Please Ask, Do Tell
Over the next few weeks I’ll be interviewing service members and hearing their stories in this Post-DADT era. From the triumphs, to the set-backs, and the continuing struggle, I’ll present the stories of the ones who make our liberty possible.
Name: Petty Officer 3rd Class James Farmer-Malave
Branch of Military: Navy
Coming out story:
When did you realize you were gay? 13
”I came out to my twin brother around age thirteen.” His brother “outted” him to the rest of the family because of an argument. He also mentioned that he went through a “flamboyant” phase in high school which he grew out of once he figured that he didn’t have to change who he was just because he was gay.
Did you suffer the normal angst of guys in the closet?
“Not really. My twin brother was always my support structure, so once I saw that he was fine with it no one else really mattered. [Not to mention the fact that growing up without parents kept him from hiding his true identity.] “I think growing up with just my brother kept me from having anyone to be afraid to tell my secret to. I only needed my brother’s approval.”
Thoughts on joining the military: How old were you?
“I was 17 when I started the process [paper work] and turned eighteen shortly thereafter. I just knew they’d pay for school. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision made within days of finding out about it.”
Did you think about possibly being “outted” and kicked out?
“No. DADT never even crossed my mind until my recruiter mentioned it. He pulled me aside and told me what to do if confronted by someone.”
Do you think being in a branch of service stereotypically known as a “haven” for gay men made your experience any easier?
“Wow that’s a good question! I don’t think joining any other branch would have made it any harder since I never showed my sexuality in uniform.”
Were any of your comrades aware of your sexuality prior to the repeal of DADT?
“Everyone knew. After getting orders to Washington State my new comrades made a bet that I was gay based on my questions over the phone. I think I mentioned something about malls and shopping.”
Were you stationed with other members of the lgbt community that you were aware of?
“Yes. I actively searched for gay guys once it dawned on me that I was in the military. I met one gay guy, in particular, at boot camp during Liberty Weekend. He asked me out, but he wasn’t really my type, so I declined. The next day my drill instructor calls me into his office because that guy tried to “out” me because I turned him down. I, of course, denied it. However in Mississippi I met two gay service members who I still consider my best friends.”
Were your comrades accepting of potentially gay service members? Against? Apathetic?
“I never really faced any negative reactions until a guy approached me and said, ‘We don’t allow gays in my military.’” This came about because James has a rainbow bumper-sticker on his car and the guy saw it when he was returning to his vehicle. However since this guy was a lower-ranking official, James ordered him to stand in attention and reprimanded him in front of his peers.
Have you come out to any of your comrades since the repeal of DADT?
“Not formally because everyone pretty much knew already.”
Do you think the military will be stronger in the post-DADT era?
“Trust is one of the defining elements of the military. If you can’t be open with your battle buddies then you’re not going to be strong as a unit. The repeal of DADT allows us to know one another on an even deeper level.”
Has the repeal of DADT given anyone you know the confidence to come out to their families?
“One guy I used to ‘talk to’ merged his gay and straight Facebook accounts. He mentioned that now he doesn’t have to keep them separate and lead two different lives.”
If you know of any service members who would love to tell their story, please e-mail me firstname.lastname@example.org.
Born and raised in Petersburg, VA, Anthony works as a State Farm Account Representative in Enterprise Rent-A-Car's Insurance Operations Department. In his spare time he can often be found wandering aimlessly, with camera in tow, snapping away. He's also a member of, the Richmond-based, Fools Day Comedy Troupe. Read his personal blog here and follow him on Twitter.
“Once more people realize same sex attractions do not mean you have to be any kind of label, just yourself…”September 19, 2016
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