LAS VEGAS – Chief Warrant Officer Charlie Morgan kept it simple and sweet. She was eight months into a nine-month assignment in Kuwait, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta had just informed Congress that the U.S. armed forces were ready to integrate openly gay troops.
Morgan decided the time was right to come out to her commander. The photograph of her wife and 4-year-old daughter she kept hidden on her desk helped her do it.
“I said, ‘Sir, I would like to introduce you to someone. This is my family,’ ” Morgan recalled of her July conversation with her boss, an Army colonel leading a 2,400-soldier brigade. “He said, ‘Charlie, you have a beautiful family. You know, ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ prevented me from getting to know you.’ ”
Nearly four weeks after the U.S. lifted its ban on open service by gay men, lesbians and bisexuals, similar stories of secret-shedding, relief and acceptance were swapped Saturday at the first national convention of gay military personnel on active duty.
Each of the 200 or so sailors, soldiers, Marines and airmen attending the conference put on by the formerly clandestine group known as OutServe had, to varying degrees, only recently revealed their sexual orientations at work. None had gotten a reaction worse than a shrug.
“Out of the 4,500 members we have, we haven’t had any person come to us about one single problem, which is huge, because right before repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell,’ we had tons of problems,” like investigations and other issues relayed to the Pentagon, said Air Force 1st Lt. Josh Seefried, the group’s co-founder.
Senior Airman Kody Parsons, a substance abuse counselor at an Air Force base in Fairfield, Calif., came out to his superiors a week and a half ago because he thought they should know he was attending the OutServe conference.
They thanked him for speaking up, supported his trip to Las Vegas and asked him to let them know if they could help in any way. Parsons called it “a nonevent.”
“I think it’s very important to ensure nothing changes for fear of reinforcing the stigma that, ‘Well, now that the gays are here, look out,’ ” he said.
“My sexual orientation doesn’t have any effect on my ability to do my job, and they recognize that.”