[Note: I commend Commander Coye (ret) for speaking out on the outrageous treatment of some of our honorable and courageous military. The wasteful, hurtful "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy should have been discarded long ago. We don't have so much brainpower and talent that we can afford to waste any of it due to ignorance and bias. My thanks to the Commander for allowing this posting. ]
The Honorable Susan Davis
4305 University Avenue Suite 515
San Diego, CA 92105
Dear Representative Davis:
I write as a retired naval officer who happens to be a lesbian. I was told by Jeri Dilno, one of your constituents, that you’re interested in hearing from female naval officers about the “ Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT)” gay ban to help you make a decision regarding co-sponsoring HR1059.
I write not only as a naval officer, but as a native-born San Diegan who grew up in the Navy. (My dad, Rear Admiral Jack Coye, was a famous WWII submariner). My parents retired to Coronado in 1968. I served my last seven years in San Diego and after retirement taught Political Science at Mesa College, San Diego State and University of San Diego. San Diego is my hometown.
During my active duty service, 1960-80, I helped enhance the career opportunities for Navy women as described in My Navy Too (enclosed), a creative memoir. This memoir details my trials and tribulations as a female naval officer when we had so few women, juxtaposed with the superb opportunities serving in our United States Navy. My primary struggles centered around being someone who discovered she was a lesbian while on active duty and the need to cope with living two separate lives, while simultaneously handling significant billets, including three intelligence tours and ultimately, as a commanding officer.
For you to truly understand the dilemmas of being a lesbian in the military I will invoke the personal: As Commanding Officer, PSA, NTC, my duties forced me to discharge 8-10 young men and women for the sole reason of homosexuality. Their excellent performance ratings and abilities were not considered. These actions were a final straw — my integrity told me I could no longer continue to live a lie, serving an organization that was (and still is) so blatantly discriminatory towards me and other homosexuals.
I understand that you want to be seen as neutral on the gay ban. I’m sad you feel your taking a positive stand for military gays and lesbians would lessen your ability to work with active duty and retired Navy constituents. This stance in some way reminds me of my dad. I had finished writing My Navy Too and asked him for emotional support and an “okay” to publish the manuscript. He was adamantly against its publication. He said, “What would our friends think of your lifestyle and of the Coye family?” Most of my parents’ friends were retired admirals and captains. I replied, “Dad, you might be surprised how they react. From my
discussions with straight Navy friends about the manuscript, they still respect me for who I am and what I accomplished in the Navy, and they support the idea of publication.”
After awhile Dad changed his mind. He said, “I have come to understand that you had no choice as to your sexuality.” His realization came from reading his daughter’s book, from self-education. To his surprise, after the book’s publication most of his friends were very supportive of me and “the Coye family.” It didn’t matter that I was a lesbian. They said, “You must be very proud of Beth and her accomplishments.”
For you to change your neutral position regarding cosponsoring HR 1059 would take a paradigm shift. It would be similar to what I wrote about through the character of Commander Tucker Fairfield — whose professional life almost matched mine — on page 247 of My Navy Too. You would have to be willing to take a leap and metaphorically come out of the shadowy illusions of Plato’s Cave and experience a path less traveled, a different reality about military gays and lesbians. I know you would gain support from straight retirees and active duty personnel. You would be surprised, as was my dad, at their responses.
I imagine you feel that co-sponsoring HR 1059 might jeopardize your working relationships and that “national security” issues must take precedence over softer, people issues, especially gay and lesbian people. I also know, however, that human resources issues in the long haul are more important than hardware and technology issues. For instance, how many fine young gays and lesbians are refusing to serve because of our inane DADT policy? What about the 65,000 military gays and lesbians on active duty striving to lead two lives and to live a lie, as I did for 20 years? To go against your conscience because of others’ unenlightened views, to me, is to be on an untenable and unhealthy path.....yet only you can choose your path.
May I suggest that you and others on the Committee consider ways to truly educate military and legislative leaders regarding the effects of the DADT policy upon not only the institution, but those most affected by this policy, a policy doomed from its beginnings. To this end, I would be pleased to forward copies of My Navy Too — in which both sides are argued — to anyone on your staff or to Committee members who might benefit from its reading. .
Thank you for being open to hearing from retired military gays and lesbians. If you would care to speak to a group of us, I’d be happy to arrange a meeting. I’m planning to join Service Members Legal Defense Network’s Lobby Days , May 15-16.
Beth F. Coye, Commander, U.S. Navy (ret.) 541.482.6833, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Still a San Diegan at heart)