Don't Ask, Don't Tell - 1962 version (three gays, I'm on the right)
The repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy is before Congress again. I try not to post negative of whining, complaining posts to my blog but on this subject I'm having a hard time avoiding it.
I am gay and have been all my life. I've known I was "different" from my earliest memory which was when I was about four years old. Of course at that time I didn't know the word "gay." I only knew I was "different" and that I should keep that fact to myself.
Me, 5 years old 1946
When I went to grade school was the first time I heard the hateful words "fairy", "fag", and worse. Then I heard the word homosexual. That was me, a homosexual.
After graduating from high school I joined the Army. On my application to join the Army I lied when I answered the question "Do you ever have homosexual tendencies?" I knew if I answered truthfully that the Army would reject me. So I lied about who I was so I could survive and serve my country.
Me, basic training Ft. Dix, NewJersey 1960 all growed up
As fate would have it the Army assigned me to work at the National Security Agency at Ft. George G. Meade, Maryland. In order to work at NSA, I had to have a top secret clearance. Again, I had to lie when I filled out the application to work at NSA.
Me in my "summer tans" 1962 - check the sharp creases
Ironically, I met my first gay friends during the 2 1/2 years I worked at NSA. We all lied about our sexual identity just to survive during our tour of duty. Periodically, the NSA and the Army would have purges of gays. You didn't have to be involved in sexual activity to lose your clearance, only to be accused.
Me with friends at Ft. Devens, Mass 1962 - good times
I had a good job when I worked at NSA. I loved being in the Army. At the end of my tour of duty I could have converted to a civilian status and kept my same job at NSA. But because I was gay I did not. I wanted to make the Army a career but I did not. The reasons I made these decisions is because I knew sooner or later I would be found out. I didn't want to start out on a lifetime career only to have it ended once I was outed or came out.
Me (standing on the left) with my friends at Ft. Devens 1962 (no unit cohesion problems here)
Thus it is with much interest that I have viewed all the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" controversy. Of course gay and lesbian members of the armed forces should be allowed to serve openly. A person's service should be based on behavior not who they are.
Me (on the right) on the firing range at Ft. Meade, Md. 1962 with another gay service member - we both qualified
There is an assumption that all gay people are sex obsessed. Of course some gays are sex obsessed just as some heterosexuals are sex obsessed. But to assume that once gays and lesbians are allowed to serve openly that "unit cohesion" will suffer is wrong. Trust me, I know. I am the expert.
The Department of Defense is conducting a study of what the effects would be on the armed forces if gays are allowed to serve openly. A study? What's to study? Most service members now know who is gay and who is not. Congress and the DOD doesn't give the average member of the services much credit. Most service members don't care who is gay. Of course some do. We will always have those among us who feel threatened by those who are different than they are. And there are some who are closeted gays themselves who don't want to be outed for their own selfish reasons. Usually, these are the sex obsessed gays.
Friends - Ft. Devens, Mass 1960 (I'm kneeling on bottom left)
Bob, Duane, Unknown, me, Bill and Dick
One the most ridiculous suggestions I've head being made in this "study" is separate housing for gays and lesbians. Absolutely ridiculous. Isn't this the same thing that happened with blacks before former president Truman lifted the separate living quarters of blacks serving in the armed forces? Haven't we as a country moved past this? Apparently not.
Me in the barracks - harmless even with my pants off (back when I smoked)
I never thought in my lifetime I thought I would see as much progress that has been made in the public arena of acceptance of gays and lesbians. I even resent using the word "acceptance." I don't need to be "accepted." I don't need someone to "tolerate" my "lifestyle." Just what is my "lifestyle" anyway? Swinging from chandeliers while having wild sex? That never was me nor will it ever be. I just am. The only difference between me and my straight male friends is that I was born with a sexual attraction to members of my own sex. I didn't chose. It just was.
Me with one of my boyfriends, Brad - not permitted while I was in the Army
So here we are again, debating the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Why there is even a discussion about this absurd policy still baffles me. To me it is so clear. Let people be who there are. If they misbehave themselves, straight or gay, then hold them accountable for their behavior not who they are.
Even though I was prevented from choosing a career in the Army or a civilian career at the National Security Agency, my life has turned out pretty well. If I had stayed in Army or worked at NSA I would never have met my Life Partner Bill. I left the Army in 1963. I met Bill in 1964. We have been together ever since, 46 years. And they say gay relationships don't last.
My Life Partner Bill - Air Force 1953
Just to show you how strange life is, Bill, my Life Partner was also a career service person. He was in the Army and then Air Force for seven years before he had to leave to support his widowed mother.
Thus the irony, of two former service members who, if permitted to stay in the service, would never have found lifelong happiness outside the military.
Me and Bill 1972 - Philadelphia, PA - plaid was in