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Ed O’Keefe, The Washington Post: ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ ends: Magazine tells stories of gay troops

‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ ends: Magazine tells stories of gay troops
by , September 20, 2011

At age 19, Eddy Sweeney began what he calls “a destructive life of deception, lies, and evasion with myself and the government of the United States of America.”

Eager to enlist, Sweeney joined the Air Force despite knowing he could be discharged for violating the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy if commanders discovered he was gay.

Reminded about the gay ban while filling out his enlistment paperwork, Sweeney signed anyway.

“I told myself that joining the military — serving my country — involved some sort of sacrifice,” Sweeney said. “Though the military did not expressly forbid gays and lesbians to join under the DADT law signed by President Clinton, one could not act of course on any of their natural desires.”

Provocative and personal, Sweeney’s recollections are included in the latest edition of OutServe Magazine , a new publication by and for gay and lesbian members of the U.S. military.

It will be available for free at eight military Exchange stores: at Camp Mabry in Austin, two locations at Ft. Hood, three stores at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state, the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland and Ft. Meade in Maryland.

Taking advantage of what activists are calling, “Repeal Day,” Sweeney, the magazine’s managing editor and an Air Force intelligence officer, is one of hundreds of active-duty and reserve troops whose full names, ranks and photographs appear in the magazine as a way of informing collegaues, commanders, family and friends that they are gay, or lesbian, and serving in the military without fear of losing their jobs.

“We want people to pick up the magazine, see it and realize that ending ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ isn’t a big deal,” said Josh Seefried — known for several years by his pseudonym, “J.D. Smith,” and as the head of OutServe. The group’s members comprise a growing network of active-duty gay and lesbian troops, many of whom are currently serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

When the magazine first published in April, “the Pentagon called and freaked out about it,” Seefried said. Now, Defense Department officials eagerly call seeking copies.

And that’s a good thing, Seefried said, because “When they realize it’s no different than a boring bowling magazine, that’s progress.”

The magazine’s opening pages include questions posed to “Sergeant,” an advice columnist who fields questions on the logistics of a gay military relationship. Federal law bars the military from legally recognizing same-sex partners as a spouse or dependent, making issues of housing and health-care especially challenging.

“I am in a same-sex relationship right now and I have just received orders to Texas,” one reader writes. “My main issue is that I am in love with the girl that I am with, and when it becomes legal to marry, I plan to.”

“Sergeant” suggests the couple talk “and see what her thoughts are,” but adds that moving to Texas is ultimately the girlfriend’s decision.

The magazine includes several personal essays and photographs, an official notice of an upcoming Las Vegas conference for gay troops, and ads from and MetLife Insurance.

Towards the back, in arguably the most revealing part of the magazine, we learn that Army Capt. Patrick Twomey, a doctor at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, is gay. So is Michael S. Martin, a Navy aviation machinist in Jacksonville. Air Force Senior Airman Britney Nolley is there too, as is John Kubik, a Coast Guard chef.

All of them — and hundreds of others who couldn’t be included due to space restrictions — eagerly submitted photos, Seefried said.

“Yes, it grabs attention and may be a little provocative at first,” he added, “but it should prove that gay people are no different.”

Between early 1993, when DADT began, and the policy’s final day of enforcement on Monday, the military discharged at least 14,346 service members for violating “don’t ask, don’t tell,” according to Servicemembers United, another network of gay troops.

Army Maj. Casey Moes wasn’t one of them. Neither was Air Force Crew Chief Carmine Solimini or Army Spec. Elizabeth Ellmann, according to the magazine.

They will continue serving in uniform, and if asked, now they can tell.

Follow Ed O’Keefe on Twitter: @edatpost

Read some of Ed O’Keefe’s reporting on “don’t ask, don’t tell”:

Celebration and concern mark the end of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

Sources: Pentagon group finds there is minimal risk to lifting gay ban during war

‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ is repealed by Senate; bill awaits Obama’s signing

Troops gets training on end of ‘don’t ask’

How should gay troops behave after ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ ends?

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