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A soldier’s story

 

Scared for our jobs.


Click here to see a complete listing of our soldier's adventures in Iraq.

Editor’s Note: These are the thoughts of a gay soldier — a North Carolina native — who has been deployed to Iraq. Because of the military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy, he must remain anonymous.


Recently I was able to travel for a short R&R period to the Middle East’s equivalent of South Beach: Qatar. It’s a beautiful country with great shopping and a wonderful opportunity to be yourself and relax. The best part was having a few drinks, enjoying civilian clothes and the local civilian population.

I got to shop in a great four-story Americanized mall and eat at some fabulous restaurants. Although gay and lesbian sex is still illegal in this country — the laws are rarely enforced. I was told that Qatar is very gay friendly, but from what I could tell, the community largely remains underground. When I was there I didn’t meet any local family, but I did get some great shopping in at a couple of stores — one known as the French Connection and another, Banana. I’m only speculating, of course, but my gaydar definitely went off with some of the male sales clerks.

I recently met a few lesbian soldiers. It was great to talk and to openly share our thoughts and feelings about the war. It was relieving to be able to tell someone here I’m gay — and it was no big deal. Listening to all our different thoughts on the war was particularly intriguing. This was a table of very patriotic lesbians and gay men (well one gay man, actually) who love our country, but hate the policy on the war.

When you combine the positions we fill then you’re looking at some pretty high-profile jobs. The higher-ups would say that gay and lesbian soldiers can’t perform effectively in the military, but we are. We all support the mission or operation we call Iraqi Freedom. But the policies and the tactics that it took to get us over here are all very unsettling to us. Collectively, the four of us have 45 years of service to our country. We are all ready for some equality as it relates to gay and lesbian service members serving openly. I know some of our allies allow there service members to serve openly and it doesn’t hurt the mission. Australia and England seem to be doing just fine.

During my opportunities to travel the region I have noticed that some of the FOBs (Forward Operating Bases) have amenities that others don’t. The workout facilities are abundant, but there are no showers at the gyms. The shopping on post is limited, but they do try to get things you want in due time. “Due time,” however, can be forever. The only other major facilities I have seen are a theater in the Presidential Palace and another one on an FOB where I work. They’re very crude and nothing like what we’re used to enjoying at home, but theaters nonetheless, I suppose.

Dining facilities vary from bad to great here. In a visit to the Lake Palace, which is at Camp Victory, I ate great. Those were meals that I would have actually paid for.
As I said, being gay and serving here in Iraq has been hard at points. I haven’t wanted to talk about my sexuality because of the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy. I think I have met more lesbians than gay males, but no guy has actually come out to me since I’ve been over here.

It would be nice to meet others, but the fact is — we’re all scared for our jobs, and the investments we have made in our careers.

The women, somehow, seem to be less concerned with the issue. Of the women I have met, two have rainbow flag tattoos visible to the eye — but I’ve heard them say when questioned that it was “just a flag.”

Hyper-masculinity in the men here is a trait that doesn’t shine through — so you just can’t tell who is who. I’m not on the look out at all, but it would be nice to hear another gay man’s perspective about serving over here.

I’m down to less than 100 days before I’ll be home. I’m looking forward to the cool fall air in Charlotte and the chance to be myself again.

— Reporting from Iraq,
your friend and soldier from Charlotte

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