Sunday, October 11, 2009

Washington Post presents compelling story of Joseph Rocha, sailor who resigned under "don't ask don't tell"

The Washington Post Outlook section followed up on the president’s speech at HRC with a detailed autobiographical piece by Joseph Rocha, “I didn’t tell, it didn’t matter,” as the lead story in the Outlook Section on Oct. 11, the day of the Equality March. The link is here.

The writer was a sailor, stationed in Bahrain as a military dog handler, describes how he was pummeled constantly for not showing heterosexual interest (that’s “telling” by contraposition, I guess). His narrative includes his processing for officer boot camp and the Naval Academy prep school, but of his decision to resign under the policy, and the clumsy processing of his “telling” letter. Finally, he was honorably discharged with full benefits.

It’s quite a story. It would make a good book, maybe even a movie.

In the past, on these blogs and in my books and websites, I've discussed Joseph Steffan's 1992 book "Honor Bound: A Gay American Fights for the Right to Serve His Country", about Mr. Steffan's discharge from the Naval Academy in 1987 for "telling" just before graduating near the top of his class. That incident, however, occurred under the "old" policy put in place in 1987 (the famous 123 words, "Homosexuality is incompatible with military service..") so well documented by Randy Shilts in his 1993 book "Conduct Unbecoming."

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