Posted By Eric Ethington (Author) on June 25, 2010
David Donahue was young, just 19 when he joined the military. As a closeted man in the 80′s, he did his best to ensure that no one found out about his sexual orientation…. until fellow crew mate Rodney Henshaw came along.
In the summer of 1986, DADT was still several years away and the rule of the US Armed Forces was “No Gays Allowed,” closeted or otherwise. David was 23 and had faithfully served his country for 4 years, reaching the rank of Petty Officer 3rd Class and stationed on the USS Capdanno out of Rhode Island. Rodney Henshaw was another young gay man aboard the ship and eventually he and David found out about each other.
At 23, David was trusting of any other gay man, and Rodney was one of the first he had known. So when Rodney told him about a man in town who wanted to get together, David jumped at the chance.
A few days later, David’s Division Officer called him into his office and displayed photos of David being intimate with this stranger from town. David was shocked, Rodney Henshaw was desperately trying to hold on to his career by turning in other gay men to his superiors. At that point he was given a choice, either spy on others like himself or lose his job. David was strong, and 4 years of service had taught him the integrity the military claims to be built upon. He refused, and was denied re-enlistment 6 months later.
Reports similar to David’s story aren’t uncommon. The US Armed Forces has continued this discriminatory practice to this day, forcing soldiers to hide who they are while trying to oust others.. all while under the penalty of discharge if they don’t.
This brutal treatment left David scarred for years, he spent the next 2 years in heavy therapy and it was 3 years before he was able to trust another person. The shock of having one of the first people he trusted betray him took all the drive out of his life, and he hasn’t been able to even find a long term career until the last 10 years.
The United States, land of the free and home of the brave. Unless you’re queer…