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OutServe Magazine | October 12, 2012

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Coming Out: The Day I Stood Up

Coming Out: The Day I Stood Up

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

By Justin Redmond

Back before I joined the military there were very few people who knew I was gay. I considered myself a bisexual male at the time (high school). I wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted at the time. I was very concerned about who I was and I was bullied constantly in high school for other reasons, which made me even more uneasy about my situation.

After my enlistment and first day as a G.I., I was even more concerned and cautious about what I said; but I also started to just be me. In the process, I’ve made some awesome brothers that today are still by my side.

In basic training, not much happened. It wasn’t until I got to my unit here at Fort Stewart that I started trickling the info to the guys I truly trusted. It eventually got out, before the repeal, but it was kind of put on the back burner cause they all knew the consequence of my “secret”.

Now, for the actual story. My company returned from deployment back in March, and as normal a safety stand down and tons of briefs were part of that. Along with these briefs was a discussion of racism, sexism, and just prejudice in general. At this point most of my platoon knew that I was gay and had no issues. People began to rant about how they didn’t like certain name calling, and didn’t like the comments being made in a negative way towards them. My platoon all looked at me and gave me that nod with a smile that said to me, “Go for it man, it’s the right time.” So I hesitated for a minute and then I raised my hand high. My platoon sergeant looked at me, smiled, began to quiet the room then said, “Yeah Redmond, what you got?”

I stood up. My exact speech was simple and straight to the point. “I do not agree with y’all saying the word ‘faggot’.” I said those words as proud as possible. As the whole room began to drop their jaws in awe, I continued, “I personally disagree with the word because, yes everyone, I am a gay male. It’s not the easiest way of life being in the military and sometimes when you use this word in a derogatory way, it does offend me because of the context in which you use it.” With everyone in a dead silence, and not a single comment, all heads turned towards my platoon sergeant who was still in the front of the room.

I will never forget what he said that made me feel so great and relieved about what I’d just said. “This is true gentlemen, and the platoon has known, and he by far is and will always be one of the best damn soldiers I have had the privilege to lead.” At that the company turned their heads back at me and began to clap. I just sat down with a relief and shock that it was just so easy AND hard to say at the same time. It was almost like just telling myself.

After the briefings, I got handshakes and comments that it was the bravest thing they have ever seen.

Today, I am still one of the most liked and “go-to” soldiers in the company. I am definitely grateful for what I’ve got in front of me. This was the beginning of my coming out to everyone I knew and I still get nothing but positive comments from people. It was worth the effort and now I am an openly gay adult to people (not that I boast around about it).

I encourage people to take a stand in their comfort zone. If anyone wishes to do the same or simply needs some advice, I am here to lend a open hand to help everyone to their comments or concerns.

Redmond currently serves in the U.S. Army.