America: January 2015

2006-2015  Gay Military Signal

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USCG Honors
First Women at Sea

by
Julz Carey
Vice President, American
Veterans For Equal Rights

37 years ago this did not seem to be such a big deal.  The Coast Guard had decided to permanently assign women to US combatant vessels.  There would be 2 vessels, one on the west coast and another on the east.  I was 17 years old, a young BM3 not long out of "A" school, and with a month of small boat training at CG Station Humboldt Bay, CA.  I had received a call from  my recruiter asking me if I would be interested in a shipboard assignment. It was an experiment that may or may not have lasted and I jumped at the chance.  Summer 1977 found me reporting aboard Coast Guard Cutter Gallatin, homeport: Governor's Island, New York City.   

There were 12 women, 2 officers and 10 enlisted.  The officers shared a stateroom and the enlisted were berthed in the starboard engineering 10 man berthing.  We had a lot to learn, especially those of us in traditional seagoing rates, but we banded together to make this "experiment" work.  Over the next 2 and a half years I experienced boring North Atlantic patrols punctuated by 30 foot seas, "jaws" sightings, hours spent beating ice off of the superstructure, and the occasional fishing fleet inspections. We spent much of our time patrolling the Caribbean, stopping in San Juan, Puerto Rico at least a dozen times.  Ocean liner fires, volcanoes, vessels loaded with marijuana and cocaine,  lost fishermen adrift on the high seas were some of the adventures that came with the hours spent on flight ops and endless drills.  We were dogged by the press and DACOWITS, uniforms became an issue and the inevitable shipboard romances happened.  In time, we figured out that we were a crew, didn't matter the gender, just the ability to do our job.   We went to Gitmo for war games with the Navy and conducted ourselves pretty much like any other crew.  Well, maybe our sea stories were a little more colorful.

I can't breath

Imagine the uproar that would erupt if a black police officer shot a 12 year old white boy to death in suburbia because he was playing with a toy gun, alone, in an empty playground.  Imagine the uproar if a black police officer took down and killed a middle aged white man with a choke hold, in suburbia, suspecting him of selling something on the street in front of his house without a license.  With the roles reversed, these and other similar killings took place in American cities in recent weeks and months.  Now, imagine if you, as an invisible gay person, had lavender colored skin which clearly identified you as a queer to anyone with two working eyes and particularly to police officers who saw gay people as universally suspect and dangerous.  Imagine how you would feel as a lavender colored person who was followed by security the moment you walked into a store, throughout your life!  This was the experience of the President of the United States of America, before he had his own national security force following him around.

Now, you might thank God that no one can tell you're gay anytime you walk outside; but think of the fact that not a day passes that some Transgender American isn't assaulted and murdered just because of who they are.  Imagine if your skin was black or lavender.  In 1930s Germany, the Nazis had a law that required all Jews to wear a yellow star, which entitled the Gestapo, police, and any bully and bigot to stop, question, viciously assault, and arrest you just because of who you are.  Six million Jews were murdered across Europe by the Nazis before and during WWII, along with one million gay people, and millions of Roma just because of who they were.  When the victorious allied forces liberated the survivors from the Nazi death camps, they kept the Pink Triangle (gay) prisoners in the camps and later turned them over to German authorities who re-imprisoned them and tortured them; there were no survivors.

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