Or more “instability.” Or “less security.” Or “lack of camaraderie.” Or whatever other bullshit excuses defenders of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell come up with. Meet 21-year-old Ben Rakestrow, who is openly gay, serving in Afghanistan, and didn’t let a little thing like sexuality get in the way of serving his country. Of course, it helps that his country is not America.
But Britain — where gay soldiers have been allowed to serve openly since 2000. Rakestrow had already come out to his family and friends before enlisting, but was still in the closet to comrades. One night, that all changed.
Rakestrow, who serves with Egypt squadron, 2RTR, had been out at a nightclub with a friend who knew he was gay. The next morning his colleagues started asking questions.
“The next morning I arrived for the exercise late, because we’d had a bit to drink,” he said. “The lads all asked if we’d had any luck, then at least our late arrival would have been worth it. I just said, ‘His name was Ryan’. Some of their faces dropped, and asked if I was serious. They couldn’t believe it.”
And rather than being a harmful distraction, Rakestrow’s sexuality has actually become a teaching moment for fellow soldiers.
Rakestrow believes he made the right decision to come out to his comrades and said the men have treated him as an equal since he disclosed his sexuality.
He said: “I get banter from them all the time, but it’s good banter. They all want to know about my life, they ask a lot of questions, you can imagine. I don’t find it hard to talk about it.”
Rakestrow said he would advise gay men or women unsure about coming out to their colleagues to talk to close friends. “Talk about it with them and then if you’re confident tell your mates. But the important thing is to tell them when it feels right.”
And had he not come out? Well, it wouldn’t have been hard to figure it out:
The trooper said he did not fit any gay stereotypes, although he admits to having a pink quilt cover decorated with a picture of heartthrob actor Zac Ephron in the squadron’s temporary digs and a copy of Attitude magazine often in his rucksack.