Gay Latinos Must Serve Openly

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Retired Gay Navy Sailor Christopher Landavazo on why LGBT Latinos need to help repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

amaroAn atypical nerd in high school—having stuffed his book bag with both music sheets for glee club and sweaty t-shirts used during football practice—Christopher Landavazo’s upbringing resembles that of a quiet boy-next-door you’d only hear from while practicing his clarinet Sunday evenings. A product of the parochial Catholic school system and a family legacy of military service, the seemingly timid student council leader grew up to become a politically vocal man.

Christopher, a former Navy sailor, became the nation’s leading gay Latino dissenting voice against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” after launching a petition campaign to repeal the discriminatory military policy. Because said policy finances a witch hunt against lesbian, gay, and bisexual people serving in the US armed forces, Christopher explains it is important for LGBT Latinos to weigh in on the fight.

Why did you join the Navy?
I came from a service-based background, but the Navy was not my first choice coming out of high school. I was attending a Junior College, and it was about that time that I wanted to do something greater. I wanted to be challenged, I wanted to get out and explore the world, and I wanted to continue my education. The Navy appealed to me because you could see the world and continue your education.

Were you pressured by your family into joining the military?
No. My grandfather did not want me to go to the military, and was adamantly against me joining.

Were you out while serving in the Navy?
Yes and no. I was completely single. Interesting enough, my first kiss was in the military. The ring that I am wearing now was a gift from that boy.

How did you meet him?
We were both stationed in Japan. We both knew the game was “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” We were at a party, and noticed each other from across the room. Throughout the evening, we began conversing. It was an intense conversation, and toward the end of the night, it was only him and I. We were drinking peach schnapps, and neither one of us wanted to leave the conversation. We ended up kissing. It freaked us both a little. But it was the first time a kiss felt like a kiss.

When did you come out to your parents?
I was twenty-five, and I was dating a guy in Florida. It was my birthday and my parents were staying with me. I came home and I hadn’t heard from my boyfriend all day long. I didn’t see the light blinking in my answering machine. While my parents were busy getting ready for dinner, I pushed play and heard a message left by my boyfriend wishing me a happy birthday, saying he loved me. And I kind of freaked out, because I realized one of my parents had actually heard the message. It was an interesting evening.

I hear you are a registered republican. Is this true?
I am. I registered as Republican before the party’s platform was high-jacked by the conservatives.

Did you vote for Obama or McCain?
Obama.

Why do you want to re-enlist in the military?
I have been doing a lot of research in regards to al-Qaeda and our current mission in Afghanistan. As unpopular as our mission in Afghanistan is, as it seems, there is a clear definitive reason why we need to be there. It’s way too much to go into depth now, but I will post it up on my blog.

Why do you think it is important for LGBT Latinos to help repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?”
I believe that people should be able to live their truth. It’s also important for retention of LGBT people in the ranks. It’s estimated that 65 thousand gays, lesbians, and bisexuals are serving in silence, whose families don’t receive the same benefits, such as being able to move in with your spouse or receive life insurance benefits. If you look at all the civil rights movements, acceptance in the military ranks has always been a springboard to equality.

How can ADELANTE readers get involved?
If they are interested, they can sign the petition: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/EndDADT

What does the petition call for?
It’s calling for gays and lesbians who are willing to serve their country, provided “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is repealed. There are specific parameters that are listed in the petition itself, that are basic standards for entrance into being accepted into the military. The idea with the petition is to provide to the US Congress a list of people who want to join the military but don’t want to have to lie about who they are.

Last summer the California State Senate passed a resolution, introduced by State Senator Christine Kehoe (D-San Diego) and sponsored by Equality California, urging the US Congress to immediate repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The resolution, which will be heard in the State Assembly after the legislature reconvenes in January, asks Congress to adopt a new policy, “The Military Readiness Enhancement Act,” and prohibit discrimination in the military on the basis of sexual orientation. The bill was introduced in the 111th Congress by Representative Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) but no similar bill has been presented in the US Senate. You can learn more about Christopher and his petition campaign by visiting his web log at: http://enddadt.blogspot.com.

By Jorge Amaro

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