The Baltimore Sun published a feature yesterday about the United States Naval Academy's attempts to cope with the repeal of DADT. Short summary: Very little coping has been required. Even second-year midshipman Katy Moore, who described feeling, in her early days at Annapolis, "the most closeted I'd been in my life," had this to say:
"Sept. 19 was one day and Sept. 20 was the next day," she said. "I mean, it's like going from Monday to Tuesday — it was not different."
"Now, this far along in the process, I've begun to feel that more people are open with it. I can have a conversation with my girlfriend or with my gay or lesbian friends in public and not have to worry about someone sending me up the chain of command for discharge."
Everyone else interviewed by the Sun said much the same thing. The change at Annapolis was subtle, but good. The Sun tells the story of Andrew Atwill, whose friend and roommate, ignorant of Atwill's orientation, teased him with homophobic slurs before the repeal last year:
His friend didn't know it, Atwill says, but he really was gay — and under the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, it could have jeopardized his military career.
This year, the first since the Clinton-era policy was repealed, Atwill says change has come to the academy. And talking about his sexual orientation, rather than being a career-ending offense, has rallied midshipmen to his defense.
"Pretty much everybody in my company knows now" that he's gay, Atwill said, and "they actually stand up for me." If his friends hear someone make a negative remark about homosexuality, he said, they "don't hesitate" to tell that person "it's not cool to do that anymore."
… Atwill and his boyfriend, classmate Nick Bonsall, planned to go together Saturday to the Ring Dance, a formal ball held each spring for third-year midshipmen.
"It's been really great, actually," Bonsall, 20, of Middletown, Del., said of life at the academy since repeal. "Everyone has been really accepting of us."
The best thing about the Sun's story, to this reader, is the explanation given by the midshipmen of why they're pleased DADT was repealed. It's not that they're excited to be able to express themselves, or to share tales of their sexual exploits with peers, or to join in discussions of significant others back home. Rather, they're happiest to have one less distraction from their work. Second-year midshipman Caitlyn Bryant, from Quantico, summed up the sentiments of many:
For Bryant, repeal lifted "an unnecessary source of stress."
"Now that it's gone," she said, "I can just focus on what's really important, like my academics and trying to become an officer and just dealing with daily academy life."
Meanwhile, gay midshipmen are in the process of forming a club. And this year, for the first time, an annual dinner for gay midshipmen, which had long been clandestine, was attended by Annapolis staff and faculty.