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Out of the Navy

Out of the Navy


In June, Navy petty officer Rhonda Davis came out to a radio reporter during a Brooklyn march for marriage equality. Within weeks the 12-year veteran had been kicked out of the service.

You had to know that participating in the march while wearing your Navy uniform violated "don't ask, don't tell," yet you did it anyway. Why? It was kind of a last-minute thing. That morning I was wearing jeans and a T-shirt, I had my keys in my hand, and I decided that I was done pretending to be someone I'm not. I put on my uniform, knowing that I would be interviewed, but it was more important to be honest than to worry about my career.

But you loved your career. Yes. I very much wanted to serve my country, but the person you end up being with makes up a huge part of your life, and I had to keep it quiet. When you meet someone, when you fall in love, you want to tell everybody. I couldn't. I had to keep it bottled up. That morning, the cork flew out of the bottle.

When you were in the Navy, did you constantly worry about what would happen if someone found out you are lesbian? It's not like talking about your sex life is the only way to violate the policy. If anyone were to see us holding hands--just simply holding hands with the person you love--that is a violation, and that could get you kicked out. We couldn't eat near the base. I couldn't bring her with me to office functions. It's like you're onstage all of the time--you have to be this other person.

Now that you're a civilian, what will you do? I've been trying to get as many people to know about the policy as I can. With as much attention as there has been, I've been surprised how many people don't really know that it means you can never mention the person that you love. That if you let a glimmer of your real self shine through, even for a moment, you can lose everything.

That's what happened to you, didn't it? It was one of those moments that's a cross between courageous and stupid. Going to the marriage equality march meant so much to me--so much that I was willing to risk my job, career, home, paycheck, and benefits to make a statement. It's not like I went thinking that my being there would change anything. Maybe nobody will listen to Rhonda Davis, or maybe somebody will. I don't know. But I couldn't just pretend anymore.

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff & Wayne Brady

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