Paul C. Culver USNA '74
I was nominated by Congressman Frank Thompson from New Jersey and attended in the early 70's graduating in 1974. I had a fairly typical time at the academy. I did fine in many areas, but had a harder time with some, calculus and swimming for example. After exploring a number of other options, my choice for service selection was the Supply Corps which matched up well with my Analytical Management major.
I was not out, even to myself at the academy. I knew I had feelings and thoughts that were shameful to me at the time, and I was always trying to suppress them. I was raised to always do the right thing and follow the rules just as most Mids are, and being gay certainly didn’t fit into what I thought was expected of me. The academy was all male at the time so none of us had many opportunities for dating. That made it fairly easy to deny that part of me or to at least keep it repressed and very much in the recesses of my mind. In addition there weren’t any gay role models, no gay movies or television, and of course no internet. The stereotype of someone gay was an effeminate man with a lisp and a scarf tied around his neck. I knew I wasn’t like that and even thinking about people “like that” scared me.
After commissioning, I gradually came to accept who I was. I had tried girlfriends without a lot of long term success or desire, and eventually met a gay person who happened to be the number two at my command (a civilian former Naval Officer). I was told he was gay, but even after watching carefully I couldn’t detect what I thought were the telltale signs of someone gay. We became friends, I learned there were gay bars in San Diego (yes I was clueless) and came out to him and myself.
I really enjoyed my job, but with only six years in, I had to decide whether I could stay for 14 more. I was being successful and felt that I could continue on that path, but I didn’t know if I could withstand the stress of hiding for so long. It also meant taking the chance of being discovered at any point in time and losing everything I had worked for with a discharge. I knew trying to cover and explaining why I was still single would become more difficult as the years passed. I was not out to anyone at work, except the secret with my civilian boss, but I had already grown tired of parking blocks away from any gay bar and being petrified that I would be spotted entering or leaving. This was before DADT and gays were investigated regularly by things as simple as noting military car decals in inappropriate locations. The paranoia was difficult to handle.
Paul C. Culver
As a LT in San Diego
Despite a personal plea from the Admiral to reconsider, I resigned my commission and started a civilian job. Two months later I was asked by the Navy to come back and work for them as a civilian. That led me to a job with civil service protections but where I was still able to work in a mixed military/civilian command. I was always assigned to a field location so I was always number one or two and being the boss means you don’t get asked much about your private life. Over time people figured it out or at least suspected but it never became an issue. Still I didn’t discuss it with anyone so it was always left unspoken. For twenty years I kept a business like distance from my civilian and military employees which kept questions to a minimum but also meant I attended a funeral of an ex-boyfriend from a long term relationship without telling anyone at work.
I’m really glad to be a part of USNA Out. I like the idea that Mids and junior officers can see that there are people who have gone before and who have faced the same problems and been successful. A lot of Mids as well as young people in general are coming out earlier, but I know especially at Annapolis, that there are a lot of people who were like me, who are scared about the idea that they might be gay. There is someone in Bancroft Hall right now wondering how could this have happened to him or her and what should they do about it. I want to stand with all the others here on USNA Out and show that you can accept who you are, you can be successful, and who you are doesn’t change what your options in life are. We aren’t guaranteeing that there won’t be challenges and bumps in the road, but we do know a career is possible especially with the removal of DADT. If you have reached this page by doing a Google search or following a link, if you are curious, feel free to talk to any one of us anonymously. We have every type, airedales, submariners, surface warriors, marines, gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders. Whatever your question is, I believe there is someone here who can talk to you about their experience.
Please feel free to contact Paul here at USNA Out.