Since the time of Stephen Decatur, the need for homosexual naval officers to interrelate for mutual support has always existed. Although many “underground” networks long existed in port cities such as San Diego and Newport, they remained a difficult alternative to communicating in the same frank and public manner available to their heterosexual shipmates. It was the power of the internet that finally enabled the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender alumni to find each other in safe and secure forums.
As societal values and outlook upon LGBT people started to change, so did the courage of the LGBT alumni to come out. In 1991, a group of former midshipmen and cadets founded the Service Academy Gay & Lesbian Alumni network (SAGALA), a nationwide organization of alumni from all five federal service academies. From 1991 until 2011, SAGALA was the primary social network of the LGBT service academy alumni and LGBT midshipmen/cadets at the service academies and commissioned officers continuing to serve on active duty.
The first LGBT alumnus to take a very significant leadership role in the Naval Academy Alumni Association was Linda “Postie” Postenrieder ’82. In 1998, Linda was elected as the Secretary of the San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of the Alumni Association. The following year, Linda was elected at the Chapter President, a position which would later earn Linda a seat on the Naval Academy Alumni Association Board of Trustees from 2003 to 2005.
In 2003, various groups of LGBT alumni began to discuss ways in which the LGBT alumni could become more involved as alumni of the Naval Academy. In August that year, a group of 31 Naval Academy alumni from SAGALA, joined together by Jeff Petrie, formed a new group in an effort to re-establish their relationship with the Naval Academy and the school’s alumni association as openly gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender alumni. The group took the name “USNA Out.” As word filtered through the LGBT community about the organization, interest and membership grew.
On November 11, 2003, using the RV chapter of the Alumni Association as a model for a nationwide chapter of alumni that share a common interest, the USNA Out alumni applied for recognition as an official chapter of the U.S. Naval Academy Alumni Association. Unfortunately, the proposed bylaws for the proposed chapter contained mission objectives which were counter to the mission of the Alumni Association. Three weeks later, the USNA Alumni Association Board of Trustees unanimously rejected the proposed chapter’s application on the grounds that it was “a special interest chapter” and “not geographically based.” This was a somewhat confusing rejection for the applicants, as at the time, the RV chapter proudly proclaimed on their chapter website that they were “the only nation-wide chapter for those alumni that had a special interest in Recreational Vehicles.”
Given the guidance provided in this first rejection, the alumni of USNA Out regrouped and formed a chapter geographically based in the Castro of San Francisco. The neighborhood is home to about a dozen of the USNA Out members and a “second home” to many of the others. In December, 2004, this second application for a chapter was rejected, again for being a “special interest” chapter and because many of the members did not have a primary residence in the Castro.
In June 2007, the GLBT Historical Society in San Francisco opened an exhibit “Gays in the Military.” Several USNA Out members were prominently featured in the exhibit’s displays. From the interest developed from this exhibit, USNA Out founding member Steve Clark Hall began the USNA Out member profiles project, the “Faces of USNA Out.” This project for the first time put a very public real face on who the LGBT Alumni of the U. S. Naval Academy really were.
A year later, the “Faces of USNA Out” profiles project took a leap as it transformed into the “OUT of ANNAPOLIS” project, a detailed study and documentary film about the lives of the LGBT alumni of the Naval Academy.
In March, 2009, all members were invited to join a national meeting of alumni to discuss the future of USNA Out. As a result of that meeting, USNA Out incorporated in the State of Maryland in September, 2009, and for the first time, a board of directors was installed to select leadership to guide the organization into the future.
What does the future hold?