Saturday, May 26, 2018

Gay midshipmen say they find acceptance

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — When his roommate at the Naval Academy said jokingly last year that Andrew Atwill was a homosexual, the midshipman told him to cut it out.

His friend didn't know it, Atwill says, but he really was gay — and under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, it could have jeopardized his military career.

This year, the first since the Clinton-era policy was repealed, Atwill says change has come to the academy. And talking about his sexual orientation, rather than being a career-ending offense, has rallied midshipmen to his defense.

"Pretty much everybody in my company knows now," Atwill said, and "they actually stand up for me." If his friends hear someone make a negative remark about homosexuality, he said, they "don't hesitate" to tell that person "it's not cool to do that anymore."

Eight months after the repeal, midshipmen both gay and straight describe a quiet but significant transformation at the Naval Academy. Gay midshipmen are seeking recognition for a student club. Last month, for the first time, faculty members and staff attended an off-campus dinner that had been organized secretly every year by and for gay midshipmen.

And Atwill and his boyfriend, classmate Nick Bonsall, planned to go together to the Ring Dance, a formal ball held each spring for third-year midshipmen.

"It's been really great, actually," Bonsall, 20, of Middletown, Del., said of life at the academy since repeal. "Everyone has been really accepting of us."

The experience at Annapolis this year mirrors those at the other service academies, but some future officers worry about what happens after they graduate. While their generation might be accepting, the broader military is made up of people of all ages and backgrounds. Some senior officers say privately that they won't come out for fear of jeopardizing their careers.

Across the military, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said recently, the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell'' — once highly controversial — is "going very well."

"It's not impacting on morale," he told reporters after receiving a report on the subject this month. "It's not impacting on unit cohesion. It's not impacting on readiness."

Gay cadets at the U.S. Military Academy and the Coast Guard Academy are forming clubs. Gay alumni at the Air Force Academy hosted their first football tailgate last fall, and gay alumni at the Air Force Academy and West Point held their annual dinners on campus for the first time.

But at the Naval Academy, while several gay midshipman describe a new level of comfort on campus, some wonder how they will be accepted after they leave Annapolis and join the fleet.

"For me, personally, it's still a concern," said Atwill, 23, of Bolton, Ky. "When I become an officer, I'm kind of worried about whether or not my sailors will take it the wrong way if I give them a pat on the back or, you know, happen to be in the bathroom at the same time as them.

"I'm afraid that if they know that I'm gay, that if I was even to look at them wrong, they may end up somehow turning that against me."

Not everyone foresees problems.

"In the fleet, it will be good," predicted Caitlyn Bryant, a second-year midshipman from Quantico, Va. Commanding sailors after the repeal, she said, "you don't have to worry about what they might think your orientation is. You can just focus on being a leader."

Bryant, 21, said she has seen no "negative backlash" against gay midshipmen: "People have accepted it."

Comments
Her husband wouldn’t apologize to her father — so she shot him, police say

Her husband wouldn’t apologize to her father — so she shot him, police say

RIVERVIEW — A Riverview woman shot and killed her husband Saturday because he punched her father and wouldn’t say sorry, the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office said.Sabrina Michelle Hendley, 40, faces a first-degree murder charge in the death of Mark A. H...
Updated: 12 minutes ago

PLANT CITY — A Seffner woman died Saturday from injuries sustained when her sports utility vehicle flipped off the road and crashed into a fence near the intersection of Tanner Road and State Road 574.Amanda K. Cepeda-Duque, 21, was traveling west on...
Updated: 15 minutes ago
RAYSREPORT

RAYSREPORT

Today: vs. Orioles1:10, Tropicana FieldTV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)Tickets: $15-$275; available at Tropicana Field, raysbaseball.com, surcharge of up to $5 within five hours of gamePromotion: Raymond children’s book for kids 14 ...
Updated: 27 minutes ago
Live Coverage: Tropical storm warning issued for parts of Tampa Bay as Alberto treks north

Live Coverage: Tropical storm warning issued for parts of Tampa Bay as Alberto treks north

Here’s the latest. As of 5 p.m. Saturday, a Tropical Storm Warning has been issued for the west coast of the Florida peninsula from Bonita Beach to the Anclote River.County emergency officials continue to monitor flood-prone areas, but so far n...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Updated: 1 hour ago
An American Airlines passenger was refused beer - so he screamed, fought and spit blood, FBI says

An American Airlines passenger was refused beer - so he screamed, fought and spit blood, FBI says

It began, as so many plane debacles seem to, with strange sounds in the bathroom.They were the noises of Jason Felix, one of the passengers on Wednesday’s American Airlines flight out of Saint Croix, according to a FBI affidavit recounting events lea...
Updated: 1 hour ago
With U.S. talks in limbo, Korean leaders hold surprise summit

With U.S. talks in limbo, Korean leaders hold surprise summit

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in met for the second time in a month on Saturday, holding a surprise summit at a border truce village to discuss Kim’s potential meeting with President Donald T...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Semenya wins Prefontaine 800 in world's best time this year

South Africa's Caster Semenya won 800 meters at the Prefontaine Classic while controversy swirls about a rule that could limit her from competing at the distance
Updated: 1 hour ago

Purdue beats Illinois 11-5, earns shot at Big 10 title

Nick Dalesandro had a pair of hits and scored three runs and Purdue rallied from three runs down to roll past Illinois 11-5 and advance to the Big Ten Tournament championship game
Updated: 1 hour ago

Glass panel falls, kills worker at skyscraper site

Police say a large glass panel fell on two workers during construction of one of New York City's tallest skyscrapers, killing one and sending the other to a hospital
Updated: 1 hour ago