Funny really. The first year I got out from the Army, I was online and stumbled upon Planetout's request to GLBT service members to share their military service. It was, as I recall, for their Memorial Day edition (I think). I thought, "Might as well." It's not like they were going to publish it online since I was sure there were others that would be more interesting than mine. And to my surprise, I received an email from them stating otherwise. They liked my story, were getting my consent, and possibly a picture. The rest, was online history. So now, I'm sharing it to you all. (I hope PlanetOut is not going to sue me for this)
Sex and Love in the Barracks (their title not mine)
My name is Jake F. I just got out of the military in August of last year (1999), after five years of service. I joined right after high school, since I didn't know what I wanted to do. All I knew was that I wanted to take a break from my studies, so I opted to enlist in the Army. I guess I also joined to prove to everybody and myself that I was a man. I always knew I was gay, but I had trouble dealing with it because I was raised in a Catholic family. The fact that people at school always picked on students they thought were queer also didn't help. So I kept my true self bottled within. Then I enlisted.
During the months of basic training in Missouri, I was oblivious to the men in my company. I never developed any lust or anything. I was too hyped -- adrenaline coursing through my veins the whole time. The only things concerning me were making sure I passed my physical fitness test and trying to ensure that my drill sergeant's attention wasn't directed at me. I had a great time. I felt like a true man, not having any thoughts about another man.
In my third year in the service, I finally let loose my emotions. I fell in love with my best friend at the time. He, too, was a soldier. We were both stationed in Germany. Being overseas, soldiers tend to get drunk almost every night. During one of those binges, things got out of hand. We started playing around, punching each other, like most drunk men do. Then we got rough and started wrestling on the floor. We ended up kissing one another. For the first time in my life, I had sexual intercourse. I was 20 years old. I was dumbfounded. Both of us were scared someone might suspect. We were so scared of the consequences that we eventually drifted apart, and not even a whisper was heard. I once again went into my shell.
When I got transferred to Ft. Bragg, NC, six months later, my urges resurfaced. One day, I found the courage to go to a local gay bar. It was called Spektrum-- or "Rectum," to the regulars. It was a meat market. I was so nervous being in there, only 10 minutes away from post, that I got myself drunk silly. I woke up the next day in some stranger's house. I became a regular. I went there all the time, with no official consequences. I met other soldiers -- enlisted, non-coms, and officers alike. Like me, they were gay and it didn't bother them that at any given time the MPs or even CID could come busting through the door. Inside the bar, we were ourselves. Outside, we were what we had to be-- men in uniform.
My last year in the service, I was no longer afraid of the outcome if any of my peers or superiors found out that I was gay. Little by little, I came out to my friends, and later to my coworkers. I can say this: I was truly accepted. None of them cared that I was gay. I was a hard worker and a good soldier. That was all that mattered to them. By the end, even my chain of command, in a way, protected me if someone from another unit suspected that I was gay. I feel ashamed of that now -- how they must have dodged those "witch hunts" for my head constantly. Heck, I was so out that I didn't care who heard me. Sometimes I would even act "queer" to make my coworkers laugh. I must admit that I abused that protection to the extreme. I've had bad times, but I could never forget about the good times. I had a great experience, and I would do it over again. I think I am one of the lucky ones who met a lot more people who are tolerant than people who are bigots. I joined to prove I was a man, and I did. And I am proud to be a gay man.
You can read the story on planetout.com here.