Queer veterans shared their stories across the country for Veterans Day, reminding the public of a recent past when serving openly remained taboo.
Kimberly Stuart, CEO of Veterans for Diversity, discussed with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the lengths she went to in order to conceal being a lesbian in the Air Force.
"The sad thing is, I actually expected it, though," she said. "What I didn't expect is that I would have to prove I was not gay. That's what I did not expect."
Stuart graduated from West Point in 1988 and joined the service the same year. Being gay was forbidden at the time, but she said it wasn't until President Clinton instituted the "don't ask, don't tell" policy that "it got pretty ugly." She became the victim of sexual assault, including one instance that left her with a broken wrist.
"After I started seeing [the perpetrators] around the base, I said, 'I couldn't do this,'" she said. "I shouldn't have to run into them everywhere I go." She ended up leaving the service in 1995.
Of course, for other veterans, there remain struggled.
Staff Sgt. Patricia King, who joined the service after 9/11, came out as transgender in 2015, she told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. She became the first openly trans infantry member, according to Diversity Richmond, which will feature King as a speaker at a Veterans Day event today.
"I knew there was a chance I could be put out of the military," she said. "But the most important thing to me was living an authentic life.
"It was one of the best choices I've ever made to finally be honest with myself about who I was. I've had challenges, but I've never had any regrets."
King retired in August. Her departure comes as a legal fight rages on over President Donald Trump's transgender military ban.
Other veterans spoke up about the past and present treatment of queer service members.
Charlotte Clymer, a trans veteran and press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, said the holiday remains bittersweet.
"As a veteran, the last few years have been hard to watch with someone in the Oval Office who has a long track record of insulting and defrauding those of us who have served in uniform," Clymer said in a Twitter thread. "I want people to talk about that today."
\u201cToday is Veterans Day. As a veteran, the last few years have been hard to watch with someone in the Oval Office who has a long track record of insulting and defrauding those of us who have served in uniform. I want people to talk about that today... (thread)\n\n#VeteransDay\u201d
— Charlotte Clymer \ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6 (@Charlotte Clymer \ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6)
Clymer discussed an array of issues from Trump's attacks on the late John McCain's service record to a misuse of money that was for veterans but actually went to his campaign. And of course, she also touched on the trans military ban.
"In July 2017, without consulting military leadership, Trump announced a ban on trans people in the military. Medical experts, military generals, and budget analysts have all said there are zero credible reasons for the ban," she wrote.
Trans activist Carla Lewis tweeted a picture of herself with Bleu Copas, an Arabic translator kicked out of the military for being gay.
\u201cMy friend, Bleu Copas, and Arabic translator kicked out of the Army for being gay. Here we celebrate the end of Don't Ask Don't Tell in 2011. #dadt #veteransday. https://t.co/koi1KDSzNY\u201d