The Personal History Behind His Politics

Exclusive: Gravel on The Gays

Our regularly scheduled Queerty ReBUTTal will not be posted today. Instead, we’d like to open the floor to democratic presidential candidate, Mike Gravel.

As we’ve mentioned before, the former Senator from Alaska’s made Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell the cornerstone of his campaign.

In this Queerty exclusive, Senator Gravel writes on the very personal origins of his queer-friendly policy. Read all about it, after the jump…

I first met a gay person at army intelligence school in the 1950s. One of my teachers was a brilliant First Lieutenant who looked like Victor Mature, the strapping, dark haired actor who played Sampson. I can’t use his real name, because he might still be in the military, so I’ll just refer to him as ‘Vic’.

Vic taught us a lot about the art of spying and information gathering. All of us spies-in-training admired him. At the end of the program I was assigned to counterintelligence in Germany and later Paris, where I was surprised to find Vic. My wavy haired teacher was now a fellow agent in the Paris office!

He and I struck up a friendship and would frequently hit the Paris bar scene after spending our afternoons trailing suspected spies. I didn’t like the work we were doing, I was uncomfortable prying into people’s private lives and I hated the rules and regimen of army life. Vic, on the other hand, was extremely dedicated and efficient. He was a great soldier and I suppose he still is.

One night in a bar, Vic said to me “Mike, I have to tell you something… I’m gay.” I played it cool and told him I didn’t care. I must admit, however, I almost fell off my barstool.

All my life I had been told that all gays were effeminate, silly creeps – but here was Vic- a big, tough, true-blue military type. How could he be gay? In that one moment I experienced a total reeducation. I thought about how horrible it must be for Vic to live in a society that constantly told him he was sick. I thought about the stupid jokes that we all made in the office. As I sat next to Vic in that bar, I pretended like nothing had changed, but in reality I felt a deep shame.

Vic and I continued to hang out and both of us, along with a couple of other officers, rented a chateau together in the Paris suburbs. We all knew Vic was gay, but we also knew that if the commanding officer found out, Vic’s stellar military career would be ruined.

I often think about Vic when I talk about the injustice of Don’t Ask. Here’s a guy who was much more dedicated to the army than I was, but because he liked men, his life long military career has been in constant jeopardy. This is an outrage that the government has perpetrated for far too long on highly trained, committed gay and lesbian service people. We should be proud of their service and thankful for their sacrifice.

When I am president I promise that I will immediately end the Don’t Ask policy and I will issue an apology on behalf of the federal government to each of the 100,000 service people who have been discharged because of their sexual orientation over the past several decades. I challenge all of my fellow candidates to pledge themselves that if elected, they will also issue a formal apology. I hope that we can all join together in sending an important message to the American public that the days of second-class citizenship for Vic and all other lesbian and gay Americans must come to an end.

When that day comes, I hope my old friend will be proud.

-Senator Mike Gravel-