America: December 2011

2006-2011  Gay Military Signal

Melvin Dwork

Righting a Wrong
70 Years Later

by Michael Jacoby

Melvin Dwork and I met nearly fifteen years ago. I was a server at Pearl Oyster Bar, a cramped, counter seating-only seafood restaurant in the West Village (NYC). Working there was a bit like working in a bar, so I got to know quite a few of the regulars slinging Lobster Rolls across that marble countertop. But Mel was my favorite. In his 70’s at the time, Mel would entertain me with stories about his travels abroad and experiences in New York City. Mel had been living in the city since the early 1940’s and had fascinating tales to share. I’d never had a friend like Mel before - I was in my late twenties and most of my friends were around my age. Eventually Mel and I made plans to meet one another outside of the restaurant for coffee. As our relationship grew we became better and better friends. Today I consider Mel family.

As a young gay man, what always amazed me about Mel was his self- confidence. He will tell you that he always knew he was gay, and he never thought twice about his sexuality. He doesn’t flaunt it, but he has never made any attempt to hide it from anyone either.

My favorite thing about Mel is his willingness to share his life experiences with me. I’ve learned so much about art, music, dance and the City itself. Mel also shares personal memories that I know are not easy to relive; having lost nearly all of his friends to AIDS in the 80’s. I’m honored that he cares enough about me to share such stories. Some of Mel's stories even inspired me to film my first feature documentary, Ten More Good Years. Without a doubt, Mel has lived an incredibly vibrant life filled with many wonderful friends and loves. A few years back we decided that we would make a new film about one of his most incredible stories, and last Spring we began shooting the first of many interviews for The Undesirable.


Flying Out

Darin and David

by Darin Brunstad

On the 15th of October (his first National Guard Drill since the repeal of DADT), my partner stood up at his promotion ceremony and introduced me as his husband.  You could have heard a pin drop.  One airman at the back of the room started clapping slowly, but soon stopped after he realized that he was the only one doing so.  The room became quiet again, my husband swallowed hard and began the most important speech he has ever given to date.

We hadn't planned for it to work out this way, really - David had insisted that he wasn't going to come out publicly after repeal.  He was convinced that he would be scorned and the resulting disruption would undermine his leadership abilities, as well as his mission.  He was truly grateful that the threat of discharge no longer stalked him every time he stepped on base, but had decided he would just deal with it as best he could if and when anyone on base found out he was gay.

He was supposed to be promoted a month before repeal, and this promotion was especially important to him because it was to the rank he wanted to achieve before retirement.  But then his ceremony was delayed, and in the meantime DADT became history.  I let him know that I wanted to come to the post-repeal ceremony, but I also accepted that it would not be me that decided how and when he came out on base.

But then two weeks or so before the event he told me he wanted me to attend.  I could tell that he had been stewing for a few days, but I hadn't been sure why.  I told him that just being there would be enough, and that I didn't expect him to make any kind of a statement.  Let's take this slowly, I said.  I brought this up a lot as we got closer to the day, but he would just nod in a non-committed manner.


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