My Journey to the Intersection of Being a Queer Veteran
By: Loren Christopher Lacy
During my time in the Navy, I did not experience Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) but, I came in right after it was repealed. I joined the Navy to run away from my sexual identity of being a gay man but, I realized how wrong I was. I came out in March of 2013 in the Navy. In my organization, there were not any queer service members so, my support came from my bothers and sisters that were straight. For many people, I was the first queer person they met. Many people did not believe me because, I am what they called “masculine” and “not gay acting” and to be honest, I fell down a weird path in which I was struggling with finding my identity as a gay service member. I eventually found that identity and was comfortable with it. This would not have been possible without the support from my brothers and sisters in arms. I realized that I was not that much different from before I came out, I was just way more confident and way more opinionated.
During my time in service, I had a love and hate relationship in the Navy. On one hand, I met some of the best people in the world and I had the privilege and honor to call them shipmate and friend. They all from every walk of life in the United States. I had friends and leaders that were from places I didn’t even know existed. I truly saw diversity represented and it is something that I miss. I got to see 10 countries in the Navy and I lived right outside Tokyo for three years. I was a truly incredible experience but, the Navy life was tough. I did four deployments in five years and I was constantly out to sea when I wasn’t deployed. It was an extremely hard life but, it was worth it. I decided that I had done everything I had wanted to in the Navy, and realized the next chapter of my story was leaving the Navy.
In early 2017, I decided it was time for my career to end and started the process of leaving the Navy. The whole process of separating from the military is not conducive to veteran success because, the flak you get from deciding to leave. I did deal with the whole, “you’re going to fail in civilian life” and “stay in the Navy, it’s the best thing out there, you will not find a job as a civilian as good as the navy.”, dialog from my leadership which was incredibly annoying. Personally, it didn’t really bother me because of how headstrong I am but, to someone who isn’t as stubborn as I am, I could see how this dialog from leadership can plant the seeds of failure. I honestly thought it would be a smooth transition from military to civilian life. I was confident in myself and I thought nothing could derail me but, I was wrong.
Military culture and civilian culture are completely different. Obviously, military culture is far more structured but surprisingly, more respectful than civilian culture. In civilian culture, you can say something unpopular in whatever environment you’re in, you get a label. I am not saying military culture is all sunshine and rainbows because there are jokes that are not acceptable in the civilian world and, the jokes are probably going to be at someone else’s expense but, there was a line. Everyone respected that line. There was a sense of comradery that is unmatched anywhere you go. Between the raunchy, messed up jokes, and the unwarranted sense of comradery, military culture seemed like a utopia for society today. When I got into civilian life, it was literally the worst. Since the election stared, our society almost has turned into an us vs them situation. For example, Liberal vs Conservative, snowflake vs deplorables, and ect. It seemed like you couldn’t have an original thought without being called a snowflake or a racist. I quickly realized that I am not in Kansas anymore. I felt like I just came out, and I was for the first time in a long time, I felt scared.
I did not think originally think that I was struggling with my identity. I though I was broke. My mind was broke and, I feel into a depression. At school, I was literally killing it. I finished my first semester with a grade point average of 3.75 but, I did not really care. My family and friends congratulated me but, I did not feel accomplished. I felt nothing. What was going on with me? I was way happier when I was in the Navy. Towards the end of my naval career, I was salty, spiteful, and just was ready to get out. When I was in my slump, I felt ripped apart and divided. Basic happiness was extremely hard to find.
When I went to the Student Veterans of America National Convention in 2018, I attended a lot of breakout sessions for professional development. One of the breakout sessions I attended was the LBGT and the Veteran Identity panel discussion. When I was at that discussion, I realized what my problem was. I was essentially living two identities that were conflicting inside me and that were ripping me apart. Being queer and being a veteran. Honestly, where does that fit in? The answer is it doesn’t. Your queer friends won’t understand your struggles as a veteran and your veteran friends won’t understand you for being queer. I know I said earlier that service members are open to diversity but, the veteran community is different. Most veterans were in the time of DADT so, you do not know if they will support you or not. Somewhere along the line, the right picked up the veteran struggle and the left picked up the LGBT struggle. These struggles should be in the middle and separate. Supporters of both should not have to choose sides. I honestly do not want to be labeled a liberal or a conservative because of my sexual orientation. So, here was my dilemma. If I side with my queer brothers and sisters, I would be labeled a liberal snowflake. If I sided with my veteran brothers and sisters, I would be labeled as a racist and homophobic conservative.
I decided that I must somehow force theses separate identities together. I must own being queer and being a veteran but, also knowing that the identity of being a queer veteran means that there are not many people like me. So, I must take charge and lead. I must show people what it means to be a queer veteran. I wrote an empty check up to my life for my country for the freedom and democracy of everyone even though some people think I am disgusting and a second-class citizen. Most people have never had the honor to wear the uniform to protect the freedoms of our country in which, some people never truly felt. I may have taken off my uniform but, my mission continues. My country needs people like me, to tell our story and show what it means to lead people from every walk of life. I must tell my story from my experiences because, I am the only one who can tell them. I must tell everyone how truly diverse the United States Military is and how it is truly the epitome of diversity in America. If you truly love the brave men and women who fight for our nation, you will follow their lead. Respect diversity and someone who is different than you. Everyone in this country deserves the right to the American Dream. This is my mission and this is my mission to be a queer veteran.
Loren Christopher Lacy is originally from Belton, Missouri. He served in the Navy from 2012 to 2017 as an Aviation Electrician’s Mate. Loren served several tours of duty on the USS George Washington, USS Ronald Regan, and USS Kersage. Today, Loren is pursuing his Associates of Arts from the State College of Florida where he is the Vice President of Communications of his school’s chapter of the Student Veterans of America.