Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Email from a gay American navy veteran

Last week, the following email arrived in my inbox:

Dear GB,

I'm sending you this email to ask for some advice. My name is Robaire Watson and I've been living in the San Francisco Bay Area for 19 years. I spent 6 years in the Navy as an openly gay military man from 1989 to 1995.

Now, I've spent the last year sending out over a 1000 emails and mailing at least 200 letters, asking gay & straight organizations, magazines and media about allowing me to tell my story. When it comes to "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" I want to be the first black man to have his story told by the media. (Boy! Do I have a story to tell.)

I'm starting to feel like, since I don't look like Jake Gyllenhaal and I'm not under 30 years old or have the body of Colton Ford, they're not interested! We in the gay community have our own racial and discrimination issues. We need to be honest with ourselves and admit this is true. I'm like Rosa Parks and I refuse to sit at the back or to be thrown under the bus.

Can you advise me on how a black gay military veteran can have his story told? You can read a bit of my story by following this link?

Thank you,

The interesting thing about Robaire is that he seems to have been an out gay guy in the navy both before and after the infamous "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy was introduced, so I replied to him with a couple of ideas. One thought was to contact a media organisation that I know that focuses on gay politics, and the other idea was for him to simply start a blog and gradually post his story from one day to the next. Do any readers have any other ideas for him?

I recall that in the UK, it was during the 1990's that the ban on gay people serving in the armed forces was lifted. With so many other countries allowing it these days, the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy does make the USA look very old fashioned.

I think one of the reasons by a ban on gay people serving in the armed forces is bad is because armed forces recruit lots of guys as soon as they leave school, so it's quite likely that some guys won't have worked out that they're gay when they sign up. I imagine that the trauma of gradually realising that one is gay while in a hostile environment could be quite devastating. If it wasn't for that, I'd think that it's madness for anyone to want the right join the armed forces and hence the right to die for one's country, because that's what being in the armed forces can ultimately mean.

If all the gay guys in the American military were to 'tell' and get themselves discharged, I wonder how long it would be before the policy was changed? Just like a parent dealing with a naughty child, sometimes the best way to get what you want can be to seem to seek the opposite!


Will said...

My husband and I have a large circle of gay friends who frequent our Sweat lodge gatherings, among whom is an army officer (non-comm) who was pretty openly gay all throughout his career. All the top brass from the area came to his and his partner's 25th anniversary party, for example. When I asked him one day how this had been managed, he smiled and replied, "Sweetheart, if you know how to work the system and you've got the balls you can do anything you want."

Robaire's story has to be remarkable, particularly as being black and out gay is very difficult in this country.

"DA,DT" is very hot here right now as a Congressional Committee is just about to review the whole mess all over again. I would suggest Robaire contact the magazine The Advocate ASAP and offer his story to it. I am sure The Advocate will have full coverage of the coming debate which will be extremely high profile, particularly in an election year. The blog idea is a good one, but only if he contacts several key bloggers with huge followings (Joe,My.God and Towleroad, for instance--and several others), introduces himself once he's got the blog up and his story on it, and asks if they would be willing to direct their readers to his site--he will instantly get hundreds if not thousands of readers. Both men are steadfast in their mission to advance gay rights and expose hypocrites in The system. I can't imagine their not being interested in helping him.

Anonymous said...

Robaire raises another valid point, that being racism in gay culture. Attitude magazine had an interesting article on this in their May issue.

SubtleKnife said...

Darling GB, 700 servicemen and -women are discharged under DADT every year. Some of those are people in extremely important positions. There are enormous shortages in skilled jobs (arabic translators, anyone?), but that's still not enough for the military to change its mind.

There should be a meeting of the House Military Personnel Subcommittee today, though, discussing its repeal.

I have tried to ask (former) military people how the felt about the low opinion their bosses had of them, i.e. that they were all ignorant rednecks who couldn't work together with a gay or lesbian comerade, but have never gotten a satisfactory answer.

close encounters said...

i don't mean to sound cruel, but does anybody else wonder what this bloke is on about ... he is complaining because the media aren't interested in his non-story ??

how often does anybody want to read a story where nothing happens - and the media reflects that ...

GB said...

I wasn't sure what everyone's reaction would be to this guy's story Will, Fixator, so I'm glad you both found it interesting :-). After I posted it I was thinking a bit along the lines of Close Encounters's comment! And apologies for being a bit ignorant SubtleKnife, your points are well made.

GB xxx

Anonymous said...

I found it interesting as well-each to their own as they say!

One man's boring, is another man's interesting!

Thanks for this!

gayconsultant said...

I think another reason why discharging gays is dumb is because the problem actually is homoPHOBIA, not homoSEXUALITY. A straight friend of mine looks quite gay - so at the army everybody harrassed him for being gay. If the argument is that such harrassment will cause the army to dysfunction (which would sound plausible), the logical implication is that not gays but homophobes should be discharged.

Also noteworthy is that in ancient Greece (which somehow seems to have been dominated by bisexuals) soldiers often were sent into war as "couples" (i.e., each one with his boyfriend) as the Greeks thought that this way each would defend his boyfriend most ferociously till the end...