On this Veterans Day, for just a moment, let’s put aside any current feelings about the military and simply take a moment to reflect on the contributions of our LGBT veterans. Let’s take a step back and honor those individuals who served our country despite the fact that their sexual orientation was a secret.
As we near the end of the long saga known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” we tend to think of the military as an arena that has kept its doors closed to the LGBT community. While this is technically true, gays and lesbians have nevertheless contributed to our freedom since day one. From the American Revolution that created our nation to the Civil War that nearly destroyed it, from every single military conflict up to the present war on terror, there has been no war fought by the United States in which homosexuals did not participate.
According to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, nearly 44 million Americans served our country during times of war. If Alfred Kinsey was right in his estimation that 10% of the population is gay, this means that nearly 4.4 million past and present LGBT members fought for our freedom. This same source states that 1.2 million people lost their lives during military service. Again, applying Kinsey’s 10% estimate, it is safe to assume that more than 100,000 gays perished in the defense of our nation.
Whether we believe any or all of these wars were just or humane, one thing is certain. Our military is important to the security of our democracy. Without it, all of the bantering back and forth about the course of our nation would not be possible. Without a democracy, the long road to civil rights for all Americans would come to a dead end. The fact that African Americans were not allowed to serve alongside their Caucasian counterparts until 1948 seems ludicrous today. The fact that gays and lesbians have to hide their sexual identity will one day seem just as absurd.
So while we can hope for a brighter future where gays, lesbians and transgendered people can openly serve their country with honor and dignity, let us not forget that gays and lesbians have been fighting for our freedom and helping to keep our democracy afloat for the past 234 years. Let’s take a moment to honor the individuals who made this very moment in time possible.
I, for one, am proud of the fact that I am a GAY AMERICAN VETERAN. I am grateful for all the veterans, straight and gay, who made my freedom possible. I look forward to the day when all Americans realize that LGBT people are just as capable and just as willing to fight on the front lines and even give their own lives for the greater cause of freedom .