I joined the military in 2016 shortly after coming out and five years after Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed. For me, coming out to my parents was a difficult and traumatic event—I was still processing and recovering when I swore in and shipped off to my initial training. I was still getting used to being open about my sexuality and having those conversations with people. Basic Training and AIT were where I spent a significant amount of time after having just come out and thankfully, that time and those people were some of the first places I felt truly accepted and safe as myself. That’s not to say I hadn’t found other safe and accepting places and people, but Basic and AIT were the first major life events that happened after I came out and not only was I becoming more myself as a gay person, but I was also becoming a new person as a soldier. The combination of those two things happening at once and having a safe and accepting place to do that did more for me than I think I’ll ever understand.
The fact that I had this kind of experience in the military because of the repeal of DADT, is something I will always be grateful for. I know how fortunate I am to have this story to tell and that so many others have a much different and terrible experience to share because of the policies and regulations in place prior to and during DADT. In many ways I am thankful for DADT because it was the first stone that paved the way for open service for LGBTQ people, including me. For all the progress it represented though, queer servicemembers still suffered under DADT. But that suffering is no more, and my story is a testament to that. Today, people of all identities, and most recently transgender humans (again), can serve openly in our Armed Forces without discrimination or punishment. I’ll be forever thankful for the acceptance and support I’ve received from my military family and it’s because so many before me fought for policy change like the repeal of DADT. So here’s to those that came before me. I see you. I respect you. I am grateful for your fight.