LGBT Clubs Thrive at Post-DADT U.S. Military Academies
Blue Alliance was denied access to academy facilities prior to the end of DADT. Now, all that has changed.
"Last fall, Blue Alliance was granted affinity status with the Academy’s Association of Graduates, had a dinner (and tailgate) on Academy grounds at Doolittle Hall attended by over 65 alumni, cadets, and Academy officials," Heller told EDGE. For the first time, the Blue Alliance was invited to attend the academy’s National Character Development and Leadership Forum as special guests last February.
In addition, gay and lesbian cadets have submitted an official request to form a group called Blue eQuality. "Gay and lesbian cadets now can talk freely to their leadership and staff about personal issues, giving them access to the same assistance taken for granted by most cadets," said Heller.
The venerable Naval Academy in Annapolis has also done a 180-degree turnaround after the DADT repeal. On April 14, 94 U.S. Naval Academy LGBT alumni, midshipmen and their guests gathered at USNA to recognize alumni and midshipmen accomplishments over the last year, commemorating seven months since repeal of DADT.
Thirty-one midshipmen of all four classes and their guests attended, along with 34 members of USNA Out, the LGBT organization of U.S. Naval Academy alumni. Sixteen of the midshipmen are seniors, who will graduate on May 29 and be the first class at Annapolis to graduate under the new policy that now allows gay, lesbian and bisexual military members to serve without fear of discharge.
Helping Those In & Out of the Closet
Just like Blue Alliance, however, USNA Out realizes that not all of their members want to broadcast their sexual orientation. In a message to would-be members on their website, the group says, "Despite ’Out’ in our name, you don’t need to be out to join USNA Out. Many of our members are allies, some are still questioning and some just aren’t out for professional or personal reasons. A few of our registered members have opted to remain hidden from other members on our roster, but still have full access to our site and communications."
"If you are not yet comfortable to join as a member, you can still take comfort in knowing that there are many other alumni & midshipmen just like you," concludes the message.
Knights Out Sue Fulton told EDGE, "Certainly there remains some prejudice; but cadets place a high value on respect and gay and lesbian cadets who have chosen to be out are treated equally." Recently, Knights Out hosted a dinner at West Point, attended by over a hundred people, including 30 cadets.
In addition, groups like OutServe have sprung up to serve all service members - officer and enlisted. In less than two years of existence, OutServe, which provides networking for over 5,000 actively serving military members in over 50 chapters, has accomplished quite a bit.
"The chapters provide support and advice for their members as well as involvement in local community efforts, including Walk/Runs in support of charities fighting AIDS, breast cancer, and MS," OutServe officials told EDGE in a statement. "One chapter leader organized a 5K run in memory of one of his soldiers killed in a training accident; another chapter sponsored a stretch of highway in memory to a gay soldier killed in action."
"We remain available to provide input, advice, and support to the Pentagon and anyone in the military to ensure that LGB and straight military members can accomplish the mission effectively and with the respect and equal treatment that are a hallmark of our armed forces."
Fulton maintains that the military has changed, and that, for the most part, there’s more a sense of relief than opposition to the United States finally joining every other Western democracy in allowing out-gay servicemembers. "The distraction of DADT -- investigating and harassing LGBT members," she said, "is gone."