By: Carol Rood
I grew up with a mother who believed it was very important for me to have a skill. She always told me that I cannot rely on a husband, and I would need to be able to feed my children if I did not have a husband. She imparted on me the wisdom that brains are more important than beauty. She always said “Pretty is as pretty does”, and “beauty is only skin deep”. However, I did not do so well in high school and had absolutely no desire to go to college. My mother really wanted me to have an education after high school so they even tried bribing me. I remember my parents telling me that if I went to college and graduated they would buy me a sports car upon graduation. However (here was the catch), if I dropped out of school for any reason, I would have to pay them back any and all money they had spent for my education.
Having no desire to go to college, I decided that maybe I should look for an alternative. And that, friends, is how I ended up in the United States Navy. My brother had joined the Navy and he was getting a good education, so I figured I could do that as well. I joined the Navy in 1983 and went to boot camp in Orlando, Florida in February of 1984.
I spent 20 years in the Navy, and during the last few years I was in a relationship with my beautiful partner Bluebell. Of course we had to hide our relationship, as did all of the other gay people in the military, and we had to be sketchy about any details about our personal lives. Our partners became “roommates”. We promptly forgot the names of the clubs we went to over the weekend, or where we went or what we had done. We never really told anyone many details of our lives. It was the safest way to be.
During the part of my life when I was going to gay bars, I did so in other cities, just to make sure I didn’t accidentally run into anyone I knew in the Navy. I was always in protection mode. We all were.
So it gave me great pleasure that on September 20th, the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy ceased to exist. Gay people can now serve openly with pride in the military.
I am anxious to see how it all turns out, and am keeping in close contact with my military friends to see what is happening for my fellow gay military personnel. I am so happy for them that they will be able to be who they are and share their lives with their co-workers without fear of being kicked out. Bluebell and I did not have that luxury, and yet we are so thrilled that others now do.
Sometimes progress is a very good thing!