America: May 2009, Vol. VI, No. 5

2006-2009  Gay Military Signal


The Gay Veterans Movement To Achieve
Equality In America's Armed Forces


James C. Darby & Patrick Bova

April 2009
Although the history of the gay veterans movement in this country goes all the way back to 1776 when Lt. Gottfried Enslin was kicked out of the Army at Valley Forge, we are going to concentrate on what is generally referred to as the modern gay veterans movement and particularly on Gay Lesbian Bisexual Veterans of America (GLBVA), now American Veterans for Equal Rights (AVER).

We know that there were gay local veterans organizations forming around this country at about the same time that gay organizations were coming into existence.  Following WWII most of these groups were local.

At the first GLBT March on Washington (MOW) in 1987, GLBT veterans who were meeting other GLBT veterans began to realize the need and the value for having a national GLBT veterans organization.  Members from across California’s Veterans C.A.R.E. were the largest group at the March.  Returning home from the MOW communication began among some of these groups to form a national group.

 In 1989, Cliff Arnesen and Stan Berry from New England Gay, Lesbian & Bisexual Veterans of America traveled to Washington, DC to give oral testimony at the U.S. House Subcommittee on Oversight and Veterans Affairs.

Profiles in Patriotism

Becky Kanis

The Challenge of Service

by Denny Meyer

West Point graduate Becky Kanis is the sort of woman who is attracted to a challenge.  This is exactly the sort of person our armed forces seek out to serve as officers in leading our troops.  She was the responsible eldest of seven children in a Catholic family, a high school soccer athlete, and was encouraged to excel in everything that she did.  While she was selecting a college to attend, she was repeatedly cautioned against the difficulty of attending West Point; she was told that it was "miserable," and that military service might include having to fight an unjust war.  The more discouragement she heard, the more she knew that attending West Point was exactly what she wanted to do.  Her SAT scores were exactly what they sought.  A military academy could not have hoped for a better cadet.  She was offered early admission and a full scholarship.  West Point captured her imagination.  She wanted the education and adventure; she was attracted to the underlying value of contributing to something greater than herself along with the sense of service to American ideals and leadership.

Becky Kanis entered West Point in 1987, was commissioned in 1991, and served in the US Army Signal corps until 2000, leaving as a Captain.  During her service she earned a Meritorious Service Medal, two Humanitarian Service Medals, an Army Commendation Medal, an Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, a Senior Parachutist's Badge, and an Air Assault Badge.

While at West Point, she studied political science and was encouraged to think critically about American foreign policy.  She described her years at West Point as a "normal growing up process," during which she learned what it means to put ideas and people before her own self interest.  The longer she served in the military, she said, the more loyalty and responsibility she felt toward the lives entrusted to her as a leader.


Letter to the editor

a gay soldier's husband

April 2009
Hi, my name is D and my partner of 16 years is currently serving in Iraq.  We are raising a 13 year old girl together.  I started to blog to express the aggravation, fear and frustration that Don't Ask, Don't Tell forces on Gay and Lesbian families like mine.  

It would be good to have access to the Base support services.  I really don't have any idea what they would be, but I imagine things like spousal and family phone trees, potlucks and various other gatherings, counseling; the benefit of sharing with others going through similar things. 

Fair is not a word I use much anymore.  There is no guarantee of fairness in this life.  There are those who will sympathize with me, those who scold me that I knew what I was getting into, and even those will who tell me I shouldn't have any 'special rights'. 

What I think, however, is that it is just plain cruelty.  It's cruel that a good soldier, who has been shot at, rocketed, mortared since his first day on duty in Iraq never got to say a proper goodbye to the person he loves.  Instead, with our daughter in the backseat, we pulled behind a warehouse at the edge of the base, stepped out of the car and held each other briefly in the pouring rain.  The rain started to change to snow.  I dropped him a bit away from the main gate, so that nobody would see me, and he walked alone in the sleet  to report for duty.  I held it together so that he could make that walk without looking back in worry.  I held it together because I didn't want our daughter to be scared as I screamed and pounded my fists on the steering wheel.

We have a code for 'I love you' on the phone, and in our correspondence.  There are things I ache to say to him, but try my best to sound like just a good friend.  My writing is a stilted, messy kind of chicken scratching, no matter how hard I try - I looks like a guy's writing.  I could type it or have someone transpose it, but I refuse.  I stubbornly want him to somehow find comfort in its familiarity, in its messiness.



Research on the Open Secret:
Possible Implications for
Don't Ask Don't Tell

Andrew D. Reichert
Texas A&M University

April 21, 2009
As a doctoral student in Counseling Psychology at Texas A&M University, I am currently conducting research on the open secret, a phrase sometimes used to describe situations where a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender (GLBT) person's sexuality is known, but not discussed.  For example, Kenji Yoshino, a dean and law professor at Yale University and the author of Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights, notes that, "Many gay people have had this experience of the 'open secret.' I was gay – she knew I was gay – I knew she knew I was gay ... [But] because I would never acknowledge our collective knowledge, she could not do so either.  So we carried on – each week more strained than the last" (p. 62).   

To date, I have collected 113 responses to an online survey regarding the open secret, from which I am currently conducting follow-up interviews with many of my respondents.  The participants represent a variety of demographics, including sex, race, sexual orientation, and age, ranging from 18 to 77 years.  Additionally, the participants represent a variety of educational and vocational backgrounds, including those who have served in the military, both before and during the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy.

Although still preliminary, one theme that appears to be emerging from the qualitative data is the concept that a GLBT person's coming out of the closet may actually help bring people closer together, rather than drive them further apart.  The Don't Ask Don't Tell policy assumes that the presence of openly GLBT servicemembers will undermine unit cohesion and morale, when actually, it is the secrecy and anxiety associated with the policy that may be what truly undermines unit cohesion and morale. 


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