We got a cab to the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego and walked to the entrance. Standing there and looking around to see Marines throughout the lobby, we both thought, “What the hell are we doing here?” We looked at each other, took a deep breath, and stepped inside. We were careful from the very beginning not to be too close to each other. At one point, while the one of us who passed land navigation as a lieutenant in Quantico, VA managed to get lost on the way to the bathroom, our hands bumped and we quickly pulled them back. We made our way to the bar because the glass of wine and cocktail we had while getting ready weren’t taking the edge off as effectively as we’d hoped. A Marine I knew from work walked up and introduced his wife.
There is an enormous pressure–perhaps self-induced, I admit–to prove that I can do my job as well as (if not better than) anyone else. I had always placed this pressure on myself, as all of my gay military friends had, because I felt I had something to prove, even if no one else knew I was doing it. For my entire career I lived with the idea that people–from conservative civilian lobbyists to my fellow Marines to my Commander in Chief–believed I was incapable of succeeding as a Marine because I was gay. They thought we had no place in the military, and therefore it was up to us to be beyond reproach and the very best in our fields. In many ways that pressure has since been compounded, because it’s no longer a secret struggle.
The world is watching as we expose our true selves. Those who opposed repeal are scrutinizing every one of us, waiting for the opportunity to say that repeal was a mistake. As an officer and a leader of Marines, I lead from the front, setting the example for junior Marines and officers and to prove that there is no need to describe my service as that of a gay Marine, but just a Marine. Because of this, every word I say, every order I issue, every email I write, and every look I give is a conscious effort, as carefully thought out and worded as the letters, essays, and interviews I gave prior to repeal. Each and every moment of my life holds in it the possibility of discredit and disservice to my Corps. I cannot fail the Marines who are counting on me to pave the way forward as a Marine in a post-DADT military.
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.
I was told today by an acquaintance that I didn’t need to come out to my command when I announced via my official leave request that I am attending the OutServe Armed Forces Leadership Summit in Las Vegas in two weeks, and instead I could have left the specifics out. I told him that it’s supposed to be in there, and DADT repeal means that I can be honest and no longer have to lie about or hide my life. Additionally, I made an observation that I thought I would share here:
I’m a Marine–we aren’t exactly known to take the easy way when there is an incredibly complex, potentially dangerous, much more strenuous route available.
Leading up to the repeal of DADT on 20 September, I was asked by some members of the press to comment. I did so anonymously, and explicitly stated that my views were my own and were in no way meant to be construed as representative of the Marine Corps. The reporters were fixated on the idea that I didn’t want to come out in the interviews, sometimes to the point of what seemed like misrepresenting what I was saying. I told one of them, “It’s not that I don’t want people to find out I’m gay, it’s that I don’t want them to find out from reading a newspaper or watching the news.” One day discovering the sexuality of a Marine will happen naturally as you ask him if he’s dating anyone and he tells you the person’s name. We aren’t there yet, but we will get there.
As for “coming out” at work, I don’t think I should have to sit people down and tell them I’m gay. But I’m done watching what I say, I’m done being intentionally vague. People need to know that there are gay people in the military who are serving honorably. I don’t need banners and media attention, I just need to be myself and people will come to understand and accept it at their own pace. I am not a second-class citizen, and I won’t let anyone treat me as one anymore. I certainly won’t do it to myself. I deserve better than that. Continue reading “Thoughts on the end of DADT”
Although I was working last week, I paid as close attention to the hearings on DADT repeal in the Senate Armed Services Committee as I could. I was encouraged that the service chiefs were as supportive of the report as they were, as well as their attitudes towards their respective services’ ability to implement repeal should it be ordered by Congress to do so.
As a Marine who personally supports the repeal of DADT, I have been working over the past several days to understand the position of the Marine Commandant, General Amos. Specifically, although he recognized that, according to the Comprehensive Review Working Group’s report, over 80% of those who have knowingly served with gay service members in their units have a relatively positive (or neutral) view of repeal, nearly 45% of troops who have deployed have a negative view. He used this latter statistic as the basis for his apprehension towards repeal at this time. I agree with the Commandant that, although a statistical minority, this figure represents a segment of the military that cannot be ignored.
A friend wrote me today on Facebook and said he’d been posed with a question that he’d like my thoughts on:
It seems to me that a key issue of having gays in the military is the idea of sharing barracks, sleeping quarters, restrooms, and other private areas with people of other sexual orientations. In other words, if it’s not acceptable for military women to be forced to sleep, shower, and dress in the presence of their male comrades, then why is it acceptable for heteros to be forced to do these things in the presence of their gay comrades?
Here is what I came up with:
The short answer is that while male and female facilities are rooted in physiological differences between the sexes, the lack of physiological differences in varying sexuality among both men and women prevent the same distinction being used to separate people of the same sex based on their sexual identities.
I have always said an Executive Order halting the enforcement of DADT was a bad idea. It’s a temporary measure that could easily put military gays in jeopardy should the next president decide to do away with it–which he could with the stroke of a pen.
I know that it takes an act of Congress to overturn an act of Congress, which is why legislative repeal is a sure-fire way to end DADT. It also leads to the most systematic repeal process, allowing time for policies and regulations to be updated, as well as training and education, etc.
I’m afraid I don’t even know where to begin tonight, so I’ll just dig in. I just finished watching a video of Senator John McCain after the vote today where he insisted over and over again that it is not the military’s policy to seek out the sexual orientation of military members. All I can say is that he’s right: it isn’t the policy. But the policy isn’t enforced.
The good senator says he has sons in the military and that he’s seen it in action. I don’t know what he has seen. But he certainly hasn’t seen what I have, or else he wouldn’t make these statements. The policy is typically referred to as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” but there’s a third part: “Don’t Pursue”. Officially, commands don’t pursue. They don’t conduct random searches of people to determine their sexuality. But they do act on suspicion.
I went to the online inbox site that the DoD set up to take responses and feedback from servicemembers and their families on DADT repeal. What follows is my submission.