With Veteran’s Day having already passed, many like to immediately move on to the next holiday: Thanksgiving. But here at Salem State, with a high population of Veteran students, we like to give them resources throughout the year that will enable them to get help and transition out of the military. Along with that, Salem State has an extremely diverse population, including the LGBTQ community.
The Diversity and Multicultural Affairs and Veterans Affairs hosted a panel Monday about LGBTQ in the military. At this panel, there were three panelists that have experience as LGBTQ vets or working with them. One woman, one of the founders of North Shore Pride, served in the army and hid her sexuality in a time that it was not acceptable to be an out lesbian, especially in the military. She was involved when there would be something called “The Hunt”, where officers would come in in the middle of the night and look for any evidence of LGBTQ soldiers to then discharge them. This woman even went as far as to marry a gay man, while her girlfriend was a witness at the wedding, to protect herself. She now works for OutVets, can organization that helps veterans who have been affected by being in the LGBTQ community.
Another veteran who was there served for over 10 years in the military. He said himself he does not like to say he was in the military and that he was queer, so you could tell he struggled a bit throughout the panel. He was extremely courageous throughout the panel, explaining the ways he dealt with being in the military and being LGBTQ.
The third panelist is a psychologist who works at the VA for veterans, and he shared some of his insights that he has seen in his time helping these veterans.
This panel was extremely eye-opening. There are so many more LGBTQ in the military than one would imagine, and this panel was a great way to honor the troops that may be forgotten. One of the things that a veteran said was to connect with them, not just thank them for their service. Many do not want to be thanked–just to be treated with respect. Ask them where they are from, where they served. Be engaged. Because these veterans, including those in the LGBT community, have sacrificed a lot for what we have today.
If you want to connect with the organizations that put this event in place, Veterans Affairs is in Ellison Campus Center and Diversity and Multicultural Affairs is in Ellison Campus Center 204.