Don’t Ask, Do Tell: The Shocking Story of a Gay Sailor

From Youth Radio:

By: Joseph Christopher Rocha


After a rough childhood, I dedicated my life to public service, starting in the military. I had no idea at that time that every one of my major military accomplishments, including acceptance to the U.S. Naval Academy, would be overshadowed by my sexuality.

I earned a spot among the elite, high-testosterone community of Military Explosive Detection Handlers. While stationed in the Middle East, the men in my unit spent lots of time with prostitutes. Soon, my refusal to partake was reason enough for my peers to accuse me, day in and out, of being gay.

My Navy peers often harassed me, insisting the extra training I did with Marines was a search for sex partners. Once, I was hog tied to a chair, rolled across the base, and left in a dog kennel with feces. I was forced to simulate sex acts, on camera, to armed service members with trained attack dogs in the room. Men with hoses sprayed me down in full uniform.

Thousands of miles away from the United States, being subjected to extreme humiliation by my own military leadership, I did not feel hatred. I felt fear. Fear they would hurt me and no one back home would ever know. I had no gay friends to talk with and no gay personal life. I was only 18 years old, and I was afraid if I told anyone, I would be kicked out for being gay.

Eventually, someone a rank above me reported it, and there was an investigation that found dehumanizing pranks against me were habitual. I was preparing to testify, when I got a call from a Navy attorney telling me the case was dropped.

So all I have to show for my abuse is a two inch packet of investigation findings and post traumatic stress disorder.

Since 1993, the policy that reads “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Harass, Don’t Pursue” (DADT) has legitimized discrimination and abuse against our Country’s finest. It’s a policy that made it easier for my abusers to torment me. I support House bill H.R.1283 which would replace DADT with a non-discrimination policy, and when it comes to a vote, our President and legislators in Congress should have little fear of opposing it. Because according to a 2008 Washington Post/ABC News poll, 75 percent of Americans favor allowing openly gay people to serve in the military.

I wish I could still be serving in our military, but after three and a half years in the Navy, including two and a half years stationed in the Middle East, I resigned because I refused to be punished any longer for who I am. My official statement to the Navy reads in part:

“I am homosexual. I am proud of my service and had hoped that I’d be able to serve the Navy and country for my entire career. However, the principles of honor, courage and commitment mean that I must be honest with myself, courageous in my beliefs and committed to my course of action. I understand this statement will be used to end my naval career.”

I told, and I was discharged.


12 thoughts on “Don’t Ask, Do Tell: The Shocking Story of a Gay Sailor

  1. DADT will come to an end, but the harassment of gays in the military, in or out of the closet, will continue as long as the homophobes within the military feel secure enough to do so. My recommendation is that any military personnel reported to have participated in a physically or verbally abusive act against a gay servicemember should be targeted for particularly violent and horrific retribution. Hopefully after the end of DADT there will be more than enough openly gay servicemembers ready, available, and more than willing to carry out the sentence. Maybe only then will the a-holes learn to back off.

  2. Hola, merely a brief note to swing by and say thx for your remarks in this post. I somehow wound up here after reading up on a lot of celebrity health stuff over on Bing… guess I lost track of exactly what I had been doing! Well, I’m off and thanks again for expressing your thoughts. I’ll be back sometime to see your latest posts. Cheers!

  3. I served in the US Army and saw discrimination everyday because I was a lesbian. I was treated differently than other soldiers, given jobs not even a monkeys should do. I do hope your PTSD does go away, I kno its hard and I kno its not fair and it makes me sick to my stomach to hear higher ranking individuals instead of doing their job and PROTECTING and HELPING their soldiers, they abuse you. Its wrong, unjust and honestly retarded. Everyone has a right to protect their fuckin country Gay, Lesbian, Bi or Straight. Our sexual orientation should not base how people treat us, but you can’t change their viewpoints or how they act, just keep pushin forward and know that there is always someone who understands.

    PFC Delaney

  4. Joseph,

    I admire your strength and dedication to wanting to serve your country and I feel sadness for Tousignant who could treat his own fellow sailor this way. I was in the Navy for 17 years as a Master-at-Arms first class and when I went through the MAA school in 1990 It was forced into us at that time that MAA’s need to watch each other’s back because no one else was going to do it for us. As the years marched by I noticed alot of that went to the wayside and it seemed alot were out for blood and would step over or on you to get ahead of you. I am also gay and even though I was discharged on medical reasons and not for my openess it was truly amazing of all the gays that are in the military that choose to fight for our country. I truly believe they need to get rid of the Don’t ask Don’t tell policy and allow gays to openly serve. We are determined and work just as hard and we should not be discriminated against because of our sexual preference.

    Stay Strong,

  5. I’m so glad I found this site…Keep up the good work I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say GREAT blog. Thanks, 🙂

    A definite great read…

  6. Chris, always make sure you keep your head up high and never give up. You did a very courageous thing by telling you experience and story to everyone and you should continue telling everyone out there so that it does not happen to anyone else. Be strong and like they say what goes around comes around. Hope you the best and continue being strong.

  7. Pingback: Navy Promotes Chief Who Brutalized Gay Sailor For Two Years | Just One Hot Minute …

  8. I have been reading about your experiences today and I just wanted to tell you how horrible I feel for you. Can you sue? I want to see pictures of your abusers, their names published…they bring disgrace to this country. Like we need anymore!

    You are to be commended for your perserverance and courage. Please keep fighting the good fight!

  9. Your story is an inspiration. A shocking inspiration but never the less there is a lesson of strength and honesty that only hardcore persecution can teach. Thank you for sharing.

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