The magazine of the photo-essay
March 2017 back issue
Gays in the Military
by Vincent Cianni
“A free, really high quality photo-essay magazine.  Fabulous!” Stephen Fry. British actor, writer and film & documentary maker
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Gays in the Military is a visual and audio investigation into how the military’s ban on homosexuality has affected the lives and careers of LGBT service members and veterans since World War II. The project combines photographs, text and audio to document the overwhelming consequences of the gay ban over the decades with intimate portraits of service members and veterans and their stories of discrimination, harassment, and civil and human rights abuses based on sexual orientation or the perception of sexual preference. This long history of abuse that LGBT service members and veterans experienced resulted in lost careers and damaged lives. Beginning November 2009, I traveled across the United States recording oral histories and making portraits of veterans and service members. The interviews were conducted on analog audio and the photographs were made with a medium format camera using black-and-white film.  I interviewed and photographed over 100 subjects in the privacy of their homes, from different geographic, socio- economic, ethnic, religious and racial backgrounds, and from all ranks in the military, ranging from a 92-year-old World War II veteran to recent enlistees and active duty personnel. The visual and oral histories reveal marked differences in
the effects of the ban on individual service members based on cultural, social and political milieu, religious background and geographic location. The narratives recount incidents of unjust protocols, unrestricted interpretation of the law, prolonged interrogations leading to cognitive and psychological damage, hazing, sexual harassment, violent rape and abuse, mandatory outings of fellow service members, profiling, blackmail, betrayal and verbal abuse. Service members are now allowed to serve openly, and yet even after the Defense of Marriage Act was overturned and ruled unconstitutional in 2013, LGBT personnel, their spouses and families still are not receiving the same benefits as their heterosexual counterparts.
Anthony Loverde, Little Rock, AR 2012 Staff Sergeant, U.S. Air Force, 2001 - present Loadmaster. Active duty. Honorable discharge, homosexual conduct; deployed Iraq and Afghanistan; reinstated 2012 at previous rank; continued career as if uninterrupted.
Debra Fowler, Lowell, MA, 2013 Specialist, U.S. Army, 1986-1988 Korean Linguist, Defense Language Institute Soldier’s Award Dishonorable Discharge; Fraudulent Entry. Outed by former girlfriend when being investigated for top-secret security clearance.
Don Bramer, Washington, D.C., 2011 Lieutenant (O3), U.S. Navy, 2002 – Present Intelligence Officer; Top Secret Security Clearance; multiple deployments to the Middle East; numerous medals and commendations from combat operations; provided anonymous testimony during the hearings to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
Zachary Werth, Boise, ID 2011 Specialist, Idaho Army National Guard, 2007-2010 Medic; General Discharge under honorable conditions, Erroneous Enlistment (used as a smokescreen for homosexuality) and Dustin Hiersekorn, Boise, ID, 201 Private, U.S. Marine Corps Reserves, 2010 Discharged for medical reasons after two weeks of enlisting
Eric Alva, San Antonio, TX, 2011 Staff Sergeant E5, U.S. Marine Corps, 1991-2004 Retired; Honorable discharge. First U.S. military casualty in Operation Iraqi Freedom; Purple Heart recipient; Presidential Unit Citation; advocate for equal rights.
Joanna Gasca Surprise, AZ, 2012 Senior Master Sergeant E-5; U.S. Air Force 1983-1987 and 2000-present; U.S. Air Force Reserves 1987-2000. Senior Recruiter; Active Duty
Joseph Rocha , Washington, D.C., 2010 Master-at-Arms 3rd Class, U.S. Navy, 2004-2007 K-9 Unit Dog Handler. Received honorable discharge under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell after coming out to his commanding officer; suffers PTSD from years of abuse, hazing and humiliation.
Kevin Brannaman, Seattle, WA, 2011 Specialist E-4, U.S. Army, 1978-1981 Cook, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii Sexually assaulted by Drill Sergeant during basic training at Fort Jackson, SC
Matt McCary, Orange Park, FL, 2011 Airman First Class E3, U.S. Air Force, 1998-2000 Intelligence Specialist. Honorable Discharge; read formal rights and put under arrest after being singled out by co- worker; discharged within five days with no investigation and David Cochenic, Orange Park, FL 2011 Chief Petty Officer E7, U.S. Navy, 1992 - Present Field Medical Service Technician; Aerospace Medical Technician. Received Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal and Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal.
Nancy Russell, San Antonio, TX, 2010 U.S. Army 1962-1982 Battalion Commander and Staff Officer Retired after 20-year service; testified to the Oversight Sub-committee of the House Armed Services Committee on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in 1993
Nathanael Bodon, Marlboro, NY 2009 Specialist E-4, U.S. Army Reserves 2007-2009 Motor Transport Operator; Honorable Discharge under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
Paul Goercke, San Francisco, CA 2012 Messman/Staff Officer, U.S. Merchant Marines, 1944-1945 Retired; World War II veteran; served in Okinawa, Ie-Shima Island, Hawaii and Saipan
Travis Dobbs, Chicago, IL, 2010 U.S. Navy, December 1963-1969 Communication specialist; top security clearance; communication supervisor at Guantanamo Bay and on the U.S.S. America during the Middle East War
Travis Jackson, Montgomery, AL 2011 Sergeant, U.S. Army, 2004-2009 Chaplain Assistant; Deployed to Iraq: 2007-2008 Discharged: Other Than Honorable Reason: Patterns of Misconduct.
Victor Fehrenbach, Boise, ID 2011 Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Air Force, 1991-2011 Retired. F-15E Fighter Pilot. Tours of duty in Iraq (including Operation Iraqi Freedom), Kuwait and Afghanistan, 88 combat missions, 400 combat hours; successfully fought DADT after coming out on Rachel Maddow show in 2009
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