Michael Bedwell, from whom I've been blatantly stealing content over the past five days, reminds us today of a different sort of veteran than one we normally associate with the struggle for LGBT equality in the armed services.
Dusty Pruitt's story in many ways is remarkable. Coming to terms with her homosexuality later than we consider commonplace today, she did not realize she was a lesbian until she had already gained a commission in the US Army as a 2nd Lieutenant. Like many of us, she came from a religious background, but unlike so many in our community, her sexual orientation did not detract from her spiritual pursuits. While still in the Army, Pruitt became familiar with the Metropolitan Community Church, an LGBT-oriented Christian church dedicated to furthering the case of equality. Also during her military service, she joined an MCC in Forth Worth, TX as a charter member, a brave decision for a commissioned officer at that time. She eventually became a minister to that church.
This was a secret... at first. Michael writes:
After a "Los Angeles Times" reporter violated her request that she not reveal she was an MCC minister AND in the Army Reserve, Dusty Pruitt was kicked out in 1983 but eventually won a 12-yr. court battle for full reinstatement. Now pastoring a United Church of Christ congregation, she once expressed concern about how many years it would take after the ban was lifted for homophobia in the ranks to end.While the battle for the right to serve appears to have been won (for cisgender servicemembers, at least), I, too, wonder how long it will be for homophobia in the ranks to evaporate. I myself was exposed to very limited amounts of homophobia other than my official discharge. I was a translator surrounded by translators with a high level of education, and the idea of discriminating against me due to my sexual orientation was almost laughable.
However, it exists. One only has to peruse the comments of a recent Military Times article to see the virulently homophobic sentiment that still exists in the rank and file (yes, you'll see my comments in there, somewhere, and I'm pretty PO'd). Does this illustrate that the fight for full equality, not just legislatively but in the hearts and minds of the people, is a lost cause?
No. Just as I feel that with renewed efforts our trans battle buddies will be able to serve openly without repercussions, I feel even stronger about the notion that when our children grow up and serve in the military (should they choose to do so) it will be without any iota of bias towards their sexual orientation.
After all, not only did Dusty Pruitt challenge modern ideas of faith and how sexuality can be cherished within one's church, she challenged the military's ban and was reinstated in full in the military. It's remarkable, and it appears to be against all odds. If Pruitt, now Reverend Pruitt, can find bridge so many divides just within one woman, how can the greatest military on Earth not do the same?