A gay Navy SEAL has shared his story of secrecy and coming out during the era of "don't ask, don't tell."
Brett Jones recounts memories of being a closeted special operations member stationed at the Naval Amphibious Base in Norfolk, Va., in a first-person account posted to SOFREP.com, a news source for military veterans.
In the article, Jones shares a specific incident in which a man named Mike, whom he met at a gay bar in Virginia Beach, leaves a voice mail asking him to go on a date. Jones shares the mixed emotions that came with the message.
"I had met a number of people at gay bars in the area who still had been dishonorably discharged for it," he writes. "Being a Navy SEAL and gay proposed its own set of problems. Fortunately for me, it was not obvious to people that I was gay. If I wanted to go out on a date with Mike (which I did), I was going to have to do some serious lying."
He recounts how he would have to deceive both his SEAL team and Mike in order to protect himself from expulsion under the military policy, which prohibited gay, lesbian, and bisexual service members from being open about their sexual orientation until its repeal in 2011. "I'm not proud of the lies, but living under the rule of DADT left me few options in such a small close-knit community," he writes.
"Being gay is not a choice," Jones continues. "In fact, I can remember countless nights of restless sleep praying for God to help me find women attractive in that way. As Garth Brooks says, 'Some of God's greatest gifts are un-answered prayers.' Though it took me a while to fully understand, I know now, that our diversity is one of the greatest gifts this world has to offer."
Ultimately, Jones was able to overcome his inhibitions after "he was forced out of the closet" and "discovered that it was not as bad as I had made it in my mind." He found that most of his fellow SEALs supported him regardless.
"It was because of that support, from my brothers, that I could proudly say, 'My name is Brett Jones, I am a Navy SEAL, and I am gay,'" he concludes.
As Brandon Webb, a fellow Navy SEAL and the editor in chief of SOFREP.com, notes in his introduction to Jones's account: "The people with whom I've worked in the Special Operations community are more concerned with an individual's contribution to the team, and their ability to do their job exceptionally well, than their race or sexual preferences. It's meritocracy in its purest form, and a wonderful example set by the Special Operations community, from which others can and should learn."