Imagine it’s a Monday morning. You arrive at your desk, check emails, and begin the weekly routine.
Yet, today your boss announces he has decided he will do a health and welfare visit to each employee’s home. This is the reality of life in the U.S. Military. The privacy- boundaries between your personal life and work life - doesn’t exist.
I began to panic.
When you’re gay and serving, moments like these threaten your entire existence and all that you form your identity around – could come crumbling down.
For so long we have been trained to serve in silence, unable to discuss our personal lives. Unable to share those we love with the world or bring our partners to unit functions.
The culture Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell created can’t be undone in a day or by the stroke of a pen. It takes times.
The experiences of LGBTQ service members and veterans remain largely unknown - hidden behind a dark shroud of the notorious Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Even today, more than six years after the repeal, military culture and society as a whole are far from accepting our community. I realize that I know so little about my fellow LGBTQ soldiers and fear still lingers because it has been ingrained that to remain safe, I had to keep a part of myself hidden.
Regardless of my anxiety, I knew it was time to tell the story of being gay and serving in the military. Is there anyone better to tell the story than those who are living it?
It is for these reasons, and many others, that I have founded THE ASK & TELL PROJECT - a media platform that offers current and former LGBTQ service members a chance to share their memories, beliefs, fears, and optimism through video, audio, photo, and the written-word across @askandtell social media channels and askandtell.com.
I’ve started by sharing my own story, and I truly hope that all LGBTQ veterans and service members will join the ASK & TELL movement.
Every time, I introduce my work with THE ASK & TELL PROJECT, I pause and take a deep breath. Perhaps it’s just subconscious, or only a moment that I notice, but it is there and very alive. The comfort of being open and honest isn’t there yet. I guess after years of being forced to hide out of fear can do that to someone. But it shouldn’t still be this way, right?
However, the more I talk to other LGBTQ veterans or service members, the more I understand the size and scope of discrimination and pain. But when I talk to a heterosexual service member, and s/he accepts me as I am without hesitation, I am reminded that it’s the policy that promoted an anti-LGBTQ environment, not the people. All soldiers share a crucial core value: the love for your battle buddies, regardless of whom they choose to be or love. After all, your battle buddy may one day be the difference between life and death.
My service in uniform has been one of the highest honors and the foundation of my personal and professional lives. I want nothing more than for the institution to flourish. We must strive for a more open military culture. We must strive to maintain transgender service. We must support a force that is diverse and capable of meeting growing security challenges in a rapidly changing world. Let’s take that step forward once and for all. Let’s ASK and TELL the stories of our LGBTQ veterans and service members.
Less than one percent of the American public serves today so why would we want to stop someone that desires to serve our nation, regardless of sexuality or gender identity?