In many countries around the world, gay men have had a problematic relationship with the military. In the United States, it wasn’t until 2011 that the armed services officially welcomed gay men and lesbians in their ranks, but the outlook for Trans people wanting to serve in the US military is looking increasingly uncertain.
I caught up with Chet to talk about his experience in the US military. Chet has to remain anonymous for this interview as he is still actively serving.
When did you join the military?
It was 1987. I was 18.
I knew people who had served, and I was attracted to the opportunity. I wanted to get away from home.
What was your initial training like?
It sucked, but I knew it would. I don’t remember much about it all — shell shock, I guess.
What was the military’s approach to gay men at that time?
In 1987, homosexual behaviour in the armed services was forbidden, and if you were caught you were discharged.
When I enlisted, I hadn’t acknowledged to myself that I was gay. I dated women — I tried to mask, I deflected. I was very confused about my sexual orientation.
I was aware of people being disciplined or discharged for being gay.
What was your experience of the military’s evolving attitude towards gay men over the years?
Tense. I had at least one very strong threat for exposure. I received some very nasty homophobic comments and emails too.
Is the military now a good career choice for gay men?
I think if you have the skill set to do the job you choose, then you should be okay. No job is ever perfect.