DADT makes life stressful and risky for closeted servicemember
John Wright | Online Editor firstname.lastname@example.org
Right now, though, Kevin is on active duty with the Marines, stationed overseas and deployed to a classified location.
He joined the Marines a few years ago, before he had accepted the fact that he was gay.
Kevin is a member of OutServe, formerly Citizens for Repeal, which was launched last month and bills itself as the first-ever organization for actively serving lesbian, gay and bisexual troops.
The group began in October 2009 as a Facebook page and has grown to 450 members.
“We are active duty and veteran gay, lesbian, and bisexual soldiers, sailors, Marines, airmen and members of the Coast Guard who are currently serving and who have served — some in silence, some with the open support of our comrades — in defense of our nation,” the group said in a statement announcing its launch. “We include service men and women who graduated at the top of our classes at the service academies and enlisted at recruitment centers around the country. Some of our members have lost their lives in service to their country.”
Kevin, whose real name is being withheld to protect him from being outed under “don’t ask don’t tell,” talked with Dallas Voice via personal e-mail.
DV: Are you single or do you have a partner at home?
KEVIN: I am in a committed relationship with my fiancé who is also active duty.
DV: How did you manage to develop a relationship while both on active duty under DADT?
KEVIN: We met online, we met up at Starbucks and really just hit it off from the beginning. We started hanging out on the weekends, then after work off base.
The more time we spent together, the more we realized that we couldn’t be apart. It is really risky to be in a homosexual relationship and be in the military. But once you have found that special someone you realize what really matters in life. There is a great risk, and we both realize that, but the love that we have for each other outweighs that risk.
We are stationed at the same place. While I am deployed we try and keep in contact as much as possible. While talking on the phone, we have to speak in code to make sure that no one finds out. We never know who is listening. We mainly connect through personal e-mail.
DV: How long have you been out as gay in your private life? Did you know you were gay when you enlisted?
KEVIN: I came out of the closet to myself, my family and friends about two or three years ago. I knew that I was different at the time that I joined the military, but I wasn’t ready to accept that yet. I didn’t want to be different. I wanted so much to live a normal life, to not have people judge me, to not take the chances of my family disowning me — which by the way didn’t happen, my family is completely supportive and are my biggest fans.
DV: What is it like to have to hide who you are on a daily basis? Do you frequently worry about being outed?
KEVIN: It is extremely stressful knowing that if the wrong person finds out about me, my career is over. I love being in the military. I love serving my country. I take great pride in knowing that by me doing what I am doing, I am helping to ensure that my family is able to continue to live their lives the way that they want to.
There was one time that one of my friends and I were out and her supervisor showed up at the same place. He was a little intoxicated and started to make inappropriate sexual remarks to her. She felt extremely uncomfortable and let someone know. What she did was the right thing, but because this individual knew that I was gay, I wasn’t allowed to help my friend by telling the proper chain of command what I knew, for fear that he would tell on me — which he eventually did end up doing. But there was nothing that could be done because he didn’t have proof. To make sure that the wrong people don’t find out about my private life it has to stay just that.
Me and my fiancé aren’t allowed to go to lunch together during the duty day for fear of being caught. We don’t e-mail each other on our work computers, because we never know who is reading them. We can’t call each other’s office; we don’t go to special functions of each other’s that normal families would go, such as promotion ceremonies.
DV: How did you get involved with OutServe and what is your role with the organization? What do you hope to accomplish with the group?
KEVIN: I met [OutServe co-director] J.D. Smith through mutual friends, and got involved in Outserve through him. I guess my role wouldn’t be any more important than anyone else’s. We all have the same goal, to end DADT.
We want the public to know that we demand equal rights. Some people seem to think that if DADT is repealed then there will be some mass coming out party, where we run around in skirts and have sex at the office. But what these people don’t understand is that the Uniform Code Of Military Justice will still be in effect. We will be held to the same standards of professionalism as anyone else.
We are in the military in the first place for one reason: to do our job, accomplish the mission. That’s what will still be done once DADT is repealed. We at Outserve are working to make sure that the thoughts and views of actual military members currently serving under DADT have a voice in the decision making process.
DV: Have you taken or seen the survey that was sent to the troops as part of the Pentagon study? What are your thoughts on it?
KEVIN: I have seen it. I wasn’t one of the ones chosen to take the survey, but I did find it online. I was completely outraged. First of all, I don’t understand why we need the survey to make sure that every man and woman in the United States is treated equally. Second, I feel that the survey was completely biased.
DV: What are your thoughts on what’s happening with the DADT repeal process overall?
KEVIN: I think that the process is taking way too long; the policy is unconstitutional and should be stopped now.
All we are trying to do is serve our country and live our lives without fear of losing everything that we have worked for. The only crime that is being committed is falling in love and not being ashamed of admitting it.
I feel President Obama made a lot of promises that sounded great while he was running for president. I completely applaud him for taking on issues that others were scared to take on. I do, however, wish that he would make good on those campaign promises and do the right thing. Put a stop to DADT.
I am unsure if the policy is going to be repealed at this point. All I can do is hope for the best, and promise not to give up the fight until every man and woman in the United States has equal rights.
DV: So you think Obama should issue an executive order?
KEVIN: I definitely think that President Obama should issue an executive order ending DADT, at least at a very minimum to stop discharges and investigations until the policy is repealed.
DV: If it is not repealed, will you re-enlist?
KEVIN: I will not continue to live a lie. I can’t take that. I don’t believe in lying and hate the fact that I have to. So if DADT is not repealed, then I will not be re-enlisting. It’s not worth the stress that it puts on my relationship and my conscience.
DV: What would you say to senators who are undecided about whether to vote for DADT repeal?
KEVIN: I have made contact with my senators and congressman. I got the same reply from all. I was told they all are planning on voting against repeal due to the concerns of military leaders. This answer really frustrates me.
I was under the impression that once a congressman/senator is elected, they are supposed to represent the views of the people who voted them into that office, not the military leaders. I have just about completely lost faith in my congressman and senators.
If I could talk to them I would ask them, “How would you feel if you were completely in love with one person and had to hide it from the world for fear of losing your job? How would you feel if the day you were elected into office, you couldn’t share that moment with your spouse because your relationship was illegal? How would you feel if you had to lie to everyone you came into contact with on the daily basis?
“This policy is affecting people’s lives. Please do the right thing and vote to repeal.”
And I would want them to know that at night when they lay down to go to sleep next to the person that they love, that I am not able to do that because I am currently deployed fighting for that right which, legally, I am not afforded. That my partner is in his bed worried sick about me every night, hoping that something doesn’t happen to me. If something did happen he would not be notified.
DV: What can the LGBT community in your hometown/state and across the country do to support you? What is your message to them?
KEVIN: I would encourage everyone to get involved, to stand up for what is right. Flood your congressman and senators with calls and letters urging them to vote for repeal. Get educated on the topics. Anything that you can do to help is greatly appreciated by those of us who can’t openly do it.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 6, 2010.