“The Gouge” for Lesbian & Gay Midshipmen

There is a lot on this page . .

. . . more than any other page here at USNAOut.org. There is a reason. The purpose of this page is not to scare or frighten you, but to make you more comfortable in your shoes as gay, lesbian or questioning Midshipmen. We also want to ensure that you don’t do anything foolish that can jeopardize your health, well being and status as a Midshipman and future leader as an officer in the U.S. Navy or Marine Corps.

What you read here could be somewhat enlightening. And if you read and understand what's here, you might learn some things to help you become a more informed officer, and hopefully give you more confidence in being yourself. Whether you are straight or gay, at some time in your career as a Naval or Marine Corps Officer, you will most likely encounter a co-worker or a subordinate who is dealing with the personal issues of “coming out” and by having some understanding of what that really means and involves, you will be a better leader.

Here are the topics that we talk about:


To “Come Out” or not, it’s a Decision that Belongs to You

Now that the era of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has come to an end, the decision of “whom (or whom else) will I tell?” may understandably be on your mind. It’s good that you think about it and make intelligent decisions based on logic and not short-fused emotions. A few considerations for you to contemplate include:

  • The choice to come out should be yours and yours alone. The critical corollary to this is the decision for others about whom you know to come out should be their decision alone, and not yours.

  • If and when you do choose to come out, it is your responsibility to let those whom you tell know what they can and cannot do with that information about you. Otherwise you should expect that everyone, including your peers, your seniors, your subordinates and eventually your parents will find out.

  • Once you “come out” to someone or everyone, you cannot “go back in.”

When you meet other LGBT midshipmen, particularly those who are just coming to terms as to who they are, or you are just meeting other mids like you for the first time, you might be excited to introduce them to your friends or “show them the ropes.” Although you might think you know what is best for someone else based on your personal experiences, you need to recognize that “coming out” is a very individualized process. We all come from different backgrounds. We were taught differently and were instilled with various values that may have significant role in one’s acceptance of who they really are.

“Outing” someone, for what ever reason either intentionally or inadvertently, even if only to the other LGBT mids could be terrifying to those who are not yet totally comfortable about who they are. Although you may think you have been there, you are not in their shoes at the moment. You must be careful to listen to their personal needs and desires and not push them to go outside their personal comfort zone.

What has Changed now that “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” has Gone Away?

For your emotional and mental well being, we know this is huge, but for your personal day-to-day life, probably very little. The old rules specifically prohibiting “homosexual conduct” are now gone. But violating many of those rules, either in or out of uniform, will still be inappropriate in public, just as public displays of affection (PDA) have always been inappropriate for your straight peers. Now everyone is fairly playing by the same PDA and fraternization rules.

Some of you may be experiencing some “anxiety” or “anticipation” as we enter this new era post DADT. If you want to “talk through this” in a safe conversation with a professional, the Midshipman Development Center (MDC) is there in the Eighth Wing Mezzanine for that exact purpose. They will keep your visit private, it won't go into your record nor get back to your company officer. This is one of the many reasons the MDC is there.

It Isn’t Easy Being You

If you already identify as or are just beginning to think you might identify as a gay or lesbian Midshipman, you are by no means alone there in Bancroft Hall, although it might certainly seem to be so if you haven't already linked in with some of the dozens of others like you. Most of us have been in your shoes. We know that for many of you, it isn’t a fun experience to figure out that you aren’t who you thought you were, particularly if you have to work though the process alone on your own while “in the fishbowl” at the Academy. And if you are just now coming to terms with yourself, we know that it can affect your state of mind and hence your performance. On the positive side, times have changed and you no longer have to live with the constant fear of being tossed out of the Academy, losing everything you worked so hard to attain, only because of who you are.

You all need to know that USNA Out members take a great deal of personal pride in doing what we can to support the Brigade of Midshipmen, just as most all alumni do. But we really take an intense pride and interest in you as Lesbian and Gay Midshipmen. We want you all to do well, your very best. You are all potentially positioned in this time of history to become the role models that most of us never had.

You Aren’t Crazy, nor Are You Trapped

We know how very difficult it can be for some of you to re-identify as gay or lesbian while at the Academy. It is those of you who are still all alone and know no others with whom you can comfortably and safely confide and share your thoughts that concern us most.

Again, you certainly are not alone! And before you take any drastic action (like resign) or act out on any thoughts of self destructive behavior, PLEASE visit the Midshipman Development Center (MDC) in the 8th Wing to talk with a mental health professional. These professionals are there for you, they will work with you confidentially, and NOT tell your company officer or others what you share with them. Many of your LGBT peers at the Academy have told us that they DO visit the MDC which has been very helpful for them to help work through some of the more difficult aspects of LGBT life on the Severn.

If for any reason you do not feel quite “right” with a provider at the MDC, you may always request to be seen by another provider. You will not hurt anyone's feelings at the MDC.

If you are still uncomfortable sharing personal details about yourself even with mental health professionals, you can always visit the MDC to talk with them about “a friend” at the academy about whom you have serious concern.

Safe Spaces at USNA

“Safe spaces” are places where you can be fully self-expressive without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, or unsafe on account of being a LGBT or questioning midshipman.

We know that many of the Faculty and Staff at USNA are genuinely concerned about the LGBTQQ midshipmen, and we expect that at some time in the near future a formal “safe spaces” program will be available to you. You may also know your peers, professors, plebe sponsor parents, coaches, company officers and other staff well enough to get a feeling if they could be helpful or not.

We will share more information about a “safe spaces” program at USNA on this page as soon as the information is available to us.

How can I find an LGBT or LGBT-friendly Plebe Sponsor?

Please contact us via this website (select category “LGBT Friendly Plebe Sponsors”) and we will do our best to make an introduction to one of the LGBT or LGBT-friendly sponsors in Annapolis.

Fraternization

Chapter 3 of Midshipmen Regulations spells out the rules regarding interpersonal conduct for midshipmen. As stated in the regs, these are gender-neutral rules, meaning they apply to your same sex relationships just as they do to your heterosexual peers.   MIDREGS §3.5 through §3.10 clearly spell out the personal relationships that are unduly familiar because they do not respect differences in grade, rank, position of authority, or the staff/student or officer/enlisted relationship are prejudicial to good order and discipline. These include your relationships with:

  • all enlisted personnel, including NAPSTERS
  • active duty or civilian faculty or staff members and
  • commissioned officers (except 1/C and 2/C midshipmen who have personal relationships with recently commissioned officers).
  • In the past, these inappropriate relationships were often “justified” or overlooked as by hiding one's sexual orientation somehow justified overlooking other regulations, too. Enforcement was complicated as those who often had knowledge could not report violations without “outing themselves” and everybody else in the process. This barrier to good order and discipline is now gone with the elimination of the DADT policy. It is easiest for you emotionally to never start a relationship that cannot progress. We strongly recommend that you find another fish in the big tank.

    “Telling” Your Parents

    With very few exceptions, we think it is a good idea to “come out” to your parents once you are sure of your sexual identity. You possibly think that you are this exception because you might come from a very conservative or perhaps very religious family, or perhaps it is not the right time, or you know your parents will reject you and stop loving you, but you probably are not the exception. When you hide a major portion of your life from your parents, you begin building a wall between you and them which will distance you from them. As time goes on, this wall will get higher, only becoming more difficult to knock down, even further dividing you from your parents.

    Telling your parents is possibly not going to be easy for you. Just ask any of the other midshipmen or recent graduates how this went for them. Your parents might not like to hear what you say when you come out to them because it isn’t what they expected, nor what they want for you. For most parents, it will take some time for them to begin to understand. For some parents, it might be very hard for them to hear the reality, but your parents will probably want to protect you just as any parent would. Your parents need to know that you will be ok, and that you will still have a great career ahead of you.

    We are becoming more and more aware that additional resources are needed to give you confidence to tell your parents. We will add these resources to our website once available.

    OK Mom & Dad, so you found this page, too

    This webpage is intended to be “The Gouge” for LGBT Midshipmen, but we also know that lurkers and search engines are going to be reading what is here. So Mom & Dad, we know why you probably are here. As parents of a midshipman, we know that you have an instinctual interest in your child's safety, security and success.

    If you are the parent of a straight Midshipman, don't worry, neither the Naval Academy nor the Navy is going to turn your child gay, unless of course, your child is already gay, and then you can't blame the Navy or Naval Academy for that. Your child is going to be what he/she is, and no outside influence will be changing that. If you just found out that your son/daughter is gay/lesbian, and if you are like many parents, you might not understand what it means, you might be confused and you might not be very happy to have heard the news. First of all, you need to know that your son/daughter is really going to be OK. And though it might not have been what you wanted to hear from your child, we hope in the long term you will understand that keeping you in their life is a better alternative than than them building the wall and shutting you out of their lives. Letting you know is a sign that they trust you and/or that they need your support and love as a parent. Yes, there may be some lingering discrimination in the Naval Service due to sexual identity, but as we go further into the era of equality for all service members, things will continually change for the better.

    If you are looking for more information to help you understand, PFLAG might be a good resource as a starting place.

    What if You are in a Committed Heterosexual Relationship?

    We know some of your are dating a person of the opposite sex while you finally come to terms with your sexual identity. We think the “right thing to do” is to let the other person know as soon as you are totally confident that you are gay/lesbian and realize that continuing the heterosexual relationship is not right for either of you. If your relationship has been very serious for a long time, the other person may have already begun to make choices in life and career that will forever lock-in their future professional and personal life.

    Unless the feelings between you and the person whom you are dating are mutual, breaking up can be very hard to do. You may have already experienced rejection in a previous relationship and know how it can be bad news.

    You will need to make the decision as to whether or not you should share that you are gay/lesbian. We think that for the majority of you, there are advantages by being totally truthful and few downsides. In an indirect way, your girlfriend/boyfriend was probably very much a part of your coming out to yourself, and they deserve the respect for having “helped” you through your personal coming out journey.

    • For the other person, it can help them come to terms with their loss by knowing that there is not something wrong with them. Be prepared to answer the question “so how long have you known this?” If at all, they will get upset for you not having told them sooner, feeling that they have wasted their invested time, their love and life to nurture your relationship.
    • By sharing, you can also let the other person know that you really do love them and care about them, but you are unable to provide them with the full love they deserve.
    • If you don’t tell them when breakup, if/when they later find out, you may not have any say as to who finds out about you.
    • Just as coming out to others and coming out to your parents as discussed above, you can also ask them to respect your needs on who else it OK to share the fact that you are now gay/lesbian.

    And unlike the dynamic of most heterosexual breakups, it is possible that you and your ex will become best friends forever.

    Dating as a Lesbian or Gay Midshipman

    Trust us, it is a really bad idea to date within Bancroft Hall. It will draw from your attention, energy and concentration which should be focused on doing your best as a Midshipman, academically and professionally. This probably sounds as though monks and nuns are writing this, but those of us before you have learned from our combined experiences that intra-Brigade dating is just a really, really bad idea, just as it is a bad idea to date within the command once you hit the fleet. Unfortunately, too many of you will probably learn this yourself the hard way.

    You only get one opportunity to be a Midshipman in your life. There are no do-overs, no try-agains at USNA. We hope that you will take full advantage of your youth during the special and exciting time at the Academy.

    ’Nuff said about this.

    Advice to LGBT candidates for Admission to the Naval Academy

    If you are in high school and are considering to be a candidate for entry into the Naval Academy and are lesbian or gay or think you might be lesbian or gay, do not not let those feelings alone affect your decision on whether or not to apply for entry. Just as most of us, the reason that you are probably considering attending the Naval Academy is not because it is “the Gay Academy” as Yale is “the Gay Ivy.” You probably want to come to Annapolis for the unique opportunity to attend one of the nation’s finest schools, just as your peers.

    Although the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy is long gone, there probably is no advantage to be labeled as a lesbian or gay candidate for entry into the Naval Academy. There are no special quotas or extra points at an admissions board for LGBT candidates. Some of the many steps of the entry process are recommendations and interviews. The interview with your “Blue & Gold Officer” (BGO) although low key, is the official look at you from the eyes of the Academy. Let’s face it, many of these BGO’s are older and come from a very different era. Many don’t quite understand what it means or is like to be lesbian or gay in the 21st century. If one of the first things that they know about you is that you are a lesbian or gay candidate, it may influence their ability to evaluate you fairly when compared to other candidates. So we will recommend you carefully evaluate the advantages/disadvantages of disclosing this part of your life during the admissions process.

    If you are a candidate and your receive a nomination and appointment for the next class, please let us know. Although per our bylaws, you cannot join USNA Out as an Associate Member until you have taken the Oath of Office as a Midshipman, we will be on the lookout for your join request once you have access to the internet as a Plebe, sometime after the beginning Plebe Parent’s weekend.

    Midshipmen and USNA Out

    Within our “members only” pages of our site, we have additional advice for Midshipmen which doesn’t appear on this page, not because we don't want the Academy or your parents to find it (we actually share our guidance to Midshipmen with anyone at USNA), but are precluding search engines from inappropriately referencing our site.

    You certainly don't need to be “out” to join USNA Out. As misleading as the name of our organization is, we have many members (alumni, officers and midshipmen) who, for personal reasons, remain invisible on our roster, yet they have access to all members only content on our website. When you “join” USNA Out, you have the ability to remain invisible without exposing your identity to other members; you are only known to our three membership administrators, usually only the one administrator who does the verification of eligibility.

    USNA Out welcomes every new member. All midshipmen are most welcome to join our ranks or contact any of our members here. Membership is open to ALL alumni of the US Naval Academy, regardless of sexual orientation. A fair portion of our membership is straight alumni supporters. Hence, membership in USNA Out is NOT a statement of sexual identity. Our number one concern is YOUR safety and welfare, followed closely by your development as a future leader in our naval services..

    Additional Resources on this Site

    We have additional advice for the guy mids, just because you are guys and some of the unique aspects you will face.

    Midshipmen and those who lead or work with midshipmen may access the Serious Talk for Guys Only page via the Naval Academy Data Network (IP 131.122.X.X) at http://mids.usnaout.org. For access from outside the NADN, an eligible non-member will need to either join USNA Out or request access via the CONTACT tab at the top of every page.

    If you are a current or recent grad male midshipmen and USNA Out authorized user, when you log into this web site you be provided with a link to access our “Serious Talk for Guys Only” page.

    As a courtesy to the other Academies, the Serious Talk for Guys Only page is also accessible at USMA, USAFA & USCGA.