A letter from a current ROTC member

Do you know how it feels to live your life and not be heard? Are you scared to speak up and be who you truly are inside because you will be persecuted? I am. I have never felt as silent as I did today. My voice wasn’t heard today, but I realized, my voice never gets heard. Day to day, I am mute. I do not know how to talk or voice how I feel. Today is April 13, 2005, the National Day of Silence. I walked around campus all day, silent; I wore a tag that stated my purpose. The tag said "Please understand my reasons for not speaking today. I am participating in the Day of Silence, a national youth movement protesting the silence faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning people and their allies. My deliberate silence echoes that silence, which is caused by harassment, prejudice, and discrimination. I believe that ending the silence is the first step toward fighting these injustices. Think about the voices you are not hearing today. What are you going to do to end the silence?"

In high school I participated in the Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps program. I had to sign an official legal document stating that I was not a homosexual, complete with the threat that if the Corps discovered I was, I could be discharged. I did not think too much about it in high school, because I wasn’t openly a lesbian at the time. I was going to enlist in the Air Force directly after high school because I wasn’t financially able to go to college. Then, I was offered a full scholarship through my church to attend a college in Virginia. I applied, was accepted, and before I knew it, I was registering for classes.

Upon entry, I signed up for the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). I had to sign pages and pages of paperwork, with numerous paragraphs in small type. But, I read all the paperwork carefully, until I stumbled upon a particularly difficult paragraph. I had to sign a paragraph stating that I was not a homosexual, I was not involved in a same-sex relationship, and that if I was, the Corps could discharge me. This discharge was harsher than the policy in the high school program I was in. This discharge would not only eliminate me from the Corps but it would also prohibit me from enlisting in any branch of the military. As I signed that paragraph, using my full legal name, I signed my identity away. I was only a cadet, the military owned me, and the government owned the military. I couldn’t speak up, I couldn’t show who I was, and it hurt.

I wear a rainbow pendant and a rainbow belt to display my gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer in question pride. I knew from that day when I signed the paragraph, I could no longer show my pride in class. I would take off my necklace and my belt, along with part of my identity for an hour and fifteen minutes a day. I was–and still am–being forced into silence because people do not understand me and others who are like me. If ever asked if I were a lesbian, I would open my mouth and scream at the top of my lungs. I would scream and say "Yes, I am a lesbian, and if you have a problem with this, tough, deal with it, I am who I am!"

There are people in this world who–without even knowing me–don’t like me and never will. President George Bush, the government, the military, even my Army ROTC program. They look down on me because I am choosing to unleash my identity, but at least I am being true to myself. If they have a problem, they can kick me out. I will still lead my life. I will still be the proud, strong, individual lesbian that I am.