Sharing stories of LGBT people
As part of the celebration of the 20th anniversary of the March on Washington on April 25, 1993, the Task Force is joining with StoryCorps to share real-life stories about LGBT people leading up to that anniversary date.
Today, we start with the story about Kendall Bailey, who became a U.S. Marine in 2001. After five years, Kendall had attained the rank of sergeant and was considering becoming career military. Then one of his fellow officers discovered he was gay. Here Kendall talks to his friend Don Davis about his subsequent dismissal under the policy of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”
KB: I was at a recruiting event, and I had my cell phone. I put it in the little Marine Corps Hummer that we had. And one of the other recruiters, a Staff Sergeant, went through my cell phone and saw some of the text messages that I had to my boyfriend. The atmosphere at the office just changed from that point on, so I wrote a letter to my commanding officer saying you know…I’m gay. And the Sergeant Major basically said you’re not gay, it’s a phase you need to go through counseling. So they sent me home. I couldn’t show up for work for my safety which I wasn’t really concerned with because I could handle my own, but it’s a hard thing to take. When you want to do something that badly and you’ve put five years of blood sweat and tears into it, and then all of a sudden it’s not really an option for you anymore. My discharge paperwork, it says RE4 and that means that I’m never ever allowed to be in the military again. Which sucks. I mean, if I could go back, I would.
DD: How has your family responded?
KB: Well, my family didn’t find out I was gay until after I was discharged I kept playing this role, as if I was still in the Marine Corps. And my dad and my stepmother decided that something was wrong, my answers didn’t all add up. So they decided to take a trip out here. At the time, I had a boyfriend and I was like, well if I’m going to come out, I guess now is as good as time as any to do it. So I just… I said “I got out of the Marine Corps because I was gay.” And my dad said “uhh, yeah?” That’s his answer to everything. I’m like, “dad it’s raining outside.” “Uhh yeah?” (laughter) But they were very accepting. My life changed dramatically when I got out. I’m able to hang out with my boyfriend, hold hands walking down the street, be out. Obviously I’m very disappointed that I can’t serve. But, my feelings toward the military really didn’t change. It’s just, being equal is something that I think everyone deserves and obviously we have a long way to go.
You can listen to the full audio here.
Since 2003, tens of thousands of everyday people have shared their life experiences in a StoryCorps recording session. Each conversation is recorded on a free CD and is preserved at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress. StoryCorps is one of the largest oral history projects of its kind, and millions listen to our weekly broadcasts on NPR’s Morning Edition and at storycorps.org. Since its start-up, StoryCorps has:
- Recorded more than 45,000 interviews with nearly 90,000 people nationwide.
- Visited all 50 states and hundreds of cities with our traveling MobileBooth, StoryKit Program, and Door-to-Door Service.
- Created the National Day of Listening to encourage people to record and preserve interviews with loved ones during the holiday season using our free Do-It-Yourself Recording Guide at nationaldayoflistening.org.
- Received a Peabody Award, the highest honor in broadcast journalism.