Gay Discharge Dilemma
Recently, I wrote this piece for the Palm Center about why the DoD should consider automatic upgrades of DD-214s for those who return to service after being discharged under DADT. While I stand behind the idealism in it, in the time since I wrote it I’ve come to a harsh reality and an acceptance of the same. My story is complex, so the consequences are, too. I can’t avoid that.
The thing that brought this to light for me was my unexpected eligibility for promotion to chief petty officer. Despite being rusty, I took the promotion exam and have been designated as eligible to go before the selection board. This process involves a secret “board” meeting toreview eligible candidates’ official military records. They look for a history of what you’ve accomplished to determine where you rank among your peers and promote the top performers.
I was gone from the Navy for four years and four months. I’ve barely had 8 months to accomplish “something” I can show to them.
As a consequence, they’re going to look at my DD-214 – my discharge paper. They are going to see “homosexual admission” as the reason for my departure; they are going to know something I never would have volunteered to them.
At first, the idea of this made me want to run to the corrections board and get a “clean” DD-214. After all, what business is it of theirs how I left? But you see, it’s not that easy. The last evaluation I received from the Navy had a mark on it that said my behavior was incompatible with Navy service. On the same page, however, it noted my accomplishments and stated what a great asset I would be to civilian employers. How do you explain that to a board of people you’ll never meet if you don’t allow them to see the entire truth?
Do I risk prejudice by NOT correcting it? Sure. At the end of the day, a board is human and humans are subject to bias, however understated; but I have to trust that they’ll compare me side-by-side with everyone else, and say, “Ok, so outside of that, how has he done?” If they do, I believe I’ll be competitive, but also promoted or denied advancement based on a fair shake.
If they don’t give me that fair look – then I can at least say that by leaving my DD-214 unchanged, I’ve challenged them to stand behind their own prejudices and forced them to try and see beyond the word “homosexual”. If we’re going to continue forward, then hiding from the past isn’t going to help. Exposing it… will.