Antonio Agnone | Brandon Juarez | Don't Ask, Don't Tell | Iraq | Military | News

Gay Iraq War Vet: Steady Gay Couples Common at Camp Lejeune



Agnone1Pride '07, the annual publication of Interpride, The International Association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex Pride Coordinators, which you may have seen in summers past, begins shipping this week with a cover story on two gay American soldiers who came out while serving, began a clandestine love affair, and have since become active in calling for the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".

Former Marine Lieutenant Antonio Agnone and former Senior Airman Brandon Juarez met while performing respective familial and military duties in Washington D.C, during President Bush's inauguration in 2005. Now out of the military, the two have begun a campaign to put an end to its discriminatory policies toward gays.

Agnone2In the article, Agnone and Juarez tell writer Tim Kilbride that their frustration over the military's policies ignited over one phone call Agnone made to Juarez from Iraq on a day he had been shot at. The couple realized that the military would never notify Juarez if something happened to Agnone. Their "growing resentment" over the forced secrecy and discriminatory treatment compelled Agnone and Juarez to begin speaking out. It's a resentment felt by many in the military's ranks, they say, and "undercuts the ideals the military seeks to instill in all its service members." 

Agnone and Juarez also detail the lengths they went to in order to keep their relationship a secret, and reveal a hush-hush underground gay support network within the military not unlike the secret societies that existed before the gay liberation movement began in the 50's and 60's.

Writes Kilbride:

'When I was in the military I depended on the people who had gone before,' Agnone explains. "And then when I realized that, okay, I need to start doing what I can for gay issues, too, I kind of see myself as almost standing on their shoulders." Already, he says, he served as a guidance counselor of sorts for fellow gay Marines and sailors at Camp Lejeune. It wasn't a role he sought, but it ended up being one he came to embrace. "One day I was sitting at work and I got an email. And my heart stopped because the email said basically, 'I saw you at the club last night.' And there's only one club in Wilmington. I mean, there's one club, one gay bar.

After deleting any trace of the message, he recalls, "I ended up going, 'Well shit, if I don't write them back they're going to think that I'm mean, then what will happen? I don't even know who this person is.' So I wrote back and I was like, 'Here's my cell phone number. Don't email me anymore. Just call.' And so I ended up becoming almost a mentor for this person, and through that developed a network of many, many other Marines, and sailors, actually.

It was great, you know, because he had a stable life, and so they could confide in (him)," Juarez observes. It's clearly a responsibility both of them take very seriously. And that willingness to be of service and support, to mentor younger gay soldiers attempting to navigate not only their military duties and careers—but their lives—with a two-ton boulder strapped to their back is something they both admire in each other. "We actually found out that there's a lot of us," Agnone says with lingering amazement. "There were just steady couples at Camp Lejeune in the middle of North Carolina.

To a gay man who's worked with the military for years, that's still a surprising thing to hear. Conventional Washington wisdom holds that if you took all the gay people off Capitol Hill and out of the White House the government would shut down, but that's not an assertion I would include the military in.

And yet, here are two guys from the inside saying, "Yes, in fact, if 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' really achieved its goal, our nation's readiness would be in very serious trouble.

Agnone insists that it's an "extreme minority of bigots" shaping the military's policy on gays and wonders why these bigots are being protected. Expect to see more of him in the coming months. Agnone begins another 'tour of duty' this month with HRC, designed to help put a human face on the efforts to repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'. Here's a message in reaction to last night's Republican debate and the cowardly, bigoted positions taken by the candidates.

Look for the Pride '07 publication, edited by Peter McQuaid, as it rolls out in various cities over the summer. It should arrive in Los Angeles this week in advance of L.A. Pride.

You may have missed...
GOP Candidates on Gays: Discrimination Trumps National Security [tr]
Former General Shalikashvili: Repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell [tr]
First Marine Wounded in Iraq Comes Out of the Closet [tr]
General Pace's Remarks Ignite National Debate on Gays in Military [tr]
More Gay Linguists Discharged Under 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' [tr]

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  1. He's super cute, but a bit fey for a marine officer... but that's probably just my military stereotype talking.

    Good for him. It'll take many more like him to change the DADT policy.

    Posted by: Brian | Jun 6, 2007 2:41:36 PM

  2. One more thing... if I were a former military professional who was going on national television talking about military policy, I'd probaby want to dress a little more professionally. A tie and a jacket perhaps? The shirt is cute, and looks nice on him... but his appearance doesn't scream "take me seriously". These things shouldn't really count, but in reality they do.

    Posted by: Brian | Jun 6, 2007 3:06:24 PM

  3. Thanks Brian. I long for the day when we can have a discussion about gay issues without commenting on how cute or ugly a person is.

    Posted by: Michael | Jun 6, 2007 3:14:12 PM

  4. I wish that ALL active, and non-active alike, service members would stand up and come out. "we're gay, go ahead and kick me out." and let the military try to function without them. Sadly, for us, a soldier would never do that. But what a great day that'd be.

    Posted by: monkey | Jun 6, 2007 3:20:26 PM

  5. Brian actualy has a good point in the 2nd post.

    Ignoring the rest, the whole suit and tie bit is spot on. The ones the community need to and are trying to convert to seeing DADT as a failed policy are people who highly respect suits and ties. It is archaic, but that is how many of them were raised. To view such outward symbols as signifiers of authority, respectability, and believability.

    I am not advocating that every gay man and woman must walk around all day looking like mormon missionaries, but we do need to aknowledge the power of symbols in our culture and utilize them to our own benefit.

    Picture little old ladys who vote saying "my goodness he looks like such a nice young man in that sharp suit....etc" the rest flows from there. Sad and kind of brainwashed crazy, but it is reality. Even sadder is that elderly voters far outnumber gay voters.

    Posted by: anon | Jun 6, 2007 3:29:45 PM

  6. I agree with the suit/respectability comment. That is why african americans (back in the days) would typically wear a suit/presentable clothing to go to the bank. i.e. to convey a message of equality and authority.

    Posted by: Landis | Jun 6, 2007 3:34:37 PM

  7. Though clearly nervous, I thought he was excellent for someone unaccustomed to public speaking as the old saying goes. Some will see the following as irrelevant, but is the blob known as the Human Rights Champagne fund benefiting, as they did in years ago in relation to NGLTF, from disarray at SLDN, the group that has been solely [and expertly] focused on gay military issues for over a decade while HRC has been primarily focused [and I use the term loosely] on other legislation? Even with the recent mysterious resignation of SLDN founder director Dixon Osburn just as the tide seemed to be turning against DADT, it makes no sense for this courageous couple to be riding the HRC float instead.

    And, if anyone thinks it's unfair to criticize HRC's slurping up another group's sole raison d'etre [versus, e.g., forming a coalition with SLDN], look at that video image again and note the inescapable prominence of the ubiquitous HRC yellow equal sign over both of Agnone's shoulders. Once again their politburo tries to equate their own self-serving empire with Gay Rights itself. “Pay no attention to that queen behind the curtain. Moneeeeeee. Send us moneeeeeee!” Wondering minds want to know. Do HRC employees have to get the logo tattooed on their left butt cheek or the right? Has HRC become the gay equivalent of Scientology?

    Posted by: Leland | Jun 6, 2007 3:47:57 PM

  8. Landis

    Also the utilization of suits = symbolism by the black muslim movement.

    It was an excellnt utilization of symbols to spearhead the growth of their movement amongst black americans back in the day. Otherwise they would have recieved a less welcoming reception in the community with what to them at that time was a radical new philosophy

    It is ironic though that I HATE suits and ties. I always feel ties are trying to strangle me when no one is looking. :-) But I aknowledge the power of their symbolism

    Posted by: anon | Jun 6, 2007 4:12:25 PM

  9. everything old is new again dept : way back in the stone-age of the late 50's/early 60's groups like the mattachine society demonstrated in suits and ties (women in dresses and hose) in order to appear more "normal" to the masses. it didn't seem to make a rat's ass bit of difference back then and i highly doubt it would today either. a fag in a suit is still a fag to the very people you'd be trying to impress.

    Posted by: el polacko | Jun 6, 2007 4:16:49 PM

  10. El Polacko: regarding asses, you're talking out of yours.

    Posted by: Leland | Jun 6, 2007 4:31:58 PM

  11. EL

    But the difference is vast and it is called news coverage. Very few news sources actualy even showed the people you mentioned. Your judgement then on the power of the symbol of a suit is not a valid one. If they had been given actual air time then the suits might have made a difference.

    Posted by: anon | Jun 6, 2007 4:33:09 PM

  12. Could nt they get someone who did nt talk like Richard Simmons.Then again,I forget that Reichen Lehmkuhl was in the army so DUH!

    I know Antonio Agnone has the right intentions but talking like a toned down version of a flaming queen is not going to do us any favours.What s next? A guy wearing lycra shorts talking about the injustice of the boy scout movement.I m sorry if my bluntness may offend some but I m just being honest.

    Posted by: Toby | Jun 6, 2007 4:37:24 PM

  13. William Sledd is a big HRC supporter, so go figure...

    Posted by: anon ( | Jun 6, 2007 4:46:29 PM

  14. Michael, I only mentioned that he was cute because I was about to say something a bit critical... because I support his position I didn't want to come off as being overly harsh. Certainly we can discuss the DADT issue without commenting on physical appearance, but I wasn't talking about that. I was talking about my first impression of his television presentation.

    I don't think a costume change would make any difference to hard-nosed bigots, but what a person wears really does make a difference. Doctors, judges, salespeople, etc. make choices about what to wear based on their efforts to project an aura of professionalism and respect (for themselves and for others). It speaks to the respect and gravity that the speaker feels for the message.

    Posted by: Brian | Jun 6, 2007 5:17:43 PM

  15. I have a friend who made a career out of being in the military (15+ years). He is the right hand of a high ranking official who KNOWS about him and doesn't care. My buddy loves what he does and has always been an exceptional solider. He doesn't worry about dying in Iraq, instead he worries about some ignorant yahoo trying to turn him in and costing him his retirement. Talk about screwing w/your priorities...

    He also told me countless stories of guys like this who know or "are known about" and people just don't care. Why can't the military big wigs listen to their own personnel and just get over it. There are plenty of military forces in the world that allow gays and all the "horror stories" and scare tactics mentioned by the current administration never come to pass.

    Posted by: moby | Jun 6, 2007 5:26:46 PM

  16. Who cares about the suit and tie, he just to button the front of his shirt a bit. He looks like he just got in.

    Posted by: Gregoire | Jun 6, 2007 5:34:59 PM

  17. Why is SLDN imploding?

    Pity that former Midshipman, Joe Steffen, has totally disappeared from the DADT fight.

    Posted by: zabadak | Jun 6, 2007 5:44:43 PM

  18. "War is young men killing other young men they do not know, on the orders of old men who know one another too well."
    -German volunteer Erwin Kowalke who has unearthed remains of 20,000 fallen WWII soldiers.

    Posted by: ShawnSF | Jun 6, 2007 6:19:37 PM

  19. Last but not least, thanks to this fine marine, who is a bit too relaxed, for speaking out - He is absolutely right on target, but should remember his audience, and in the next announcement, wear the crisp shirt and snappy tie! Go for it!!

    Posted by: Bob | Jun 6, 2007 6:21:39 PM

  20. LELAND STILL has a hard on for the Human Rights Campaign and geez will you pull it out already. God knows why he's such a TROLL on this but anyone who reg. reads his anti-HRC crap should not be surprised.
    I mean if some other gay org. drops the ball and HRC picks up on it THATS TEAM WORK A HOLE. HRC has the capability to broadcast and almost immediately respond and thats a good thing for all gay org. esp. the grass roots org which HRC supports.
    And considering that this is Fed Legislation there are no toes to step on so give it up already.

    (except Leland who will take his silly hrc baiting to his grave)

    Posted by: MCnNYC | Jun 6, 2007 6:32:23 PM

  21. MCNNYC: spoken like a loyal Scientologist, er, HRC butt monkey. What have you gotten for your loyalty besides a yellow and blue bumper sticker? They've pissed away close to half a billion dollars since their inception 36 years ago. Some of us would like something more to show for it than HRC flags blowing in the wind and you blowing off your blind allegiance.

    Posted by: Leland | Jun 6, 2007 6:44:43 PM

  22. As a gay servicemember, I commend Antonio Agnone.

    However, as an officer, I'll point out that even if he were straight and his boyfriend were a female, he would've been kicked out of the military. An O-2 has no business dating an E-4, gay or straight.

    At least they weren't in the same chain of command...

    Posted by: CPT Anonymous | Jun 6, 2007 6:45:48 PM

  23. I cannot believe you're arguing about a bloody suit and tie! For christ's sake, this guy has been serving in a war, has returned to the US and got the bollocks to get up off his arse and make a very public stand about DADT and you're quibbling over his choice of dress??

    Your political leaders need to grow up and join the 21st century like the rest of the civilised world and stop prioritising sexual oientation as the fucking b-all and end-all of political decision-making. It is utterly primitive and ridiculous.

    Posted by: atheist | Jun 6, 2007 7:00:52 PM

  24. I have a story to tell, as well, about being gay and being in the service. This story is for ALL those "Christians" out there who have a problem with us being in the service.

    After about three years of marriage, while in the Navy, I was SURE I was gay. I had told my wife I thought I might be gay, or was questioning, before we married. I couldn't keep that information from her. My wife felt she needed to announce it to a bunch of people, so I got KICKED OUT of the service over it. Oh yeah, I was ALSO the submarine's preacher (Protestant Lay Reader) even though I tried NOT to be because I was afraid eventually someone might find out I was gay, and I didn't want it to "hurt the church."

    Therefore, if it hadn't been for a GAY MAN there wouldn't have been PROTESTANT SERVICES onboard a nuclear powered submarine during the Cold War. BUT, gays can't serve because we are some kind of "sexual monsters." Yea, I was SUCH a sexual monster I didn't even MASTURBATE (maybe too much information but this is to make a point) until the Hospital Corpsman told me I had to because I started having major prostate problems. Yea, us GAYS... we sure are uncontrollable sexual monsters, uh huh... unlike those EVANGELICAL METH HEAD PREACHERS like Ted Haggard!

    By the way, here is a news article about my experience and having a poem published in the Smithsonian:

    Gays and Lesbians have SERVED HONORABLY in our military services and deserve to CONTINUE to serve! By not allowing us to serve, it is just one more way to treat us differently and justify discrimination in other areas. Those who argue against it KNOW if we openly serve in the military, they will start losing the arguments we don't deserve equal rights in all the other areas of American civil society.

    Posted by: Timothy Beauchamp | Jun 6, 2007 7:59:23 PM

  25. Atheist

    Unfortunatly our country is not so blessed at the moment.

    Anyway; the pundits who will sit infront of the camera and swear up and down that we don't belong in the millitary will be wearing suits and ties. These same people will be listened to by the older generations more just because they wear a suit and tie. archaic? YES, but reality is what it is. Since these older generations vote in far greater numbers than youth let alone gay people they are the ones that need to be impressed. Suits and ties impress them, that is how they are.

    Take up your argument with reality, till reality listens to you then we as a community must use the symbols that society is brainwashed to respect and listen to. A "just got home from the club shirt" with the buttons open will only turn those voters off.

    Posted by: anon | Jun 6, 2007 8:59:13 PM

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