For all the symbolic importance of a once-closeted soldier coming out to his co-workers, some gay servicemembers are finding the actual telling anti-climatic.
At an eastern Afghanistan base, Army Pfc. Ted Bonham’s revelation elicited little more than shrugs from his fellow civil affairs soldiers.
Freeing himself of the secret was thrilling, and he was relieved to find that they stood by him.
But the impact of his decision to be open about his sexuality now that “don’t ask, don’t tell” has been repealed goes beyond the reaction of his fellow soldiers.
“I want others to know they are not alone,” Bonham said, adding he thinks that gay soldiers are going to have to put themselves in the open for the service to “move forward as a whole.”
When the repeal was being debated, he said, “I heard a lot of things from people I wish I hadn’t, and I took it with a grain of salt realizing it was simply the way they were dealing with the change.”
Bonham, a reservist Tennessee, didn’t go shouting “from the mountains of Afghanistan that I’m gay” but he made a choice not to hide anymore.
Before he deployed last summer, he only had one friend in the unit who knew the truth. He confided in her so he wouldn’t feel so isolated during the deployment.
“It’s a whole year,” he said. “I knew I was going to need someone to talk to, someone I could be honest with. I was still having to deal with the stress of having to play two parts.”
Even before the Sept. 20 repeal, Bonham started coming out to coworkers, but he was too nervous to tell his boss himself. He couldn’t carve out any time with her privately, so he had a friend reveal the news for him.
But mostly, sharing that he’s gay has been a fairly lighthearted venture.
Like when he was walking to the chow hall and ran into some male friends who hadn’t heard his secret. One of them noticed Bonham wasn’t wearing his glasses and joked that he had pretty eyes. Bonham seized the opportunity and shot back that perhaps he didn’t want to flirt like that with a gay man.
Said Bonham: “I feel so much more a part of my military family now that people know.”