Brian, the Air Force intel unit that I worked for was a pretty special place, and not necessarily representative of military culture at the time.

We were tasked with voice and electronic intercept of Soviet Air and Air Defense resources, and almost all of us were highly educated. Lots of enlisted people even had college degrees; the senior sergeant on my flight had a master’s degree in Russian literature.

Americans who quote Chekhov to one another in the original Russian tend to be more tolerant than your average bear.

If I’d been an Army infantry officer across town at McNair Barracks, I suspect I’d have had a very different experience.

The era before DADT was weird that way. Pockets of genuine acceptance existed all over the military, but the risk of discovery was always there. A new commander could come in, set new expectations, and change everything.

After DADT, colleagues of mine told me that my command, the Air Force Electronic Security Command, purged known gay service members. So it’s probably a good thing I got out when I did.


Writer. Runner. Marine. Airman. Former LGBTQ and HIV activist. Former ActUpNY and Queer Nation. Polyglot. Middle-aged, uppity faggot.

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