For local veterans, a repeal from fear

By Travis Andersen
Globe Staff / December 19, 2010

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Gay service members, current and former, living in Massachusetts yesterday said they are eagerly anticipating a new era in the military, now that the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell’’ is on the verge of becoming law.

Lissa V. Young, 48, of Cambridge, a former Army helicopter pilot, was discharged in 2002 under the policy after 16 years of service that took her to Iraq during Operation Desert Storm, as well as to Somalia and Haiti.

The West Point alumna and former professor at the US Military Academy said last night that repeal is long overdue.

“There’s a part of me that thinks this is totally unremarkable, and at the same time I so appreciate those lawmakers who took leadership on the issue,’’ said Young, a Harvard doctoral candidate who hopes to resume teaching at West Point when she finishes her degree. “I think it’s wonderful for kids who are serving who can . . . stop placing pretty important energy into hiding. That energy needs to be placed into fighting.’’

Young said she would welcome the opportunity to reenlist, though she is unsure she could meet all of the current requirements.

“I haven’t flown since 2002,’’ she said. “I wouldn’t know where to start, but if they do open it, I would definitely be willing’’ to make inquiries.

An active-duty Marine officer in his mid-20s living in Greater Boston, who declined to be named because “don’t ask’’ is still the official policy, said he looks forward to not having to hide his orientation. At the same time, he said, he would respect the concerns of Marines who have little or no experience interacting with openly gay men.

“If it comes up, people will find out either passively or actively [if] I’m dating,’’ he said.

The officer, who identified himself as a member of OutServe, an underground network of gay and lesbian active-duty service members, added that his experiences coming out to fellow Marines confidentially have been generally positive.

One man apologized for using “gay’’ as a pejorative, he said.

An active-duty Army officer living on the South Shore, who also declined to be named, said repeal would allow honesty.

“I’m a realist, and I know that there may be some people who might be surprised or taken aback,’’ she said. “And I can deal with that one person at a time.’’

Travis Andersen can be reached at