ship eased into it's
berth at the Naval Station in Norfolk Virginia in 1969, after a 9
month deployment at sea, a
band played on the pier, and there was the usual
circus of sailors kissing their wives and
girlfriends. Being a gay sailor serving in
silence, none of that was for me. I wasn't
allowed to do any of that. I just tried to
be inconspicuous as I walked through the throng
of happy kissers, so shipmates wouldn't notice
that I was alone. I'd get plenty of kisses
from my boyfriends once
I got home to New York, I knew (yes, boyfriends,
plural; hell, I was twenty two and cute as a bug in
my sailor suit). But, this
moment was awfully lonely.
to kiss a boyfriend, in public, in uniform, was
beyond my imagination in those days before
Stonewall, Matlovich, and Milk. Being
caught gay, back then, meant being killed or being
disgraced with a dishonorable discharge.
We've come a long way since the iconic VE Day
1945 photo of a sailor boy kissing a young woman
in New York's Times Square at the close of WWII.
(A few years ago a reporter tracked down that
woman, in her late 80s living in a nursing home
in California, to ask about her memories of that
long ago moment).
year's iconic Sailor's Christmas Homecoming Kiss
photo is of
U.S. Navy 2nd Class Petty Officer Marissa Gaeta
kissing her fiancée, Petty Officer 3rd Class
Citlalic Snell. How sweet it is!
Perhaps some sixty six years from now they will
track down those two elderly women and ask them
what all the fuss was about.
U.S. Navy Photo
The First Kiss on the pier privilege was won by
Petty Officer Gaeta in a shipboard raffle, with
the proceeds going to charity. The fact
that the national media were there for the
otherwise obscure routine return of the
amphibious dock landing
ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51) from a mere three
month puddle tour in the Caribbean,
tells me that they were alerted in advance by
the Navy, eager to show enthusiastic compliance
with the repeal of the discriminatory DADT law.
The photo and story appeared on TV news and
major newspapers around the country as well as
far overseas in Australia's The Age with
the Yahoo link headline, "Kiss and tell....at
Naval officers interviewed
by the media pretended that there was nothing
unusual about this kiss, saying that it was "no
big deal." Right.
What does it all mean?
For the DADT repeal movement it is 'The Picture
of the Year!' For America it is a photo of
progress in spite of the right wing hate
mongers' cynical campaign of divisiveness.
For the world, it is a picture of peace and
genuine love at the end of a year of bombs and
For President Obama, who
signed the repeal of DADT almost exactly one
year to the day before the two women sailors'
kiss, it was the culmination of a promise kept.
Who can forget his First Family kiss on the
night of his inauguration as Beyonce
meaningfully sang "At Last."
Someday soon, I hope, both those kisses will at last
really be "no big deal."
-Denny Meyer, gay