you, never questioned their duty. They served proudly and honorably, as you do, and their contributions deserve to be credited.

    As an outsider to military culture the thing I found most offensive about DADT and the policies that preceded it was that it was a convenient fiction, a lie. It allowed everyone to pretend that gay people were unfit for service, even while gays were serving. DADT might have been intended as an improvement on past policies (though that isn’t how it was implemented) but really it just allowed the entire country to deny the existence of people like you, honorable military personnel who are also gay. Since no one could “tell,” it lead to the perception that there WERE no gays in the military when that was far from the truth. It was just a convenient political lie and nothing else. DADT in practice equaled “Let’s Pretend There Are No Gays In the Military, Even Though Everyone Knows There Are.”

    It allowed people to deny the sacrifices, bravery, leadership, and courage of gay men (and let’s not get confused, most of the prejudice IS against gay men), to continually portray us ONLY as flouncing stereotypes. Not that I have a problem with effeminate gay men, which I believe in most cases is an inborn trait, not a matter of choice or adaptation. But that’s not t.

    I thank you for sharing your experiences at the Marine Ball and elsewhere.

  33. I’m glad to see the support you’re getting in responses here. I’ve never understood why other people’s sexuality is such a big deal to some people. Thank you for your courage.

  34. What an amazing story. but what really brought tears to my eyes were reading all of the supportive comments. you are a rockstar!

  35. Thank you for taking the time to write about your experiences, as well as fighting for our country. My hope is that people will read this and better understand DADT, DOMA, as well as others, and why they need(ed) to go.

    I’m so glad your story has a happy ending. I know many did not, but with this, perhaps there can be more happy endings in the future.

    Thanks again.

  36. Thank God DADT was finally repealed! I have known a few LGBT military over the years and their life in hiding was masked with a thicker layer of secrecy than the civilian who just has to worry about their parents/friends reaction! We “come out of the closet,” you “come out of the underground bunker.” Haha. Anyway, thanks for your service to our great country!

  37. Thank you for sharing your story. It brings tears to my eyes.

    As a straight Christian, I am still struggling to figure out where I stand on all of these issues. But I do know this – no one deserves to live in fear and be discriminated against, and especially not those who sacrifice everything in service to our country.

    I am so happy that things are getting better for your and your fellow LGBT servicemen and women. And I think that you must be one of the bravest and most remarkable people to face danger in your job and ridicule from so many around you. That is quite a load to carry on your shoulders. You are an inspiration.

    Thank you for all that you are and all that you do. God bless you, my friend.

  38. You make all gay people proud. As far as I’m concerned soldiers active, retired and deceased deserved all they get. I would go as far as to say support is sadly lacking. I’ve known many military gays and lesbians and all found it hard at some stage to keep mind body and soul together and on good condition. You get nothing but admiration and congratulations. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  39. Thank you for sharing your story and for your service to your country. Glad to hear you are finally able to enjoy the rights and privileges that all Americans deserve.

  40. I applaud you. I would also like to take this opportunity to say thank you for your service. My husband is a former Marine and I am so greatful for all the men and women who have served, are serving and will serve our nation.
    What I fail to understand is why people are not more focused on the heart of the individual. I personally don’t spend my minutes of the day wondering what is going on in someone else’s bedroom. May you be blessed and I pray that as a nation we continue to gain support for the GLBT community.

  41. awesome story! it took guts to do that, which is why i’m sure you rose to your position of leadership in the first place. i’m so glad to see the military world embracing such a change, and allowing every service member to be themselves and serve equally. congrats.

  42. Horaa!

    I am from a tiny town in SWPa( Connellsville Pa 15425). It is one of the most hateful places in this Country, and I was as like the rest, closed-minded, bigoted, sexist, racist and hateful…Time has stopped dead in its tracks here, new blood is considered bad blood here…I lived in a sheltered town ,where amalgamation was between Catholic Germans and Catholic Nordics. The original Aryanism still lives, but is dying a slow mad death. I had taken on those beliefs and hated with the best of them, though there were few that we hated in person because few people openly showed their pride in choices for fear of punishment… That is of course, until I joined the service in late 86. I met a man whom was in many of my schools, we shared a room, shared water bottles, were together for Basic, Airborne, Air-assault shared death…Etc… He listened to my rants on those “fags” , “blacks” and “Spics” not to mention the many others I hated, I spoke of the traditional. He never casted me aside, he never corrected me, he simply excepted me . One night he asked me to come to his car, he was crying, it was hard to understand what could make a 6’4 230-pound Tabbed monster like Mark cry. We sat in his car for what seemed like hours and out of the silence he turned to me and said, “I’m gay!” and he told me that he could only trust me with this secret…Me , why me I asked. He said he knew I was only parroting what my father and family said, and that he was so afraid that I would break our friendship, not because he was gay, but because he was not honest with me. He could not hold that truth away from me anymore, “honesty” ,he Said ,” was first in friendship…” He told me he was not interested in me ,but felt that he was lying to me by holding that secret back…I had to stand back and look at why I hated everyone in my life, it wasn’t because they were different. I was taught that they were different and believed those lies for acceptance into our society . Mark was not anger at me for my hatred of everyone, he was never angry with me. After a few years of talking, he had all those that I hated in his family, an eclectic mix of humans all from different branches of the proverbial tree … I felt like a heal after realizing that I basically insulted him and all he loved, yet he did nothing but love me. It was as if a great weight was lifted, and from that second on, my whole perspective changed, I was anew. I taught myself to read, so as I could understand what I believed. I dug deep and, within my journey, I changed so many of my thoughts. Proudly I stand a different man. From that moment on, I took to the faith that I would, could, take what Mark taught me and bring it back home, spreading the word…I accepted, in Marks example, not tolerated. I am a leader in equality in my area, though I teach by example and not protest… I do not force another to understand or even except what I believe, I encourage them to travel in that direction I took, to understand what you believe, by finding the root of your beliefs. I would like you to know that there are many-many people out here wanting you and yours , those you love in your own ways, to be free to love in your own ways. If I can do anything in support , to perpetuate, to spread, to excel your freedom, please hit me up. I do what I can, yet understand that you must do for yourself if you want to be as nature intended, that is free. I sincerely am a changed man, with his very own loving eclectic proud family!

    1. ““` Congratulations first on teaching yourself to read. That’s always an admirable achievement, no matter what the circumstances. But because you taught yourself to read in order to teach yourself to THINK, that is cause for celebration.

  43. This is such a beautifully written, poignant story. You are an incredibly brave and honorable man, which is exactly what we need in the armed forces. I’m sorry for all the trials you’ve gone through, and glad that you and Brandon can be together openly. Not sure what else I can say that hasn’t already been said. You are the epitome of how wrongheaded all the derogatory gay stereotypes are. I particularly admire that even when DADT was still in place, you didn’t get resentful or bitter, but spread your message in other ways. Thank you for serving our country–in more ways than one.

  44. Really like your thoughts, and perspective. Your human side of this story is both uplifting and heart breaking. Thank you for making such a contribution to society and the change needed in this country.

  45. One more step toward our goal of a free country. Now all we need to do is separate Church and State (as required by the constitution) and allow legally recognized partnerships that are exactly equivalent for M-F and M-M couples. Call it “marriage” if you want, but maybe that term should be restricted to churches. The Defense of Marriage Act becomes a total sham when celebrities marry legally for 72 days. Is this kind of thing more “valid” than a loving devoted relationship lasting years between same sex couples? What is wrong with people’s minds?

    1. ““` It’s always nice to find like-minded people, isn’t it? I too think that DoMA is a feverish symptom of a national mania, one that has blinded any number of otherwise patriotic and vigilant Americans to an unConstitutional usurpation of government by religion. That usurpation is not just unConstitutional, in fact; it is furiously, violently destructive of the power of the Constitution, most obviously of its protections FROM religiosity, inherent in its protection OF religion.

  46. As if serving your country wasn’t heroic enough, you have to pave the way for young officers and anyone seeking equality? Does that giant “S” on your chest show through the uniform?
    Well done!

  47. Awesome. This is a powerful reminder: folks think our soldiers have it rough on the battlefield, and they surely do, but for many of our soldiers, that’s only part of the story. Thanks!

  48. I wish I had the words to say what’s really in my heart, but I want you to know that I admire you, appreciate you and your service to our country, and think you are just an amazing person. In a day where so many people walk around declaring, “I’m a man”….I rarely actually see the qualities that make one….Integrity, honesty, true strength, and bravery. Gay, straight, bi…whatever. You sir, are a man that others should look to. May God Bless you forever and ever.

  49. I applaud your actions to support your beliefs, feelings, and in general what represents you. To take an active stance in “standing up for yourself” for lack of stronger wording is commendable.

  50. Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed. While I am not gay, I am a female who spent 21 years in a “non-traditional MOS” in the Army. I was a tank mechanic. Being such meant I was often the only female in the entire platoon, never mind the only woman in the shop. I was hazed, harassed, forced to listen to the filthiest comments by men who outright hated me. I had a First Sergeant tell me that “women didn’t belong in his Army”..and this was in 195, when I was Operations NCO for a battalion and had a combat tour under my belt. He had spent 19.5 years of his career at Redstone Army Arsenal, what we call “Schoolhouse’, as an AIT (Advanced Individual Training) instructor. His entire career.
    From the first day of my career to the last, I was forced to always have to do better, be ‘strac’er, be smarter, be better than the guys, just to keep up. I was always having to prove myself, no matter what my rank, because of my gender.

    I miss the Army in some ways: the camaraderie and the sense of purpose, but the sexual harassment, the marginalization, the dismissive attitudes I got from many (not all, of course!) of my male cohorts I do not miss at all.

    Drive on, sir. Kill the enemy and come home safe!

  51. You’re amazing, and what you’re doing is amazing and I’m glad this country is finally backing you as not only a soldier, but someone who’s allowed to love whoever they want.

  52. This was a very good post, thank you. Hopefully this country and this world will be a better place with the hard work and dedication you and others have. Thank you for sharing this, and thank your for sharing your voice toward the cause of same sex marriage and equality.

  53. I agree with those here who are recognizing your great courage, but I also wanted to mention that you’re a terrific writer. Thanks so much!

  54. My son, who is in the military, doesn’t care what color, race, or gender the men next to him are. That is because I raised him that way.

    When DADT was being enforced, all it amounted to was legalized discrimination. A homosexual soldier can fire a gun, drive a tank, push a button, or do any other job just as well as a heterosexual soldier.

    I am glad that DADT was repealed and hope it stays that way.

    Now, let’s work on getting marriage between man and man and woman and woman legalized in all states. The less discrimination against homosexuals, transgenders, and bisexual, etc.,the more likely that the legal system will take on those that bully and harass people who are homosexual, transgender, etc.

  55. You explain so well how hard it was to have to have to appear to not be who you were. I used to avoid speaking of my partner as “she” or giving her name. To try to speak of a joint life but always being non specific in how I phrased information, deliberately vague. It was such an effort and that was in civilian life in the UK. Since civil partnerships were legalised here just over five years ago our society has become much more tolerant than even just beforehand. I never ever for one moment now think about saying my partner’s name or “she” etc and it is so much easier.

  56. Great post, man. I am glad that there are people like you who are doing more than just donating money (though that is important). Looking forward to part two.

  57. Brilliant blog and I really admire your desire to stand up for who you are. The most poignant piece for me is the story of a senior officer talking about his wife and then gay and lesbian military not being able to share stories of their lives and loves. How can carrying around a pretence make you and your colleagues better at doing your job. It is asking someone to deny part of their identity. Hope it all goes well from here on in and it feels like you are resourceful enough to get there anyway….

  58. Respect doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel right now. Thank you for taking the time to post this and thank you for your service. Reading your blog was the needle that broke the camel’s back and caused me to start one of my own. I hope as a Soldier who happens to be gay, that I will be able to touch life of someone like you have done today.

  59. Thank you so much for your bravery. A friend of mine recently attended a military ball with his partner (who is in the military). Looking at the pictures and hearing that everything went well brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. Reading your post I felt the same thing again. I am so very very glad that DADT is over. I remember when it was brought about when I was very young but even then at the age of seven or eight I think I remember thinking, “Why? What does it matter?” I got older and learned about all the prejudices and hates that people have. But I never could fathom the whys behind them all. Still can’t fathom them now and I’m 29. I don’t think I’ll ever understand it completely. Probably a good thing too.

    I wish you all the love and happiness in the world sir.

  60. That was truely inspirational thank you for doing your job and protecting others.
    The fight for Gay rights is still going on in more ways than you think.
    Shocking information about places you may think is safe is safe for the LGBT community but in reality is overtly not… tiredculture.wordpress.com
    Please fight against the violations of these children’s rights

  61. Way to go, Mat! Bob and I look forward to seeing you over the holidays, neighbor. Will you be home? If you haven’t talked to Arthur….he is doing great and expects to be home for Christmas!

  62. As a former active duty Marine who used some of the language and derisive words used by your drill instructors to describe gays, I am sorry. Being an American of African descent who endured some of the same kind of bigotry and cultural nonsense and sophomoroic shenanigans, I’m ashamed. I’m just glad that you had the steel in your spine to survive the attacks and ignorance that was displayed by Marines like me. To think that a lineage that has produced Pullers, Butlers, Dalys, the 7 for 1 batallions, mystical followings in places called Tarawa and Bellaeau Woods didn’t have the courage to put an environment in place to stamp out injustices such as these. The creed of never leaving a Marine behind never had invisible words such as ‘white’ ‘ or ‘heterosexual’ in front of the word Marine. Keep fighting and striving hard charger. Semper Fidelis, and Happy Birthday Marine.

  63. As a 19 year old, I was in a hospital during summner vacation. I watched the news as the Stonewall erupted into riots. It would take until the next summer to finally come out. That was a lifetime ago, and it has taken that long to get this far.

    Thank you for your story Matthew, it is heartwarming and courageous. I don’t know if I would have the cajonnes, either in your shoes or Brandons. I believfe that the more people interact with us, the more that they will understand that we are people as well. Yes, we have effeminate people, so do the straights. Once they realize that we are not trying to recruit anyone or try to get into someones pants, I think and pray that we will be able to live normal lives.

    I am grateful for the young people today, who have shown class, like yourself. Life is actually short, so I would suggest grabing Brandon and taking him down the aisle 😛

  64. thank you for the story. you are an inspiration to millions and i’m glad to see how many people agree with me.

  65. I am not a member of the military but I do support the troops who put their lives on the line for us every single day. Not for the education but for the pride especially with marines who I know plenty of them and love all of them who are my friends. I am also part of the community but I don’t refer to myself as “queer”, “gay” or “lesbian”. I am first and foremost a human being with RIGHTS. You, soldier have rights. The mere fact that some of our citizens (mostly dumbass Republican pedophiles who deny any sexuality including their own warped freakish ones) will allow men and women to fight for America and die for it but not come out and be who they are; these same F!@#king a-holes would make your preference for same sex illegal is outrageous and an outrageous demand on your rights. I cannot imagine what you and others before you have had to endure because of your sexuality. Meanwhile the very people who will deny you have skeletons rotting away in their own horrible closets ready to fall out at a moment’s notice. I find it appalling and disgusting and I personally want to strangle each and every single hypocrite among them.

    I applaud your taking the first step and asking him out. I am proud that you are a part of my community which is the community of the world and not just gay people. I stand in solitary with you as a human being. We have rights damn it and we are not going to be pushed around any more!

    This is one of many reasons why I will never ever vote Republican again and for the life of me will I ever call another Bush family member POTUS.

  66. I wish more people like us would be brave enough to tell the world the being gay is great and that there is nothing wrong with us 😀

  67. Semper-Fi Marine! As a former Staff Sergeant in the USAF, I am/was very familiar with the DADT policy and was disgusted by it. I am straight, a husband, and father of three wonderful children but have the utmost respect for people who are who they are and are not afraid to be happy, even though their lifestyle might go against the grain of society.

    Congrats on taking that big step and congrats for being freshly pressed!

  68. I’d buy your book if you wrote one..
    I hope the way gays were treated by the military in the 20th century will one day be seen as one of the great mistakes made by our govt.
    In the hysteria of the 1950’s, gays at the state dept were fired because of sexual orientation and the fear that they would be more sympathetic to commies. How many gay spies have their been?
    THe CIA wouldn’t hire gays before 1992 for similar reasons. I think the CIA is still doing quite well. THey even have gay pride days.

  69. I was in the Corps from 1966-69, when a gay or Lesbian Marine simply dare not come out. Your willingness to risk it all defines and redefines leatherneck courage. I would have readily served in your command. Semper Fi.

  70. Exactly what a Marine should be…, proud, independent, truthful, fearless, standing up for what is right. You have done what many could not, and have opened doors for a new generation of men and women who will serve their country and protect us – no matter who they love.

  71. I remember being in Corps back in 1992 and as a gay woman having to discharge those Marines suspected of being gay. They were taken from the brig and brought to my office and having to process their seperation the same day, this was a process that normally took weeks to do, I had to do it in a day. Thank God things have changed. Semper Fi!

  72. Could you tell us about your family life? growing up? about your mom and dad and your siblings and how things were as a family growing up. I think that would be of interest to all your readers. Please include what kind of relationship to your parents, where are they now, and relationship to other family members outside of the immediate family, tell us about those too. Your story gives limited insight into all about you and this would be good.

  73. Thank you so much for the encouragement to others and the strength you have shown. I wish nothing but good things for you! My husband is military and we both agree that DADT was silly and a respectable service member’s career has nothing to do with sexuality. Your service to your country makes you a hero and and you deserve to have a good life, career and family. Family means something different to everyone and our military needs to respect that. My best wishes for you- keep moving forward 🙂

  74. I am so glad your posts were on ‘Freshly Posted’, so that I could read your 4 posts about your military life and the frustrations of DADT. May you and your partner enjoy the Christmas holiday together.


  75. You are very brave. Thankfully, the US Senate recently voted to abolish Article 125 of the UCMJ. Assuming the House follows suit and the president signs it, sodomy and now bestiality will be legal in the military. Progress comes slowly, but it comes. Take heart.

    Equal love, equal rights. Zoophiles agree. I blogged about it here.


    I’m a gay man who’s past the age of military service. I always wanted to serve, especially in the Marines. But the recruiter told me to beat it because I kept complimenting him on how his ass looks in that uniform.

  76. I am moved beyond words reading this post and the comments. There is no need to repeat all that has been said, suffice it to say that this is evidence of the impact you are having in the world. While I have not been a part of the military, I have had to endure hatred, fear, and painful discrimination as a gay woman whose father is a conservative Christian pastor. I was raised to believe that homosexuality was wrong, sinful, and evil (along with playing cards, going to movies, dancing, drinking, smoking, etc.). I was married to a male, in a heterosexual relationship for many years, living the expected “white picket fence” life. Then I met my true love, Inge, and have been smitten ever since! I went through an extremely difficult divorce, was “let go” from my job with a “Christian” organization, forced to leave my church, had every supposed friend turn their back on me, didn’t speak to my parents for two years, and more. THIS is what being a Christian is about?? I thought God was about love, not hatred? It saddens me to see a country so divided over something like this. If every person is created in God’s image according to the Bible, and God is about love, how can we not accept GLBT’s and any others we discriminate against into our lives?

    Enough of my soapbox….you are an inspiration and hope, my friend.


  77. Mate, being a former grunt in the Australian Army, I can appreciate some of the prejudice thrown at you. It’s an issue in our Army, too. Infact, some knuckle-heads created a gay-hate Aussie Army page on FB where they identified a few gay servicemen, with the usual litany of hate. I’d happily service with any man, and judge him by how well he’s got my ark, not who he loves. Peace out.

  78. I stumbled across this by accident. What a great story! When I got to the end, darn it, there was something in my eye.

    When I was in the Navy in the late 80s, early 90s, there was a guy on my ship who was gay, everybody knew it, and nobody cared. I’ve never bought the argument that allowing gays to serve their country would have ANY impact on morale. It didn’t in my command, and I’ve yet to encounter the service member who says different.

    My brother was a JAG Captain in the Army and, like you, could never admit who he was (although, again, pretty much everybody knew and nobody cared). He never talks about how that made him feel, but I think I got to better understand what it must have been like for him after reading this, so I thank you for that.

    Keep up the good work, Captain.

    – Martin

  79. Pingback: Anonymous
  80. Dear Capt. Phelps,
    I have anticipated a few decades for couples like you and Brandon to have the opportunity to share your lives together while you con’t to serve your country.
    Sir, ’bout time and congrats on your wedding.
    J. Larry ” Larz” Rivera, RN, CNRN

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