An oral history of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’

Liz Goodwin

The military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy officially ends on Sept. 20. In response, GQ's Chris Heath interviewed dozens of gay servicemen past and present about what it was like to hide their sexual orientation for so many years.

One WWII vet described the screening process 70 years ago: "I was called in, and there was a man sitting behind this desk, and he pulled down his glasses and looked at me, and the only thing he said to me was 'Do you like girls?' I said, 'Oh yes. And I love to dance.' And he looked over at the door and said, 'Next!'"

An Air Force commander told Heath that he cried when Congress repealed the law, but is still unsure if he will tell his unit he's gay. "I still don't know what I'm going to do, to be honest. I have lived my life in a manner where I have a clear separation of work and personal life. Am I going to put a picture of my boyfriend on my desk? Probably not. But I could, and that's going to be a nice feeling. Will I put a rainbow flag on my house? No, but I could. That's a nice feeling."

Read their stories here.