Chad — A Gay Military Love Story
And some little known LGBTQ history!
Don’t ask, don’t tell (DADT) was official US policy on military service by lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) people, implemented by the Clinton Administration on February 28, 1994, lasting until September 20, 2011, when all restrictions on LGB service were lifted.
DADT was supposed to make military service easier for LGB people by allowing closeted military members to serve, so long as they didn’t tell people about their sexual orientations. Instead, in many LGB people’s experiences, military life became more restrictive. Commanders gained discretion to separate members without hard evidence.
Some people say a witch hunt mentality developed. That may be hyperbole, but separation rates for LGB military members increased substantially from 1994 until a peak in 2001, when they leveled off at a higher rate than before DADT.
DADT represents a classic example of the dangers of unanticipated consequences.
What many people don’t know is that before DADT, many lesbians, gay men, and bisexual people served fairly openly. We knew that we couldn’t be prosecuted or separated without hard evidence of sexual behavior — a pretty high bar.
I knew. I served in the Air Force until the beginning of 1990. Most of my friends knew I was gay, and so did most of the people in my chain of command.
Bored yet? Here’s the love story I promised!
Before Don’t Ask Don’t Tell
“Come on, ya big wuss. I need you to spot me!” hollered Mike.
“OK, OK, jeez,” I grumbled from our kitchen, wiping my hands on a grungy towel.
I dragged heels into the living room where we had our weight station set up. “Not going out with Kathy today?” I asked as I positioned myself behind the bench and poised my hands under the heavy barbells.
“Nah,” he grunted. “Charlie flight’s on second shift today.”
Mike groaned through 6 reps of heavy bench presses. “Now you,” he ordered.
We slipped off half the weights fast and traded places. Ten reps for me. This was all routine. We traded back and forth as we talked.
“You’re not gonna be home this afternoon, are you?” I asked him.
“I might have a friend coming over.”
Mike wiped a thin sheen of sweat off his face. “So?”
“What? For real? Dude!” He reached over for a high five. “Do I know him? Deutsch or Ami? Wait, not that drunk friend of Klaus’s from last Saturday?
“Naw, he’s a jerk. You know this guy Chad on Baker Flight?”
“Airman Sanders, the new tech reporter? Really? Isn’t he a little young for you? Come on, man! And, besides…”
I cut him off. “Don’t give me any shit. Like Kathy isn’t 7 years older than you? And Chad isn’t in my chain anymore. I’m on staff now, remember?
“OK, OK, but what do you see in him? Isn’t he a little too, too …”
“Gay? Gee, I sure hope so. Lunch could be a little tense if I’m wrong.”
Mike laughed and jumped off the bench. “I meant a little too pretty, but whatever.” He flexed his pecs and made a face. “I thought you liked real men?”
“Shut up.” I wiped the bench down, turning my back on him. “Just go somewhere today, huh? It’s Saturday. And Chad’s kinda scared of you.”
I felt his hand on my shoulder. “Just teasing, little bro. Robert already asked us to go rowing on the Wannsee with him and Claudia. Guess that’s a no for you, huh?”
I grinned over my shoulder at him. “Thanks!”
So, I cooked. Real meat-and-potatoes American food. The way to a man’s stomach and all. The doorbell rang as I was finishing up.
I panicked for half a second. Checked my hair. Pushed up my sleeves to show off recently pumped up muscles. Suffered a last second storm of doubt. Chad was going to think I was ridiculous!
“Hey, dude,” I smiled as I opened the door. I melted a little bit inside, like I always did when I saw him. I tasted acid in my mouth too. His shiny black hair blinded me. What was I thinking! Mike was right, Chad was WAY too gorgeous for the likes of me.
“Hey. Um, nice place,” he mumbled, peering around me.
“Sorry, yeah, uh, come on in.”
“Wow, check it out!” he breathed as he pushed past my uncooperatively planted feet. “Really cool. Whose guitar?”
“Oh, not mine. Mike’s. Lt. Harris’s. He mostly plays bass, though. That’s in his bedroom.”
Chad made his way to the center of the room and stared, tense. “Is he here?”
“Naw. Won’t be back til after midnight.”
His shoulders relaxed and his voice sounded way more casual as he said, “So, cool, uh, like it was really nice of you to ask me over. Thanks. I get tired of the dorms.”
I started walking him around the apartment, showing it off. “I kinda miss you guys, you know. Since I got my staff job. Work isn’t as much fun anymore. I hear you’re a reporter now?”
“Just a tech reporter, but yeah…”
“You like Lt. Robinson OK?”
I sat down on our couch/futon and motioned for Chad to join me.
“Sure,” he said, arranging himself carefully to be close but not too close. “She’s OK. Not like you, though, sir. She’s not strict and all, but she isn’t much fun either.”
“Hey!” I protested, nervously punching his shoulder. “Watch it with the sir. We aren’t at work.”
His eyes widened as he blushed. “Really? I mean, what should I …”
“Bill calls me Jim when we go out drinking. I don’t see why you can’t too.”
“For real? That might be hard to get used to.”
I laughed as I jumped up and ran into the kitchen. “Come on! Hungry? Help me grab the food.”
We shoveled down pot roast and slurped wine, relaxing from the sheer normalcy of eating ordinary food. After, I suggested Nintendo.
Stupid idea, the console was Mike’s. I almost never played. Chad noticed.
“You’re terrible at this, LT, Uh, Jim. Worse than my little sister!”
“God, I know. Mike kicks my ass on it too. Oh… shit, what the hell? Fuck!” Out of lives again.
“Here, let me show you,” he laughed, bouncing over, close to me, fingers brushing mine as he slipped my controller into his hands. I was pretty sure we both felt the shock. I drew in a sharp breath.
A few minutes later he dropped the controller and glanced at me fast before dropping his eyes. “Can I ask you a serious question?”
I nodded, scared.
“Is it true about you and Lt. Harris?”
That was out of left field. I had no idea what he meant. “Is what true?”
“I mean, I don’t care or nuthin, I swear, but aren’t him and you, well… you know.”
He still wasn’t looking at me.
My stomach flipped over. “What? Seriously? No! People really say that?”
He finally looked up. “Maybe just a couple people, not really. But maybe I thought about it.”
I didn’t know how to keep going. I just wanted Chad to go home. This was too much. What had I been thinking? How did I get myself into this? Now I was the one looking down.
He touched my shoulder. “It’d be OK if you were. Really OK.”
I glanced up as he continued.
His hand slipped down off my shoulder to my upper arm. He squeezed it. His forearm was so close to my eyes that I could see each tiny hair. I stared, mesmerized.
“But I’m glad you’re not,” he breathed. “Not with him.”
He was so close I could smell nervousness blend with Polo cologne. My left hand reached out with an autonomy of its own, and I touched Chad’s cheek with one fingertip.
He leaned in.
I sighed and brushed his lips with the same finger.
He was in my arms, soft red lips pillowed into mine. It felt like we stayed that way forever.