Community mourns ‘Chief’ Guy-Gainer

Gay 23-year Air Force vet became North Texas’ pre-eminent advocate for the repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

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PAYING RESPECTS | The Rev. Stephen Sprinkle, center, who delivered the eulogy at the funeral of Dave Guy-Gainer on Feb. 7, also spoke at the impromptu candlelight memorial at the Legacy of Love monument on Cedar Springs Road on Feb. 4. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

American flags lined the walk in front of Cathedral of Hope for the funeral of Dave Guy-Gainer on Tuesday, Feb. 7.

The 63-year-old gay Air Force veteran who served for 23 years and spent a decade working tirelessly for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” died unexpectedly Feb. 2.

At a hastily called memorial at the Legacy of Love monument on Cedar Springs Road on Saturday, Feb. 4, Dallas Gay and Lesbian Alliance President Patti Fink said, “I don’t know why Dave died, but I do know why he lived.”

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Dave Guy-Gainer

Rafael McDonnell, communications and advocacy manager for Resource Center Dallas, said the day Guy-Gainer died was the saddest of his life.

And Stonewall Democrats of Dallas President Omar Narvaez recalled that on the day DADT repeal took effect last year, Guy-Gainer told him, “The fight’s not over.”

Among the continuing fights Guy-Gainer envisioned was acceptance by and service from the military’s Chaplain Corps. Toward that end, Guy-Gainer helped create the Forum on the Military Chaplaincy. In October, he brought a group together from around the country for a meeting at the Interfaith Peace Chapel in Dallas to formalize plans for the forum.

And while gays, lesbians and bisexuals can now serve openly, Guy-Gainer continued to fight for the rights of transgender men and women to serve.

“It’s very sad for us,” said Dennis Coleman, executive director of Equality Texas, where Guy-Gainer was a board member. “He was dedicated to state work as well as federal work.”

Guy-Gainer worked locally as well. In 2010, he ran as an openly gay candidate for City Council in Forest Hill, a small town south of Fort Worth in Tarrant County. Although he made it to the runoff, he lost to the 12-year incumbent by a few dozen votes.

In remarks at the funeral, gay retired Army Col. Paul Dodd said Guy-Gainer, who became the pre-eminent advocate for DADT repeal in North Texas, worked just as hard to end the problem of bullying. He alluded to Guy-Gainer’s death-by-suicide indirectly.

Dodd said that on Sept. 20, 2011, the day DADT repeal went into effect, Guy-Gainer wrote, “After a celebratory, euphoric high, this old airman crash landed tonight with reports of another youth who took his own life. We simply aren’t getting to the youth who are suffering.”

The Rev. Stephen Sprinkle, who was a close friend of Guy-Gainer’s and delivered the eulogy, talked about the suicide more directly. He said he felt anguished over how to deal with it in the funeral service.

“Everyone was hurting from it,” Sprinkle said. “Frustration, anger, guilt — that’s what I had to address.”

DADT-party

CELEBRATING REPEAL | Gay and lesbian veterans, including Dave Guy-Gainer, far right, identified themselves at a celebration at the Resource Center Dallas on Sept. 20, 2011, the day the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” went into effect. (David Taffet/Dallas Voice)

He said he decided to talk about Guy-Gainer’s suicide so that those mourning his loss wouldn’t treat it as a scandal but as a tragedy. And he said he needed to dismiss fundamentalist beliefs of eternal damnation for those who take their own lives.

“One of our tall trees fell, and we all feel it,” Sprinkle began his eulogy. “I begin with sighs too deep for words.”

He spoke about the biblical concept of lamentation.

“Lamentation is something the community needs to know how to do,” he said. “Suicide is a single act with plural effects that arose from problems and pain.”

But he said he’d simply miss Guy-Gainer’s “sweet, awkward goofiness” and praised him as a “relentless advocate for human rights” who fought “bullying and anti-LGBTQ religious bigotry.”

Guy-Gainer joined the Air Force at the age of 18 and served for 23 years. His work for the repeal of DADT and his LGBT activism began after another gay vet insisted he march in uniform in Austin’s Pride parade in 2001.

He became vice president of American Veterans for Equal Rights and served on the board of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network for about five years.

Gainer grew up in Charleston, W. Va., in what he called a “very, very fundamentalist family.”

In a 2009 profile published by Dallas Voice, he said growing up he knew he was gay, but that he was raised to be a minister.

“I figured, I’ll join the military, that’ll fix me,” he said. “I’ll get married like all the GIs did, and that’ll fix me. But you know what? It didn’t fix me.”

Guy-Gainer’s daughter, Brie, said that wasn’t his only reason to join the military.

“Dad has a true passion for the rights and duties of people who choose to live in a free country,” she wrote to Dallas Voice in 2009.

Guy-Gainer received five Meritorious Service medals and the Bronze Star and retired in 1990 as a chief master sergeant, a rank achieved by the top 1 percent of enlisted men and women.

He met his husband David Guy in 2000. They married in San Francisco in 2004 and had a commitment ceremony in Texas followed by a party at the military base in San Antonio where he worked at the time.

His work to end DADT earned him an invitation to the White House signing ceremony for the repeal legislation in December 2010. In September 2011, at a party celebrating the repeal going into effect, he donated boxes of papers relating to his work to the Phil Johnson Historic Archives and Research Library at Resource Center.

After the funeral service at Cathedral of Hope, Guy-Gainer was buried at the DFW National Cemetery in Dallas with full military honors.

Guy asked that donations be made to Forum on the Military Chaplaincy, in care of Cathedral of Hope, 5910 Cedar Springs, Dallas, Texas 75235.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 10, 2012.

—  Kevin Thomas

Resource Center schedules DADT repeal reception

Gainer to donate his SLDN archive to the Phil Johnson Library

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Resource Center Dallas will hold a reception on Sept. 20 to mark the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”

As part of the event, gay Air Force veteran Dave Guy Gainer will donate his archive of material related to the repeal to the Phil Johnson Library housed at the center.

“I’m reducing the fire load at my house,” Gainer joked.

The donation includes photos, Congressional reports, studies, hand-outs and newspaper articles that fill a number of boxes.

“It’s one of the largest donations we’ve ever gotten from one person,” said Resource Center Dallas Strategic Communications and Programs Manager Rafael McDonnell.

Gainer retired from the Air Force as a chief master sergeant before DADT went into effect. He has served as a board member of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network since 2005.Before that he was chapter president of American Veterans for Equal Rights before becoming regional and then national vice president of that organization.

Gainer called the end of DADT the “beginning of a new era.” He said he hopes his donation will help researchers studying the policy as a piece of history.

He said he has already been contacted several times by students writing papers and theses on the topic of gays serving in the military.

“If we can’t tell our stories as a community, we can’t hope to be truly a part of a bigger society,” Gainer said. “It’s important to give documents like these to research libraries to tell our stories factually.”

The reception at the Resource Center runs from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m.

McDonnell said the event would honor not just military personnel that were discharged under the DADT policy but all LGBT veterans.

“We specifically want to get word out to get LGBT vets here to say ‘Thank you for your service,’” McDonnell said.

SLDN is compiling a list of events that will take place around the country on Sept. 20, the day that the repeal becomes final. A number of parties are scheduled around Texas.

Most of the celebrations in the state will take place in bars, and after the Resource Center reception, the party in Dallas will move to Pekers on Oak Lawn Avenue.

Houston will mark the day with a celebration at JR.’s Bar and Grill, 808 Pacific Street from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. The San Antonio repeal party begins at 6 p.m. at Sparky’s Pub, located at 1416 N. Main St.

The organizer of the Austin event wrote that they “expect active-duty service members will attend from Fort Hood and other nearby installations, along with scores of our supporters. Please bring your friends. Anyone 18 and older may attend.”

The statement is signed by “Brigadier General Virgil A. Richard, United States Army (Ret) and Chaplain (Colonel) Paul W. Dodd, United States Army (Ret).”

Ironically, Austin will mark the first day that military personnel can openly speak about being gay or lesbian at a bar called Hush.

Hush is located down the street from the Capitol at 408 N. Congress St. The event begins at 6 p.m. Food will be served and each person who attends will get a free drink.

P-FLAG El Paso organized that city’s celebration with several local LGBT groups. The party will take place at San Antonio Mining Company, 800 East San Antonio Ave. Cake and champagne will be served.

DADT was enacted in 1993 as compromise legislation. Previously gay and lesbian servicemembers who were outed were given dishonorable discharges. The new law was supposed to end anti-gay witch hunts in the military.

The repeal legislation was passed in December 2010. Then each branch of the service had to certify that it had prepared for the change.

On July 22, after the head of each branch of the service had signed off that it was prepared for the repeal, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the president and the secretary of defense certified to the armed services committees of both houses of Congress that the military was ready for final enactment.

According to the legislation, the repeal goes into effect 60 days after certification, which falls on Sept. 20.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 2, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens