INDEPENDENCE DAY

Born On The 4th Of July: 12 American LGBT War Heroes

Tracy Thorne-Begland

Though others had made similar realizations before, Navy pilot Tracy Thorne-Begland’s decision to come out came at the very height of the Clinton-era gays-in-the-military debate.

After conferring with a gay veterans group, Thorne-Begland agreed to go on Nightline on May 19, 1992, when he revealed he was a homosexual on national television. The following year, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell—rather than Clinton’s promised repeal—became the law of the land and Thorne-Begland was discharged; twice, actually—first after his TV appearance and again in 1995, when an appeal he filed in Federal Court was denied.

Today Don’t Ask Don’t Tell has been demolished, but the forces of intolerance haven’t: When Thorne-Begland, who became an attorney, was nominated for a judgeship in Virginia, homophobic conservatives in the GOP-dominated House of Delegates rejected his bid in a fairly clear instance of bigotry. However, the House has since confirmed Thorne-Begland as the state’s first openly gay judge.

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14 Comments

  • miagoodguy

    It is a shame that Victor Fehrenbach and Dan Choi are included in this group of great Americans. Both are huge attention seekers and Fehrrenbach is pretty much a slut.

  • Justin

    Kirsten Gillibrand is D-NY not D-NH. As she is my Senator, I claim her proudly.

    To miagoodguy (above), both of those “attention seekers” put a face on TV calling out the evils of DADT. Opportunistic or not, they both fought for the change as well as for our country. Demeaning their contribution doesn’t serve anyone.

    Also, enough with the slut-shaming. He’s a free, gay man who has a constitutional right to be a slut if he wants to be.

  • miagoodguy

    and I have the right to call a spade a spade.

  • mjw51295

    I live close to the University of Notre Dame. There is a statue of Dr. Dooley close to the famous grotto with a letter he wrote from Indochina telling the president of the universtiy how in times of discouragaement he remembered the grotto and drew strength. The current catholic wing nuts wanted to remove the statue because he was gay. But the university refused to remove it. There is hope.

  • 2eo

    @miagoodguy: Do I have freedom of expression, like if I point out you are a vapid plebeian with the opinion worth of a pubic louse?

  • royster

    @2eo: what ^they^ said, MiaGoodGuy (and that name belies your hatorade). If assuming someone who owns his sexuality and is sexually active is a “pretty much a slut”, we can also assume someone who enjoys belittling his other accomplishments by pointing it “pretty much is jealous because he doesn’t get any.”

  • James Darby

    I;ve been involved with GITM (Gays in the Military) for 25 years.
    All of these 13 people have been my role models and personal heroes. Over the years I I have met most of them. Their personal stories and sacrifices have
    been instrumental in overturning DADT. This couintry and all of us
    owe them a huge debt of gratitude. We should continue to honor them,
    not denigrate them.

    I would like to offer the names of a few more heroes for your next
    list. Sgt. Miriam Ben-Shalom, Sgt. Perry Watkins, Sgt Jose Zuniga,
    Cliff Arnesen and Chuck Scchoen

    Jim Darby

  • hyhybt

    Being a slut doesn’t make you a hero, but it doesn’t disqualify you either.

  • miagoodguy

    I get more than the average gay guy. I just don’t go randomly having sex with every tom, dick, and harry. my partner is enough sexually for me. I’ll take being called a vapid plebian as a badge of honor knowing that I don’t fall at the feet of “hot” gay men and say that they are wonderful human beings when they are far from it.

  • manjoguy

    An excellent, inspiring article. Thank you Queerty for publishing it. I honor the service and sacrifice of all Americans in the military!

  • mlbumiller

    @miagoodguy: so u u know from personal experience he is a slut? must make u a whore.

  • riz

    Look I’m no hero, but I served and did my duty which was to uphold and defend the United States Constitution. Be aware that includes the right to freedom of speech and expression. I don’t have to agree with someone to try and understand their point of view. Nonetheless, I served during the late sixties and early seventies and was discharged (honorably due to an excellent career) for being gay. It was really difficult to deal with at that time…thank goodness we have made much progress and with a little understanding(of each other) we can continue to do so. Happy Fourth weekend everyone and bring our sons and daughters home from Afghanistan now.

  • DerekR

    @mlbumiller: dude if you have a “partner” then I am Tom Cruise. Your bullshit would be more believable if you FIRST deleted you Match.com profile.

    BUSTED you f*cking DOUCHE

  • William Thomas Rogers

    And there ARE plenty of these heroes! More than some people would like to admit.

Comments are closed.