Like many victories, you take the bad with the good. For the GLBT military folks who attended the first-ever gay military personnel convention, OutServe, in Las Vegas yesterday the good has been the non-stop support and "shrugs" they received after they came out and the opportunities that are now opening up for them.
Employers use the summit to recruit GLBT military personnel. The OutServe Leadership Summit is designed to highlight the diversity of gays in the military and the challenges they face, and marks the largest gathering of gay troops in one location since the ban was lifted last month. OutServe is a formerly clandestine network of gay and lesbian service members that lobbied the Pentagon to support repealing "don't ask, don't tell."
They say they are relieved they no longer have to hide, but they are determined to make sure they are viewed as sailors, soldiers, airmen and Marines first, gay second.
Michelle Benecke is a former Army battery commander who left the military before "don't ask, don't tell" was enacted. He says gay Americans serving their country with pride are "the right-wing's biggest fear" because they counter stereotypes that gay men and lesbians are selfish.
So while it's great that there is so much support for our GLBT military personnel, like many minority groups, it's still a struggle to be seen as someone in the service who also happens to be gay and not as someone who is gay and happens to be in the service.
But at least it's finally okay to be both of those things openly right now, in any order.