America: Oct. 23rd, 2007, Vol. III, No. 9

2006, 2007  Gay Military Signal

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"A Call Denied -- A Call to Serve.  Stories of Two Heroic Women." 
Forward by:  Chaplain (Colonel) Paul W. Dodd, D.Min., U.S. Army (Ret)

Denny Meyer has written a timely and insightful account of the lives and ministries of two American patriots and pilgrims of faith.  Rev. Dr. Sandy Bochonok and Rev. Lea Brown served their country with distinction as members of the Armed Forces.  Were it not for the injustices imposed by "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," these two women in ministry would still be serving American troops at home and abroad.  They have found prophetic and pastoral voices in the Metropolitan Community Church where they now serve pluralistic and inclusive congregations, and where their informed and gifted ministries touch the lives of thousands.  They continue to reach out to their sisters and brothers in uniform, and to the military chaplaincies, through their work with the Forum on Military Chaplaincy, a network of LGBT affirming lay people and former chaplains who advocate for the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," and call for open service for all qualified Americans.

Profiles in Patriotism

A CALL TO SERVE

Sandra L. Bochonok

By Denny Meyer

In early September 2007 The Metropolitan Community Church issued a Policy Statement affirming its commitment to the repeal of the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy and its ongoing support for LGBT service members.  For several years MCC has offered its nationwide food pantries to the partners and family members of LGBT troops stationed overseas.  For the full text of the MCC statement, click here.  Among the signers and participants of the MCC statement was former Navy Chaplain Sandra Bochonok; whose story is featured below.

Sandra Bochonok served in the United States Air Force as a nurse from 1980-1983 leaving with the rank of Captain.  Later she served in the United States Navy as a Chaplain from 1991-1996 leaving with the rank of Lieutenant Commander.  The rather remarkable story of  the Rev. Dr. Bochonok, now an ordained minister in the Metropolitan Community Church, is both inspirational and symbolic of the type of determination and commitment most valued by our armed forces.

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Profiles in Patriotism

Lea Brown
A Calling Denied

By Denny Meyer

Lea Brown was a good Southern Baptist girl from the American Southwest.  Her father served in the US Air Force in World War II. Reared in a loving home to be civically involved, she attended Oklahoma Baptist University as a straight A student.  During her time at OBU she felt a calling to ministry - specifically, the ministry of the military chaplaincy.  From college she went right into seminary and joined the Army Reserve where she was commissioned as a Chaplain Candidate (2nd Lt.)This is the kind of person our armed services seek, a pure soul of the American soil.

While at basic training at Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey, alas, she became clearly aware of another part of who she felt called to be, at the age of 23.  Entering the military, it seems in case after case, is the coming of age experience that causes young people to realize their sexual orientation.  And in nearly all such cases it takes a considerable period of introspection to clear the confusion on what to do next.  In Lea's case, coming out to her church and denomination would mean the end of her dreams to serve as an Army chaplain.

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The ENDA End Game

Barry Winchell, the martyr of the movement to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell, was beaten to death in his sleep with a baseball bat at Ft. Campbell in 1999 because his killers thought he was "a faggot."  Official quick-march cadence calls during daily exercise drills at the time indoctrinated running recruits to believe that it was OK to "kill faggots."  But PFC Winchell wasn't gay; he was in love with a transgender woman.  What he was didn't matter; it was their prejudiced perception that provoked the murder.  It is that constant danger of being fired from our jobs or even being murdered, because of who people might think we are, that makes us all one and the same victims of hate.  On June 26th, 1963, President John F. Kennedy told the besieged citizens of Berlin, "Ich bin ein Berliner" (in the infamous interpreter's error, in the local dialect, he'd said, "I am a jelly doughnut."  But, everyone understood what he meant), that is, "I am one with you."  It is no joke to be discriminated against by being fired from your job or being killed because some ignorant asshole thinks that you're some kind of "queer."  It is for that reason that over 300 LGBT and other civil rights organizations, nationally, have insisted that the Employment Non Discrimination Act (ENDA) must be fully inclusive of protection for Transgender Americans.  We cannot any longer allow selective discrimination to continue nor permit it by omission in legislation.

In the works for years, ENDA has been in committee, for the preceding few weeks, in preparation for a full vote in the US House of Representatives.  As originally written, the bill was fairly comprehensive in providing federal protection in employment for LGBT Americans.  Then pragmatists decided that the only chance of passage would require the removal of rights, in the bill, for Transgender Americans.  We must not forget that everyone involved means well.  Among the legislators and advocates engaged in the struggle for our equal rights and freedom, there are differing views on whether incremental progress or solidarity on full inclusion should be the priority.  To read the policy statements, regarding ENDA, of three leading organizations engaged in the advocacy of the rights of LGBT servicemembers and veterans, click on the links below.

Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, American Veterans for Equal Rights, Transgender American Veterans Association

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