On September 20, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell will officially join anti-miscegenation and sodomy laws in history’s trash heap. To mark the occassion, GQ writer Chris Heath interviewed dozens of gay servicemen—from World War II vets to young soldiers on active duty—about what it’s been like to be gay in the military pre-repeal.
Below are some heartfelt quotes:
“No one at my job would ever, ever suspect that I was gay at all. I talk about Sam, I even say ‘Sam’ at work, ‘I’m meeting Sam, we’re going to do this and that,’ and they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, how’s she been?’ The worst part is when they start asking me about our sex life and I have to make shit up. But I’m ‘That’s the woman I’m going to marry, so I’m not cool with you guys talking about my wife like that,’ and everybody goes, ‘Yeah, you’re right.’ ” —Air Force senior airman
Hiding in Plain Sight
“Part of what has really allowed me to hide in plain sight is the fact that I don’t meet the stereotype. And you’re good at your job—a gay person wouldn’t be good at his job, so obviously you’re not gay. You’re a Marine, you don’t mind getting dirty, going out into the field and not showering for weeks at a time…and, if you were gay, when you have to shower with all these other guys you’d get all excited. You’re not getting excited so you’re clearly not gay. I mean, if you want to hide, the Marine Corps is one of the best places to do that, because nobody wants to admit they are standing next to a gay guy. Nobody wants to admit that they have gone to war with gay people.”—Marine captain
Passing with Flying Colors
“We had heard about these very frightening psychiatrists who were going to grill you. We thought they were the all-seeing people. So we were a little apprehensive. But it certainly didn’t happen that way. I was called in, and there was a man sitting behind this desk, and he pulled down his glasses and looked at me, and the only thing he said to me was ‘Do you like girls?’ I said, ‘Oh yes. And I love to dance.’ And he looked over at the door and said, ‘Next!’ “—World War II veteran Jack Strouss, 88
“A pal of mine on a carrier went to the CO and said, ‘What is your policy on gays?’ The CO looked at my friend and said, ‘If somebody wants to get off my ship for being gay, they have to come to me with two Polaroids, in both of them they have to be clearly sucking cock, and I want to be able to see their face.’ That’s why I love my Navy.”—Navy commander
Enough is Enough
“When we finally get certification, for me it is no longer controlled information. I don’t give a rat’s ass who knows. And I’m not going to swallow words rather than saying it. If you say something fucking stupid then I’m going to say: ‘Hey, motherfucker, you’re a fucking idiot, shut the fuck up. Because we ain’t going to put up with that shit no more.’ I mean, I’m ready for that. Right now I’m angry. I’ve had e-fucking-nough. We’ve eaten a shit sandwich for seventeen years. History is here.”—Marine
To read the full article, visit GQ.com or pick up the September issue today.