2006 - 2016
There are shops that
can proudly claim to have been in business since 1916 or
something like that. Proudly proclaiming ten years of
existence, on the other hand, is perhaps a bit presumptuous.
But, when it comes to our rights as Gay Americans, there has
never been a more dramatic progressive time in our history.
Just about every bit of that can be attributed to the
leadership of President Barack Obama. When Gay Military
Signal was founded in the summer of 2006, proud patriotic
gay American service members were still being booted out of
our armed forces simply because of who we are. While
some could marry, official recognition of our love was still
a dream in most places, with rights and benefits being
denied with prejudice. Now, we can be both proud of
our service and of who we are and marry anywhere in America.
And if the promise is kept, starting this month, transgender
patriots will be able to serve openly in pride alongside other
courageous American volunteers. Will it happen?
In the week between Christmas and New Years, a Pentagon based
reporter from a major news service phoned me and asked about
that. Imagine. I said, "You're inside the
Pentagon and you're asking ME?!" I slapped my forehead
so hard I nearly knocked myself silly. We discussed
some of the old bogeyman issues: showers, toilets, room
sharing, etc. I said that if our service members are
not mature enough to calmly deal with our American
diversity, then they are not mature enough to hold a gun,
drive a weaponized armored vehicle, steer a nuclear
submarine, fire a missile from a drone, or even wear an
American uniform. We can and will do it, I assured
But, don't sit back on
you ass for a second and think that the battle is over!
This is just the end of the beginning of our battle for full
equality. There's an entire political party that wants
to reverse all the progress of the past 50 years or more,
not just for gay folks but for all Americans. They
want to roll back rights, starting with the right to vote,
equal pay for women and reproductive rights,
minimum wages for workers, the right of all Americans to
walk down our streets without being shot, the right to
healthcare, marriage equality and the right to serve, and the right to live in this nation free of
discrimination, among the basic rights envisioned by the
founders of this nation.
They want to convince
ordinary straight poor working folks to be willing to let
their children starve for the privilege of prejudice. There
are all kinds of folks who've bought into this hatemongering
fantasy along with those who think a gun in every kitchen is
better than a chicken in every pot. Be careful what
you wish for.
There are young LGBT
folks who have never experienced having to hide who they
are, thank Obama. They believe in their freedom, some oblivious of our
history of struggle. We had no rights ten
minutes before they were born, and we could loose all of it
starting ten months from now. Speak up, speak out, and
vote for your life.
In this retrospective
anniversary issue we look back at some of our greatest fallen
heroes, that we have written about in the past ten years;
starting with PFC Frank Kameny, interviewed in 2006, who
fought in WWII in the battle of the bulge, through the heart
of Germany, and ending the war liberating Czechoslovakia.
He earned a chest full of medals, but proudly only wore his
simple Combat Infantry Badge wherever he went for the next
50 years of his life. He went on to found and lead the
modern movement for gay liberation. He died on
National Coming Out Day in 2011. This past Veterans
Day, a monument honoring his service and life was installed
in a ceremony at the Congressional Cemetery, next to the
grave of our Vietnam hero Tech Sgt Leonard Matlovich, whom
we also remember in this issue. In a monumental
understatement, Kameny humbly began his interview with Gay
Military Signal saying, "There isn't much to tell, I was
just and ordinary soldier."
An Ordinary Soldier
PFC Franklin Kameny
World War II Veteran
by Denny Meyer
It was an honor
being able to interview a living hero of our
history, our own Dr. Franklin Kameny, the father of
modern gay rights. There are only a small
handful, nearly forgotten by those who came later,
who began to demand gay rights in 1959 and never
stopped to this day. From the day he was sacked from
his government astronomer position due to
homosexuality in 1957, Dr. Franklin Kameny has never
ceased championing gay rights over the decades. If
you were to plan to google his name, it would be
advisable to stock provisions first, as you would be
glued to your computer for a very long time.
Yet when I
telephoned Dr. Kameny and asked about his own
military experience, he began by saying the same
words that nearly every single gay veteran whom I
have interviewed responds with: "Well, there's not
much to tell; my service was quite ordinary."
Indeed, and that is just the point.
This is the story
of an ordinary soldier, as much as if one were to
have been able to ask Moses, "tell me about the days
when you were merely a slave."
It would take
several volumes to recount all that Dr. Kameny has
done in his lifetime, with the final volume yet to
come. Just to remind readers, Dr Kameny did not stop
at his early marches in suit and tie in the late 50s
and early 60s and the founding of the Washington DC
Mattachine. He was also active in the 70s with
youngsters, at that time, in forming the far more
aggressive actions of the Gay Activist Alliance. And
it was Dr Kameny whom Leonard Matlovich first
anxiously telephoned when he heard that he was
looking for a perfect test case of a sterling
service member who was gay (according to the account
in Conduct Unbecoming, by Randy Shilts).
Published in 2008
Leonard Matlovich: an Inconvenient Hero
Leonard Matlovich 1980s ©
Denny Meyer 2008
years ago today, on June 22, 1988, my friend Lenny
Matlovich died from AIDS. Air Force Tech Sgt Leonard
Matlovich was a decorated Vietnam war hero, with a
Purple Heart and Bronze Star and 12 years of sterling
service to his country. In 1975, he wrote a
letter to the Secretary of the Air Force declaring
that he was gay. He was involuntarily discharged,
as expected, and he sued for reinstatement.
After ten long years he won his case; and he received a cash
settlement to part ways with the Air Force.
met Lenny at a Pridefest in the Summer of 1979.
He was already famous and he'd come to San Francisco
where he was welcomed by the gay community with open
was also a most curious hero for gay folks.
Although there are a million living gay veterans
who had served from World War II onward; for most gay
people, a "gay man in uniform" was some sort
of incongruous fantasy in those days. Yet, there
he was, an openly out war hero, a tall handsome
sergeant through and through, conservative, slightly
unfashionable, and a Republican from the vast hetero
heartland. For gay folks, at that time, he
exemplified the amazing thought that one could truly
be anything one wanted to be.
Published in 2008
Our Whole Self
And Whole Story:
Honoring My Friend and Hero
Major Alan G. Rogers
By Tony Smith
Major Alan Rogers;
Photo: US Army
I am, March 14th, 2008, standing on a hillside
overlooking the solemn rows of white crosses
dotting the hillside against the sunny blue
sky. With a cool early Spring breeze blowing
against my skin I stand at attention watching
the Military Honor Guard take the flag draped
casket of my friend Major Alan G. Rogers, USA,
from the hearse and slowly lift him up upon
the horse drawn Caisson for the full military
honors burial procession. This is the last
place I expected to be on a warm early spring
day, saying goodbye to my friend Alan at his
burial in Arlington National Cemetery. But
here I am, along with about 200 of his
friends, family, community members, Army and
other military and DoD colleagues to say
goodbye and honor our friend, a true patriot
that gave the ultimate sacrifice, his life,
while serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Alan
was killed on January 27th, 2008 while on foot
patrol when an IED exploded nearby. I had just
spoken with Alan by email the day before on
January 26th, and he was looking forward to
seeing his friends in DC again. He will be
A Meaningful Life
Our son, Corporal Andrew Wilfahrt,
age 31, was killed in action February 27 while on foot
patrol outside of Kandahar, Afghanistan. It is painful
to think that he will never come home again. However, we
remember him well and are reminded daily of what a truly
remarkable son and brother he was. The love and support
from family, friends, the Army family and even complete
strangers, softens the blow a little.
We are not a church-going family
but that didn’t mean that our parenting didn’t include
discussions around morals, ethics or religions. And we
had a few simple rules. Be responsible. Do your part.
Laugh and have fun. Be nice. Share.
We are not a military family.
Older relatives served a long time ago, but we didn’t
know much about military life or culture. There was
stunned silence at the dinner table when Andrew
announced that he was joining the Army. What was he
thinking? He was messy and not always punctual. He was a
peace-loving person, he challenged authority on an
intellectual level, he respected life and he was gay.
We are a lucky family to have had
Andrew. He was a beautiful
child: sweet, curious and kind. He had a silly sense of
humor and as he grew up he loved all things ridiculous
and absurd. Numbers, palindromes and patterns
were a constant source of entertainment for him. But his
passion was classical music, especially Bach. He
composed and played the piano at a young age and his
love of music continued into adulthood.