OutServe is a 4,000 strong association of veterans and actively-duty LGBT military personnel little more than a year old, but already with international muscle. The organization has grown to more than 40 chapters worldwide that have advocated for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) and equality of benefits for LGBT in the military.
In 2001, WestPoint graduate Jonathan Hopkins ranked fourth out of 901 commissioned officers in his class. He served three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan including leading 173rd Airborne Brigade’s combat parachute jump into Northern Iraq in 2003 into battle in Kirkuk. During his service he earned two Bronze Stars, one with valor. Veteran Journal talks with OutServe Director of DC Operations Jonathan Hopkins.
You very publicly came out before the repeal of DADT. Why was that?
I was driving south towards Georgetown in D.C. and realized that I needed joy in my life.
That aligned with the values and methods and approaches within the command. There are a range of tactics to do this that fit with the values of the Military. We need to educate people, convene a respectful dialogue that is conducted with professionalism. We couldn’t lobby Congress but we have a role to persuade. We all have a role and our membership serves our country.
What changed in the Military and in the country that finally led to the repeal of DADT?
It goes back to education. In 1993 the RAND [did a study on sexual orientation in the military] that led to DADT. 2008-2010 was a period of education of the DoD by the DoD. They conducted a study and took ownership of it. Military personnel created a plan. There was a public dialog that showed some of the people who had been kicked out like Eric Alva [the first soldier wounded in Iraq].
How did being kicked out of the military affect you?
Sometimes you learn more by losing something than when you always have it. I was the Valedictorian, at the top of my class. I won awards. I always tried to be the perfect Army officer. You are going on, then suddenly something very, very bad happens. Growth is commensurate with pain. I was given advice by a very wise old man who told me that we see good as well as bad and that the joys and sorrows of life add texture and understanding and empathy for others. I divorced the Army, but after living a lie for 15 years, I realize that there is a better way to live. It is tremendously better now.
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