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OutServe Magazine | October 14, 2012

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Coming Out: Conquering Fear

Coming Out: Conquering Fear


Part of a series of guest blogs for “National Coming Out Day 2012″ (October 11th) focusing on personal experiences related to revelations about sexual orientation.

By Jason L. Harvey

For 15+ years of my Air Force career, I stressed getting discharged because of my sexuality. Other than my immediate family and closest friends, nobody knew. I spent most of my free time alone and not only did I fear losing my career, I also felt that the people that were my friends would hate me if they knew who I really was. Because of that, I spent most of my time drinking in isolation. On duty days, I would put on the uniform and try to act like a different (straight) person. I was proud to serve, but I felt like I was living a lie.

Earlier this year, I went on a heavy drinking binge during a long weekend. I hit my rock bottom and admitted myself to ADAPT (Alcohol and Drug Addiction Prevention and Treatment). I was sent to rehabilitation. In rehab, I came out and nobody cared. Not a single person was phased by my sexuality.

Following treatment when I returned to duty, I decided that I wasn’t going to throw my sexuality in everyones’ face, but I wasn’t going to hide it either. I came to the conclusion that staying in the closet was too detrimental to me and my own life. Everyone found out and none of my worst fears came true. The general response was “Yeah, so?”. None of the horrible things I imagined happened. I think I blew everything out of proportion in my mind.

A lot of things have changed since I came out. When I put on the uniform, I feel a certain kind of pride I never felt before. I no longer feel like I’m living a lie. I can now put on the uniform and still be who I really am. No more double life, no more lies, no more putting on an act, and no more looking at booze as if it were my best friend. I really think I was the only one that made a big deal of it. I have a lot of close friends that are extreme conservatives and they are the ones that surprised me the most. Even all of my previous supervisors and flight chiefs that are now retired were accepting of me. I thought since they were from older generations that they would surely de-friend me. I was wrong.

Were my negative perceptions of how things would be if I were “out” based upon the prejudice environment that I grew up in? Did everything go so well for me because the military is a melting pot of different people from all over that are taught diversity and professionalism from day one? Are times truly just changing for the better?

Going to rehab for alcoholism and coming out were two of the best things I have done for myself. In every way possible my life is better. For my entire adult life, I have been treated for depression, and that has since subsided. I no longer have the desire to isolate myself and drink myself into a drunken stupor. My relationships with friends, family, and co-workers are better than ever. My job performance is improved and I feel that I’m more respected now than I was before I came out. As proof of that, this past week I was moved up to a duty position with more responsibility. It’s clear to me that my superiors aren’t suppressing my career because of my sexuality. I’m confident that as long as I keep it professional as far as my sexuality goes, everyone else will as well. I have never been more proud to serve and to be a member of my Section/Flight/Squadron than I am now. I’m hard pressed to think of anything negative about my decision to come out. Of course, individual results may vary. There’s always risk to coming out and each person has to access the risk and decide for themselves if the risk is worth it.

Harvey currently serves as a Master Sergeant in the U.S. Air Force.