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February 4th, 2010
12:07 PM ET

Retired Navy Captain: My life under 'don't ask, don't tell'

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/OPINION/02/03/darrah.personal.history.gay.military.experience/tzleft.joan.darrah.courtesy.jpg caption="Retired Navy Capt. Joan E. Darrah served 29½ years as a naval intelligence officer and was chief of staff and deputy commander at the Office of Naval Intelligence. Darrah lives with her partner of 19 years, Lynne Kennedy, in Alexandria, Virginia. " width=300 height=169]

Joan E. Darrah
Special to CNN

When I first joined the Navy, I had no idea that I was gay. I was well into my career when I realized this fact, but I was doing well as evidenced by the awards and promotions I was receiving.

In addition, I really enjoyed what I was doing and felt I was making a difference. So I opted to continue to serve, even though I knew that I would have to hide my true identity.

For most of my career in the Navy, I lived two lives and went to work each day wondering if that would be my last. Whenever the admiral would call me to his office, 99.9 percent of me was certain that it was to discuss an operational issue. But there was always that fear in the back of my mind that somehow I had been "outed," and he was calling me to his office to tell me that I was fired. So many simple things that straight people take for granted could have ended my career, even a comment such as "My partner and I went to the movies last night."

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Filed under: Gay & Lesbian Issues • Military
soundoff (4 Responses)
  1. Tammy Christine

    Are we not but One being, male and female anyway? We are" Gay" to even be in such a blissful state, here in the country, this forum, this World. I would expect everything in sight aches for Love, as I do.

    February 4, 2010 at 4:06 pm |
  2. Treschanson

    My heart goes for Joan completely. Gays are also human and should be treated equally. I was married to a gay guy for 27 years and just let him go to be with a guy. Regret, no! I have 3 beautiful children. I also learned a lot from Adam Lambert's case. We have to extend our love to those who are different from us and treat them the same as we should be treated. There are to many issues that remain unresolved in this world.

    February 4, 2010 at 1:58 pm |
  3. Diana Turner

    We will all be better off as a society if we truly start accepting and celebrating diversity. Get educated and stop being afraid of what you don't understand!

    February 4, 2010 at 1:20 pm |
  4. Tim Gibson

    There are so many ways the mentality of DADT affect the lives of the GLBT citizens of this nation. None perhaps as those in the military who are willing to serve their country and even give their lives for the "freedoms" we enjoy and commit to live by.

    When it is everyone but "those people" in any situation it creates the platform of a secret life. I was very much out, if we have to use that word at all, my partner was not . Well at least not until I came into his life 23 years ago. Now even as a legally married couple here in CA., with no more secrets. DADT remains a barrier in a battle over what morality is and is not, when it is as individual as a finger print.

    February 4, 2010 at 12:22 pm |