10 years after 'Don't ask, don't tell,' cadets see progress

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Military academy students are marking the 10th anniversary of the end of "don't ask, don't tell" this week
NEW LONDON, Conn. -- Kelli Normoyle was nervous as she arrived at the Coast Guard Academy campus in Connecticut in 2008. She had come out as a lesbian to a few friends near the end of high school, but she faced a military environment where "don't ask, don't tell" was still the policy prohibiting gay people from serving openly.

She kept quiet about her sexuality for her freshman year, fearing expulsion and the ruin of her not-yet-begun career. She started testing the waters her second year.

"OK, maybe this is somebody that I can trust, maybe this is somebody that identifies the way I do," said Normoyle, now a lieutenant on the cutter Sanibel, based in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. "But then you always have that moment that was that kind of leap of faith."

Marking the 10th anniversary this week of the end of "don't ask, don't tell," a new generation of military academy students say that their campuses are now tolerant, welcoming and inclusive for the most part — but that more work needs to be done.

Homophobic or ignorant comments still arise occasionally. Many transgender students still do not feel comfortable coming out. And advocates say the military needs to do more to include people with HIV, as well as nonbinary and intersex people.

Normoyle, 32, of Mount Laurel, New Jersey, and fellow cadet Chip Hall led the formation of the Coast Guard Academy's Spectrum Diversity Council, the first advocacy group for LGBTQ students at a U.S. military academy, a few months after "don't ask, don't tell" ended on Sept. 20, 2011. Similar groups later formed at the other four service academies.

Gays and lesbians were banned in the military until the 1993 approval of "don't ask, don't tell," which allowed them to serve only if they did not openly acknowledge their sexual…
DAVE COLLINS Associated Press
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