America: October 2015

2006-2015  Gay Military Signal

John McNeill
WWII Gay Veteran

by Danny Ingram

Reverend Dr. John J. McNeill, prolific author, LGBT activist, World War II veteran, and gay Catholic priest, died on September 22nd in Ft. Lauderdale at the age of 90.  John McNeill was a Life Member of American Veterans for Equal Rights and a recipient of AVER’s Leonard Matlovich Medal for Distinguished Service, the highest award presented by the organization. 

John McNeill served under General George S. Patton in the United States Army during World War II.  He was captured by German troops during the Battle of the Bulge and imprisoned in a POW camp near Dresden, Germany.  Following the allied firebombing of Dresden McNeill and other POWs were forced to help remove bodies from the charred rubble.  McNeill survived the war and was awarded the Purple Heart. 

Following the war McNeill felt called to religious life and was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in 1959 and entered the Jesuit Order.  In 1976 he published the landmark book “The Church and the Homosexual” the first major work to discuss the issue of LGBT spirituality and Christianity, and still considered the most important work on challenging the exclusion of LGBT people by church teachings. 

John McNeill subsequently came out as one of the first openly gay Catholic priests and began a very public outreach to LGBT people, including co-founding the New York chapter of Dignity, an LGBT Roman Catholic organization.  This ministry, along with the subsequent publication of a number of works dealing with LGBT spirituality landed McNeill in conflict with Church hierarchy.  After refusing to stop his ministry to LGBT people McNeill was publicly ostracized and expelled from the Jesuits by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI. 



A veteran's remembrance

The world is awash in refugees now; floating, walking, filling trains, jamming borders, hungry, exhausted, terrified, fleeing war, seeking safe, quiet places to live and work and raise children.  It's all happened before.  Rwanda, Cambodia, Vietnam; the list is endless.  The current crisis is said to be the biggest migration of displaced people since World War II.  Many are Muslims from the Middle East, fleeing the multi-war in Syria where once neat functioning cities are bombed out rubble, without water, electricity, police, food, schools, or peace; with mortar and machine gun fire night and day.

It's very lucky to be living someplace safe with the proper papers of belonging, with food in your own refrigerator in your own home, air conditioner purring all Summer long, with shops, trains, and buses nearby for a normal life, yet feeling a twinge of guilt while watching the evening news showing those poor people climbing over barbed wire borders, lugging crying children in arms so tired that they can barely hold on to their reason for leaving what was once home for foreign shores.

I really don't know what it's like to be an ordinary American who was never part of a family that had to run for their lives from the horror of war.  I wonder what it feels like to have no knowledge of uniformed thugs with machine guns and big barking dogs, blown up belongings and homes, running and crossing borders scared to death of uniforms, getting caught and being detained or sent back to the rubble and bombs.  I'm sure that most people deeply care and even do something to try to help.  For me, I can't help crying when I see these desperate crowds of people on TV.  I remember where my family came from,  all that was lost long ago, what language I would have spoken, how and where I would have lived, had it all not been torn asunder by tyranny and bombed to hell.


From my
earliest memory


Gene Silvestri

22 Sept 2015
From my earliest memory, I always felt "different." I gravitated towards boy clothing, baseball, G.I. Joe figures and anything military related. If my mother put a dress on me, I would throw a fit. I came of age during the 1980's in Staten Island, New York. It was a rough experience. I was quiet and meek and very self-conscious. Kids can be cruel and can sense when someone is "different." I never fit in no matter how hard I tried to. I allowed myself to be bullied throughout my childhood. That time period was an isolated and lonely one.

I am an only child and as most only children know, we are the sole focus of our parents’ attention. At that time, there was no internet. No resources available to print off and explain to my parents “this is how I feel inside; “this is what I am struggling with.”  To deal, I delved into my own "private world." This was my peace, my coping mechanism. I would listen to music and get lost in comics. However, this took an intense turn when I turned 12. Puberty hit. Now, I was even more confused than before. Not only did I feel like a boy but I had crushes on both boys and girls.  Not only that but I could no longer contain the desire to let my masculine side show. However, I keep stuffing those feelings down.  My “female” shell was still there. That is what others saw. I couldn’t let my true nature show. No one would ever understand.


LGBTQ Service Members, Veterans, and Allies Research Study

A Communications graduate student is seeking research project interview participants who are LGBTQ service members or veterans, and those who have served with LGBTQ personnel for a project researching military LGBTQ Identity Disclosure.  For further information or to participate, click here.

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