To the editor:

My name is Robaire Watson and I'm a gay military veteran who's been living in the San Francisco Bay Area for 18 years. I spent 6 years in the military as an openly gay man.

At age 23 I joined the Navy in search of adventure. Being a gay man I was determined that I wasn't going to allow the military to change my view point of life. My story isn't about the latest trend or the latest hot actor, or the latest hot trick, it's about the importance of “being who you want to be“! Who needs to serve in silence? I just want to bring a positive ground breaking story to the forefront.
 
I grew up in a primarily white small Texas town and the middle child of a Southern Baptist family. I was in the Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts, played high school football for a brief time. I always knew I was gay. After high school, I earned money for college by working in the oil fields. I studied design and fashion merchandising in Dallas at Wades School of Design. I joined the US Navy in 1989 and served six years through two enlistments until 1995.
 
Being openly gay in the military and not receiving threats to my life, allowed me to keep my integrity. I never felt the need to tell anyone on my command that I was gay or introduce them to my boyfriend.  I always felt that people knew I was different, just by the way I conducted myself. When you show others respect, they show you respect in return.
 
I was a US Navy Ship's barber who served aboard the USS Kansas City as it traveled the seas promoting freedom during the Gulf War and Operation Southern Watch--off the coast of Somalia in 1993, traveling to Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, Dubai, Jebel Ali, UAE, British Columbia, Mexico, and the Philippines during my two enlistments. I'm black and openly gay and never encountered the slightest discrimination aboard this warship.
 
I have never forced my sexual preference on anyone. I don't want someone who’s straight doing that to me. When the Don't Ask Don't Tell law was passed,  my shipmates told me, "Watson, we don't have to ask and we don't have to tell." 
 
I had a group of gay friends on the USS Kansas City. We were the gay version of "Sex and the City" onboard the ship. We were known as the Fierce-Four. Our personal lives were better than any episode of Queer as Folk. My friends said because of me. They were able to be themselves without prejudice. I took several of my shipmates to gay bars & dance clubs.  Not because it was my idea, it was because they ask me too!
 
I dated a Ensign and a Lieutenant, while in the military. I also dated a Major in the United States Army and a Marine. All the following military men who came across my life had to keep their personal life a secret.  It’s not about being an officer in the military or subjecting yourself to starring in a skin flick to get your point across, about “Don't Ask, Don't Tell.  It’s knowing that you have a job to do and a mission to accomplish. You can't allow your sexual preference to interfere.
 
The government needs to worry about those individuals who they allow to enter the military, who haven't been outside the county line and refuses to except someone who’s different.  These type of people want to judge you, based on their religious beliefs.  If you can't except me for my race or sexual preference. This means you want be there for me in a time of war.
 
I'm very fortunate that I was able to be openly gay and live my life accordingly during active duty. I want other men and women who enter the armed forces who are gay to be able to live their lives just as openly as their straight counterparts and when they become veterans to be treated with dignity and respect. I'm very proud to have done my duty serving my country."
 

Thank you,
Robaire Watson
San Francisco, Cali.

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