In March we sat down with Katie Miller — a leading advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) service members — to talk about her experience coming out as a lesbian to the world and the recent policy changes surrounding female and LGBT service members.
Q: Can you describe the day you decided to resign from the U.S. Military Academy and what it was like to publicly come out to America?
A: Coming out to the world … I actually did an interview on The Rachel Maddow Show before I was formally discharged and there was no way I was going to be able to leave post to give this interview, and West Point certainly didn’t want that to happen. So I ended up setting up Skype so I could do a live interview with Rachel Maddow from my computer. And at that point I hadn’t even been out to my father, my brother, or my sister; the only one in my immediate family that knew about my sexuality was my mom.
I remember that was the point at which there was no turning back; it was not only my family that was going to know, but my sexuality was going to be known by the rest of world, too, and I was going to be perceived first and foremost as a gay woman in the military.
And I remember when I was giving this interview I had this bad habit of looking up and looking at my image on the screen instead of looking directly at the camera, which is just poor aesthetics. So the producer told me, “Hey, let your computer screen go to sleep.” So I did, and I literally came out looking at this black screen, which was kind of symbolic for the fact that I didn’t know what was going to happen, and I didn’t know how it was going to be received. The only thing that I had was the faith that I had in myself and my cause.
Q: How did you feel about the combat ban lift?
A: That was great, and it was totally unexpected. Basically, the military has taken steps to make sure that service members have the opportunity to serve in the military and sacrifice for their country based only on their capability.
We have all these arbitrary factors floating around saying women shouldn’t be in combat because of XYZ, which just didn’t hold up with logic. And it’s the same thing with gays in the military. With gays [the claim] was that they would compromise the unit cohesiveness, and all these bogus arguments about why we would be treating a certain class of people differently from another class. And I think that is why President Obama and Secretary Leon Panetta’s legacy is so important — to make sure that anyone who is qualified to serve will have the opportunity and will only be judged based on their capability. So lifting the combat ban for women is just a further example of that commitment.
Suffragist Alice Paul, in a 1913 photograph. Paul was born in New Jersey, earned an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, then traveled to England and became friends with members of the women’s suffrage movement there. She soon became very active herself, and, on returning to the United States soon after, joined the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). Her first actions as part of NAWSA were to organize a massive parade in Washington, D.C. to promote a new constitutional amendment that would guarantee women’s right to vote in the U.S.
Anti- and Pro-suffrage propoganda from the early 20th century. Interesting to see how the arguments were made. Shocking to realize that women have only been able to vote for less than 100 years.
A map of the march for women’s suffrage in 1913
On March 3, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the landmark 1913 women’s march for suffrage! Is it just us, or is it kind of unbelievable that women’s rights to vote isn’t even 100 years old?