Don't Ask, Don't Tell | Military | West Hollywood

J.T. Chestnut Says He Went AWOL While Under Investigation For Homosexuality; Now He's Off To Stand Trial

JTChestnutJ.T. Chestnut says he didn't want to join the army. But his father exerted the peculiar pressure disapproving fathers can sometimes exert on their gay sons, and in 2007 he sent 18-year-old J.T. off to enlist. The army would toughen him up, dad hoped. “Straighten” him up. It didn't work. According to J.T.:

 ... [two] months before basic training graduation, I was led on by a guy and was framed for homosexual conduct.

During the investigation, I was constantly bullied for my "lifestyle" of being gay and for being who I was. This time for me was very depressing, horrible, and I was desperate to get out. In late November of 2007, I went AWOL and moved to California.

Once in West Hollywood, J.T. recreated himself as a happy gay man and activist. He discovered what he calls his family among open-minded Los Angelinos. And then:

... on Oct 31st 2011, I was arrested in West Hollywood on the way to a friend's house for no reason at all. The sheriffs found about my warrant and took me in. I was just released from LA County Jail but have to report to Fort Sill, Oklahoma to surrender myself in. I am frightened, scared, and worried that I will be physically hurt for my being openly gay. This is where I need your help.

Please post my story on your FB, blogs, twitter, and etc in hopes of more people hearing me out and supporting me. I do not want to serve time and I have not been this afraid ever in my life. I want to continue to live the life I am living here in LA. Please help me.

J.T. appends his story with an apology to his West Hollywood friends, in whom he apparently never confided about his army past:

PS. I'm so sorry for not sharing this dark secret. It causes too much but knowing u guys made life worth living. I love you. And while I am away..please don't forget about me.

Kevin Miniter, of the Fred Karger campaign, has launched this petition at in the hopes of securing JT's pardon.

[Pic: Courtesy of WeHo Confidential]

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  1. Sorry, no sympathy. The guy signed a contract and then went AWOL. Now, after 30 days it's considered desertion. If we were at war a deserter could be ordered put to death (only happen once).

    So really, which is worse? Finishing basic or even getting chaptered out or, committing a crime and getting a bad conduct discharge or prison time?

    Using the gay thing is lame - more fuel for the fire.

    Posted by: Mary | Nov 5, 2011 3:51:21 PM

  2. Seriously? Are we supposed to just believe this guy because he's gay? there were many options available to him and he went AWOL like an entitled baby. No sympathy whatsoever, and I'm not sure why Towleroad considers this news. Newsflash-most criminals are full of excuses (and this isn't exactly a compelling one)...go figure. If he went AWOL, he deserves to go to jail. being gay and scared is not a criminal defense.

    Posted by: CAHBF | Nov 5, 2011 4:00:32 PM

  3. I can see Mary's point here. But THIS Mary is a bit more understanding of this young man's situation. His father should never have pressured him to join - military life is not for everyone. However, it sounds to me like was getting bullied by everyone - first his father and then fellow soldiers. Bullying is brutal and I can understand why if it was severe enough, he'd go AWOL. I'm just glad this guy didn't end up a suicide case. My own preference would be that he be discharged and not have to serve any jail time for desertion. He showed bad judgment in joining up and bad judgment in not simply admitting his homosexuality when caught. But bad judgment is not a crime one should be jailed for. I hope this doesn't make me sound like a liberal!

    And for the record I'm the Mary who is the visitor from the other side who is trying to learn more about the gay community. The first post was not written by me.

    Posted by: Mary | Nov 5, 2011 4:09:17 PM

  4. Reinstate him with no extra penalty and have him serve his contract.

    Posted by: Matt Munson | Nov 5, 2011 4:15:27 PM

  5. This is the first Mary. Yes, I feel for the guy, but have seen a lot of AWOL folks and a lot of people who should never have join military service. I think he should have stood up and just not joined.

    Don't get me wrong. The most that will come of this is a bad conduct discharge and a life of bad employment if anyone ever checks his history.

    Posted by: Mary in Iowa | Nov 5, 2011 4:24:01 PM

  6. J.T. is full of excuses. He was "led on", he was arrested "for no reason", etc. Sounds like a conman in the making.

    Posted by: Phineas Talbot | Nov 5, 2011 4:26:16 PM

  7. ps, when AWOL goes 30 days long a FEDERAL warrant is issued. Ah, that might be the reason for "no reason at all". I think J.T. did have a chance to 'grow-up' in the military but now he's crying on shoulders.

    Mary, 'bad judgement' is part of all crime.

    Posted by: Mary in Iowa | Nov 5, 2011 4:32:22 PM

  8. He signed the contract and now he is crying to Andy... wah wah... go to jail so you will learn.

    And the military life is NOT for every gay person. Most gay soldiers are TOUGH and WANT to serve... he VOLUNTARY signed on to join an institution that is very machista... he SHOULD of known of that before he signed on the dotted line.

    Others who went AWOL faced jail time as well, i personally know of one who was 'forced' by his family to join, and was picked on in the marines, but of course Brandon and Andy don't give a hoot for this guy because he is STRAIGHT... in the spirit of EQUALITY... lock this coward up as well.

    Posted by: Jose Soto | Nov 5, 2011 4:34:00 PM

  9. Judge, judge, judge. None of us know what he went through. I'm not signing the petition but neither am I saying he wasn't justified in his alleged fears. Hopefully a dishonorable dc & be done with it.

    Posted by: Barbara | Nov 5, 2011 4:52:18 PM

  10. Good lord you guys are horrible and heartless. He was 18 years old!

    Posted by: ron | Nov 5, 2011 4:56:18 PM

  11. Anyone who has the guts to escape military servitude for any reason gets a gold star in my book. Good for him and best of luck.

    Posted by: Jeff K. | Nov 5, 2011 5:03:07 PM

  12. I'm with Ron, and I'm signing.

    Posted by: John K. | Nov 5, 2011 5:32:05 PM

  13. where are all you people coming from? recently have been seeing one new name after another espousing points of view not at all in common with the folks who regularly participate here. not just differing opinions, but either radically left or radically right of prevailing opinions... almost as if trying to trigger incendiary statements...

    Posted by: bandanajack | Nov 5, 2011 5:38:46 PM

  14. The kid had a difficult set of choices to make. Based on certain early choices, he made further choices. Joining the military when he didn't want to was a bad choice apparently....which snowballed into a further bad choice to go AWOL. Fears can be dealt with, but bad choices don't make things go away. Breaking the law (a choice on his part) results in punishment..

    Being a Catholic, I understand that some choices that break the 'law' in order to preserve life (like stealing food when you are truly homeless and without recourse) is not considered sinful, but you are still subject to civil authority.

    In the application of law, there is always room for justice to be fair and understanding.... when warranted.

    I think this guy may need to understand that some choices are best not made in favor of better choices (even if they don't directly give you what you want). In other words, growing up and accepting responsibility for one's actions.

    Posted by: anon | Nov 5, 2011 5:58:28 PM

  15. yawn...

    Posted by: balis | Nov 5, 2011 6:19:17 PM

  16. This kid is old enough to know better. Sorry, at 18, "my dad made me do it" is a ridiculous excuse. "I got arrested for no reason" doesn't make sense...and going AWOL is just plain stupid.

    Posted by: adam | Nov 5, 2011 6:20:17 PM

  17. As a service member, I have NO sympathy for this kid. You're a deserter - the MOST dishonorable thing you can do in the military. Stop using your sexuality as a scapegoat, and serve your time!

    Posted by: Sailor | Nov 5, 2011 6:51:44 PM

  18. sorry no signed the documents and pledged to uphold the highest standards anyone in america can. it's point blank you were old enough to say no i don't want to join but you did anyway. this now that you have made an adult decision to run away from your responsibilities do not try to make it easier by saying it is because you are homosexual. i have been in the military for a while and seen what is had to offer,dealt with bigot's, and maintained my personal life. btw i am a gay military man. notice military came first thats because it is in our oath.

    Posted by: gavin | Nov 5, 2011 6:59:55 PM

  19. and another thing this started in 2007. the DADT policy was definitely in effect when you decided to go AWOL.the only time they do a full out investigation is if you deny the accusations of being gay. you had so many options to get out but no you ran away. whoever the man is that is trying to get a petition to save you is wrong.

    Posted by: gavin | Nov 5, 2011 7:08:45 PM

  20. Saying "he was only 18!" is ridiculous. He could have run away from his father instead of joining the military. Plenty of 18 year olds have suffered a lot worse and handled it a lot better.

    Posted by: Paul R | Nov 5, 2011 7:26:49 PM

  21. sorry, no sympathy here either. create agency in your life. take the reins; with them comes responsibility. the observation that he plays victim seems particularly apt given his choice of words.

    Posted by: marion dragulescu | Nov 5, 2011 11:05:04 PM

  22. I feel no sympathy for him, at all. Call it rude or what have you, but I'm currently in the Army and deployed to Afghanistan. I serve proudly and happily, if I might add. I'm "out", all of my fellow Soldiers and friends now that I am a lesbian and I have no problems. Going AWOL for fear of what? It's ridiculous. I joined while DADT was still in effect and I knew what I was getting myself into, sworn to a life of secrecy with the hope that I could one day let my true colors show, lol. For the record, I have never ever had my life threatened physically because of my sexuality. SO, I'm sorry, but I have to say, drive on, drink water. There were other ways to go about handling the situation. Just saying...

    Posted by: Brishette | Nov 5, 2011 11:12:27 PM

  23. I am shocked by how heartless so many of these comments are. Show a little compassion and understanding, for Christsakes! Everyone makes bad choices, especially at a young age and under a father's pressure. I almost think 18 is too young to join the military in the first place, but that is besides the point. Our community should offer him our love and support, especially after being bullied and intimidated in the military for being gay. Show a little heart and forgiveness!

    Posted by: David Comfort | Nov 5, 2011 11:42:33 PM

  24. I actually know him and to be honest, this story is heartbreaking. To all of you who are being harsh - imagine yourself as this kid. Just ridiculous- not all laws are best applied to all situations... as we all know.

    Posted by: Gray | Nov 6, 2011 12:10:32 AM

  25. despicable.

    Posted by: Andy | Nov 6, 2011 1:41:52 AM

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