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

Agnone_juarez

–EXCLUSIVE–

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]

Comments

  1. Brian says

    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.

  2. Brian says

    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.

  3. Michael says

    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.

  4. monkey says

    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.

  5. anon says

    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.

  6. Landis says

    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.

  7. Leland says

    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?

  8. anon says

    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

  9. el polacko says

    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.

  10. anon says

    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.

  11. Toby says

    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.

  12. Brian says

    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.

  13. says

    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.

  14. Gregoire says

    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.

  15. zabadak says

    Why is SLDN imploding?

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

  16. ShawnSF says

    “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.

  17. Bob says

    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!!

  18. MCnNYC says

    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.

    GOOD FOR ANTONIO.
    GOOD FOR HRC
    GOOD FOR ALL OF US.
    (except Leland who will take his silly hrc baiting to his grave)

  19. Leland says

    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.

  20. CPT Anonymous says

    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…

  21. atheist says

    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.

  22. says

    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:

    http://www2.jsonline.com/news/nat/ap/aug01/ap-smithsonian-gay082701.asp

    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.

  23. anon says

    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.

  24. tony the tiger says

    Eck. These guys are unattractive. They ought to have stayed in the closet. In fact all unattractive gay men should stay as far in the closet as possible. With the lights off.

  25. Zeke says

    Ugh, why do gay men who were closeted and married to women NEVER miss an opportunity to tell every gay man they know that they were once married to a woman; and usually within the first five minutes of a conversation even when the information has nothing to do with the discussion at hand?

    It’s like a medal on their chest or a badge of honor. I just don’t get it.

  26. Zeke says

    Oh and Lt. Agnone, HOO RAH devil dog, Semper Fi my brother!

    Pay no mind to complaints about your speach or your choice of clothing. You can put money on it that those who are doing the complaining wouldn’t have the balls to do what you did in Iraq and they most likely have never done a damned thing, other than bitch in the comments section of a blog, to promote GLBT rights.

    Rock on brother!

  27. Ben D. says

    Anxiety over homosexual masculinity is precisely what this whole mess is about. Why the concern over Agnone’s “fey” manner? Sure it’s disappointing but does it matter? The U.S. Military believes homosexual soldiers are gushing, prancing, weak, disruptive, sexually addicted predators who compromise “group cohesion” whether at school, home or war. Apparently a lot of “Gay” guys agree with them…unless the soldier is really hot.

    Obsessing over Agnone’s affected manner, “Gay” accent and clothing obscures the real issue and embraces the very same hostile stance of the Military.

  28. anon says

    zeke true BUT

    Per the US census bureau the majority of american voters are white, straight, and between the ages of 45-75

    Gap shirts do not impress that demographic.

    Now if your intent is to get a bunch of e-mails asking for a date then ok, but if you are trying to alter the perception of gay men in the millitary then you better dress up to impress VOTERS.

    The goal is to get voters behind you not dates.

  29. MCnNYC says

    Actually Leland you IGNORANCE and Lies are legendary…where the hell do you get YOUR facts you flamer 36 years ago?!!!! Half a BILLION of dollars?

    You must keep pulling your facts out of your fellow BUTT MONKEY and bare=backing arse wipe ANDREW SULLIVAN.

    Sorry you have such a problem with HRC..look you are a one man band who is more comfortable with playing with yourself or perhaps in grass roots organizing (at the most)
    but you are nonetheless bitter and NOTHING LESS THAN THE disintegration of HRC could possibly get you hard or make you happy.

    PATHETIC..grind you axe but get updated facts and move on.

  30. mark m says

    It’s funny that the Party that likes to think of itself as being the most in tune with our military should understand so little about unit cohesion and troop morale.

    But again, consider how many Republicans have ever actually served their country in war. Not many.

    Marines in particular are held together by a passionate commitment to serve and protect each other. They fight for their country because they must. But they really fight for the marines next to them. I’ve never been in the military, and yet I know this. I know this because I have had friends who did.

    Straight marines who fight alongside gay marines do not see their sexual orientation, and they sure as hell have other things to worry about then whether the gay guy is looking at their winky in the shower. These men put their lives on the line for each other regardless of sexual orientation. They will die for their brother in arms, regardless of his sexual orientation.

    But I wouldn’t expect the bunch of white privileged corporate types who run the Republican Party to understand that.

  31. FizziekruntNT says

    That’s just a real pisser that any gay person commenting here would take a potshot at Mr. Agnone’s mannerisms, which (and I work with public speakers on a regular basis) to me, just looked and sounded like a kid talking to a teleprompter for the first time in his life. The only thing he needs is a style coach and someone to help him emphasize his points a bit more clearly.

    He’s done more with one video clip than most of you will do in a lifetime. If you’re such experts, get off your ass, out from behind the keyboard and go DO something for a change.

    By the way, if you hadn’t noticed, Mitt Romney wears a suit, John McCain wears a suit, Giuliani wears a dress…just to mention a few formal-wearing douchebags.

  32. dave says

    Mr. Agnone should be dressed to convey his respect for the people he wants to take him seriously, and to show that he is dealing with an important issue. His mannerisms are his mannerisms – he’s a gay man and comes across as a sincere individual, not someone putting on a butch act.
    Thank you Antonio for speaking up for the rest of us.

  33. John says

    Mr. Agnone’s tone of voice is his own. And that’s good enough foe me.

    If speaking in a whiny, high-pitched tone of voice is an indicator of gayness, then I have good news. Half the “straight white male” voters you want to court are already gay.

    And following this line of “logic”, the entire male populations of Spain, Portugal, Italy, Sweden, and the Netherlands are gay too…as these are all languages where proper pronounciation requires you to have a lisp.

  34. MCnNYC says

    Come on folks he wears what he wants to wear ===he has earned that right AND to walk, talk and stand in front of that sign with PRIDE LELAND…. 36 years -kiss my butt you moron…it was founded in 1980 you screwball

  35. anon says

    MCNNYC

    Then why not wear a sarong? Obviously their are limits. Why?

    Hell, screw the voters who put the politicians in office. We don’t need to get them behind us. Unless you are willing to start a revolution and physicaly take over the government then you need play by the rules. The game sucks, but you have to play it.

    Majority of voters 45-75 means they will listen more to a man in a suit than a man in a gap shirt. bet your bottom dollar that the opisition will be wearing suits and impressing the elderly voters who we need on our side.

  36. John says

    What’s so offensive about shopping at the GAP (other than the fact that they use sweatshops)? He’s wearing a dress shirt, isn’t he? He doesn’t look like a freak, does he?

    It’s not as if Antonio’s doing his impression of Howard Stern or Larry Flynt. And military men don’t exactly dress up like Wall Street bankers when they’re off-duty.

    Bottom line. The people who are open to the message will forgive minor imperfections in dress and mannerisms. The people who are bigots are not going to listen to the “fag” regardless of how he dresses. Doesn’t matter if it’s an Armani suit or Walmart t-shirt.

    Call me crazy, but I also doubt the average voter cares whether Nancy’s Pelosi’s Italian-designed scarves are more expensive than George W. Bush’s cowboy hats. They probably are, but who outside of New York, Washington DC, and California give a rat’s behind about that?

  37. AVI says

    For everyone who complained that Antonio Agnone doesn’t look serious or tough enough:

    He is not an actor and not really trained for public speaking. When one is a bit nervous, one, naturally, would look vulnerable. The fact that he is willing to do this AND not afraid to expose his vulnerability is really, really admirable.

    Every man who judge him based on his shirt or his slightly nervous state should audition to become a drag queen or the Pope. They both have similar job descriptions: To wear a dress and judge poeple…….Who wants to apply first?

  38. paul bass says

    a) it a choice
    b) its immoral
    c) your are making a bad impression on our children

    joining the military that is

    i fully support gay rights in every thing else but we should be making as hard as possible for any one to join our overseas murders