Openly gay journalist Herndon Davis writes a wonderful editorial in Dick & Sharon's LA Progressive on the black victims of the military's discriminatory 'Don't Ask Don't Tell policy. Lieutenant Dan Choi, an Arabic-speaking linguist has recently been a very vocal critic of the policy during recent efforts to have the ban repealed, but it is very rare that the stories of African-American soldiers who have been discharged under Don't Ask Don't Tell are represented in the media.
Davis profiles West Point graduate and congressional candidate Anthony Woods along with former Annapolis Naval Academy soldier Rev. Tommie Watkins. Watkins is a close friend and author of Living Out Loud, the book that inspired the title of this blog.
From L.A. Progressive:
Tommie Watkins was once the admired and twice elected class president at Annapolis Naval Academy but he was abruptly kicked out of the Navy in 1997 when it was discovered that he was gay. Watkins was then ordered to pay back over $86K in tuition and interest to the United States government. But Watkins summoned the fortitude to sue the Navy and won. Today he is a vocal advocate for the repeal of DADT.
“I believe in being honest and I believe in integrity”
Although he did not fully become aware of his sexuality until his college years, Anthony Woods explains that if he had known earlier, he still would have joined the Army. “I wanted to serve my country and I wanted an opportunity to get a quality education and I wanted to serve in the military.” But his childhood dreams would soon come crashing to an end after he struggled for six months before coming to the conclusion that he could no longer serve in silence under DADT.
“I knew I was different at the age of eight, but did not know what to call it until I was twelve” explains Tommie Watkins Jr. But that did not stop Watkin’s burning desire to join the armed forces. “I joined the military believing that as long as I did not tell they could not ask and I would not be unfairly discriminated because of my sexual orientation.”
Soon that dream would be horribly dashed when Watkins met and dated a fellow midshipman in the US Naval Academy. Most people knew about their relationship and often joked about it, but the teasing would soon prove be too much for his partner, who reported Watkins to their superiors.
“He said I would hang around him and would spend too much time around him” and that “I was trying to make him gay.” But this is where the story begins to get a little tricky. Under the homophobic and sometimes witchhunt climate of DADT, Watkins would soon be railroaded out of the Navy although technically he did not violate DADT policies.
“In my case they didn’t ask and I didn’t tell, but they harassed me and pursued me and threw me out of the Navy and then said, by the way, here’s a crippling debt to add.” Watkins vividly recalls that he was forced to resign because the Navy JAG threatened to prosecute him for sexual harassment based on the claim of wanting to spend too much time with another midshipman. This midshipman Watkins feels was actually struggling to come to terms with his own sexuality and in a desperate attempt to throw off suspicion, reported Watkins as gay instead.