gq:

Don’t Ask, Don’t TELL

With the formal end of DADT less than a month away, GQ’s Chris Heath spent six months assembling an oral-history-of-sorts about what it was like to be a gay man serving in the U.S. military. The resulting piece, which appears in our Sept 2011 issue and runs a bit longer at GQ.com, is funny, sad, horrifying and, above all, surprising. Life under DADT is both everything—and nothing—like one might expect. A brief sample below, from a heartbreaking section of the piece titled “Invisible Partners”:

Air Force #4 (senior airman, four years): “Right now our relationships don’t exist.”

Air Force #3: “I’ve had three deployments [while] with the same person. Every time it’s been ‘All right, see you later.’ All the spouses get together, do stuff. He’s just there by himself, fending for himself.”

Marines #2: “The relationship lasted for about four years, but I always felt like I was disrespecting him, to have to pretend he didn’t exist when I went to work. When I got deployed, he was there with my family when I left. It kind of sucked—to shake his hand and a little pat on the back and ‘I’ll see you when I see you’ kind of thing. And when you’re getting ready to come back, the spouses were getting classes—here’s how you welcome your Marine back into the family—and my boyfriend didn’t get any of that. I had a really hard time adjusting to being home. We tried to make it work for a year but he was getting more and more paranoid about people finding out about us. It killed me that he felt that way because of me. I don’t think we ever really had a chance, ultimately.”

Air Force #3: “When I was deployed, every Sunday we would sit down on opposite sides of the world and we would each order a pizza and we would watch a movie together over Skype. We weren’t doing anything bad except trying to spend some time together. But there was no ‘I love you.’ Certainly nothing sexual, or anything like what some straight guys do over Skype.”

Navy #2 (captain, twenty years): “Personally, I haven’t had a lot of struggles. The hardest thing that I faced was about eight years ago. I was dating somebody for about two years who had gotten out of the army. He was HIV positive, and I didn’t know that, and he ended up dying—it just happened very quickly. I am not positive, luckily. So I had a lot of difficulties grasping with that personally, dealing with his death, and I had to take time off work, but still not tell them. I couldn’t go to the doctor or the psychologist. There wasn’t really anybody to talk to.”

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