6 CIA Officers On Coming Out, McCarthy, and Gay Recruiting

The CIA may be defined by secrecy, but these days it encourages its LGBT officers to come out.



Elaine, 29, production manager

Elaine joined the agency eight years ago simply because she wanted a job that was close to home.

“At the time that I was looking for a position when I was in college, I wanted to find something that was close to my family,” Elaine says. “So, the D.C. area is only about two and a half hours away and the agency was actually hiring in my field, which is graphic design.”

LGBT inclusivity was not on Elaine’s radar when she applied to the CIA, but after joining, she chose to come out to co-workers and family. Still, as the co-chair of ANGLE, Elaine says her decision to come out had nothing to do with the CIA or the policies the agency implemented to protect LGBT officers.

“I think it was just more of coming to terms with my sexuality generally. Like, I had never actually thought about it until I came here," Elaine says. “So it wasn’t a particular thing with the agency or whether I wanted to come out it was just I was at a point in my life where I was coming out.”

Elaine says she had a good coming out experience within her office, especially among higher-ups like her senior officer at the time.

“She was a big ally,” Elaine says. “She made it clear that she was a very big supporter of ANGLE and I think that definitely had a big impact.”


Tracey, 50, technical intelligence officer

Tracey joined the agency 10 years before President Clinton issued the executive order granting security clearance to LGBT federal officers, but she could not help but to blaze a trail anyway. She came out in 1988, when being openly gay could have an impact on her career.

“I knew it was a risk to come out but I also recognized that my integrity was at stake,” said Tracey. “I went through a very stringent security review during that time frame when I came out.”

That review lasted nearly two years, and then the following year, she underwent an extra layer of security review. But Tracey pushed ahead with her work, and let the results speak for her, all while navigating a discriminatory work environment. She still remembers people whispering in the halls as she walked around the agency. It was a constant reminder that some officers were not so accepting.

“I heard a lot of hall talk about who I was, and whether I was capable as an officer because I happen to be LGBT,” Tracey says. “I heard hall talk because I was a parent to a child and how I must be a very horrible parent to raise them in a lesbian relationship.”

Tracey says straight and LGBT peers who feared “guilt by association” also ostracized her. In 1995, following the executive order, Tracey and two other officers stood up against the anti-LGBT culture surrounding the CIA by founding ANGLE. Starting the group came with some push-back but the reception over time was welcoming.

“It was hit or miss initially. I had a couple senior officers who were willing to sit down and listen to me,” Tracey says. “I had some other officers who cautioned what I was doing saying it would be a detriment to my career and it would kind of sideline me a little bit or take us off topic so I was cautioned that maybe this would not be the right thing to do.”

It took one-on-one conversations with multiple senior officials for the group to gain traction. Tracey, she says, is stubborn, and that tenacity helped get enough support to launch ANGLE. After three decades of work with the agency, Tracey still encourages others to join, if it is their calling.

“This agency has done a wonderful introspective of who they are and where they need to go and what’s their most valuable resources and that is their people,” Tracey says about joining the agency. “So they’ve taken the time to ensure that we get their time.”