Yesterday I woke up feeling somewhat unwell - probably a virus, combined with neurological stuff. Our arborist, Ben, was coming over to fell several backyard trees that had grown too big. Some needed to go so that other trees would be healthier and happier.
As Ben began to “treescape” our yard, I decided to rest and turned on CSPAN. To my surprise, the Honorable Jeh Johnson, General Counsel for the Department of Defense, was speaking about the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell" (DADT) at a special LGBT Pride event at the Pentagon. The auditorium was standing-room-only, filled with civilians and active duty service members and veterans, many of whom were probably gay.
Sitting riveted to the TV, I thought, “Wow, this is how it is now and will be forever. We don’t need to hide any more. We are free to be ourselves, even in the Pentagon! All that work, all the long hours have come to a beautiful ending for us who are in our later years, and a new beginning for younger, active duty members of the gay and lesbian community.”
Tears welled up.
After a while I needed to talk with Ben about his treescaping. As he hung high on his climbing rope from our ponderosa pine, I blurted out to him that I am a retired Navy commander and fought for many years to repeal DADT. I told him I was overwhelmed by this historic Pentagon presentation. To think, I said, that we did it — we changed the law and policy so that active duty men and women can be open about their sexual orientation and feel free to be themselves.
“Long overdue,” Ben responded.
The Pentagon speakers included Gordon Tanner, Principal Deputy General Counsel of the U.S. Air Force, who spoke eloquently, encouraging those listening to “be as visible as you can." In other words, come out of the closet whenever and wherever you feel okay. This credo is one I have lived by since 1993, but especially since 2006 when I chose to participate with vigor in our battle to repeal DADT. Time and again I have been supported in southern Oregon by strangers, as well as by the LGBT community.
After the Pentagon ceremony, I walked out our back door and observed a vastly different view, one with more depth, more light, and more beauty. The dominant, oppressing ponderosa had been removed and the weeping cherry and limber pines could now have more light and space and more opportunity to flourish. I thought to myself, "Is this not similar to the new view that I had heard from Johnson, Gordon Tanner and the other panelists?"
My service was from 1960 to 1980. Now, the oppression I felt then has finally been removed by the work of SLDN and many other players who worked with indomitable spirit and teamwork to chop down unnecessary laws and policies and allow us all to be free to be ourselves in a healthier environment than that in which I served so many years ago.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Retired Navy Commander Beth F. Coye, a public advocate and writer, has fought for the rights of gay and lesbian service members over a span of many years, as both a Board member and a member of the Military Advisory Council of SLDN. She has written extensively about equal rights and freedom for the LGBT community and her op-eds have been published throughout the country. Born and raised in a Navy family, she served 21 years of active duty as a naval officer, which included 3 tours of intelligence duty as well as a commanding officer assignment. She lives with her longtime companion of more than 30 years, Esther Bell, and their two bichons, Callie and Willie.
06-27-12 By CDR Beth Coye, USN (Ret) |