Several weeks ago, a military chaplain came to brief my battalion, via PowerPoint presentation, on the Department of Defense’s official stance on "Don’t Ask Don’t Tell," the policy that for the past 18 years has barred soldiers from identifying as gay, and whose repeal will officially go into effect today, September 20, 2011. As the chaplain stood at the front of the auditorium, a fellow soldier leaned over to me and whispered, “There goes the fabric of the country.” I didn’t acknowledge his comment. He didn’t know I was gay, and I didn’t think this was the time or the place to tell him.
I am a soldier. I am a gay man. I believe there is no greater honor than to serve in uniform. I cannot tell my name. And I’m exhausted. As the country slowly—very slowly—approaches a turning point in the debate over “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” I want to offer some perspective on what it is like to be a soldier under this policy. On how I, the commander of a unit in the United States military, balance the tasks of soldiering, leading soldiers, and watching over my shoulder, constantly, lest I reveal my true self and risk my career.