All About Trey

Life, Travel, Adventure

A Meeting of Friends

That’s what Jeff called it. And it was. We met at the California Palace of the Legion Honor. Originally built to honor the California soldiers who died during World War I, it is now an amazing museum. A smaller replica of the18th-century Palais de la Légion d’Honneur in Paris, it has the words “Honor and Country” engraved above the entrance (in French of course), and it is famous for its Rodin sculpture, The Thinker. This past Saturday, it hosted the first national meeting of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and straight supporting US Naval Academy alumni.

After our rejection as an official alumni chapter in December, this was our first meeting to determine what our path forward should be, how should we support the Naval Academy, other GLBT alumni, and even GLBT midshipman. We had GLBT Naval Academy graduates from 1967 to 1997 (an officer who is still on active duty). There were 17 of us sitting around the conference table trying to figure out how we could make a difference despite the discriminatory Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, and the homophobic alumni association.

I often say that I didn’t go to college. I went to an institution. And it’s true. I don’t think a college can affect you like a service academy. While our discussions were friendly, there was a bit of intensity that encompassed out meeting. One of our members talked about getting kicked out during youngster year. How it impacted her life. It was amazing. But more importantly, she really did epitomize what a Naval Academy alumni is all about. After that potentially life shattering event, she picked herself up, finished college, and is now an optometrist with her own practice in North Carolina. And even after all of that, she still feels ties to the Naval Academy and wants to support it. Everyone had a story to tell. One of the older alumni’s voiced started to waver as he talked about getting kicked out of the Navy after 14 plus years. How would you feel if your career, your life, was over because of who you are or who you loved? And it’s still a problem.

Last year our group helped a midshipman who was kicked out for being gay. He didn’t want to go home because his parents didn’t approve of him being gay. So he stayed with some of our members in the local DC/Annapolis area. He finally did go back home, but now has to work two job, pay rent to his parents, and is trying to get back into college. And this is 2004. I can’t imagine getting kicked out of the Naval Academy or the Navy in the 1950s, 1960s, or even the 1990s?

Our group wants to support those Navy officers, and midshipman, who are still in the closet because of DADT. We hope that by being visible, by being out, by showing that others have walked down the same path, by leading by example, that we can work to make the Navy, the Naval Academy, the Naval Academy Alumni Association open to all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. It was really empowering to sit in that room with these other GLBT alumni and know that despite all of the challenges and discriminations we may have faced, that we still want to support our school by making it free of discrimination.

The meeting was a huge success. We came up with a good plan to move forward, to engage the alumni association, and how to build and strengthen our organization.

All of this wouldn’t have been possible without Jeff. As the leader of this group, Jeff has taken the fight to the alumni association, he’s talked with the press to gain recognition, and he’s gather over 70 GLBT and straight supporting alumni to help support our cause. Jeff is an amazing person. He has taken this cause to heart and has done a great job forming this group. His dedication, determination, and spirit are inspiring and impossible to measure. And I am so glad that he’s my friend.