'Facebook for Military Gays' Has 53 Members

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Outmilitary.com, a website designed, as Reuters's Terrine Friday puts it, to be "a sort of Facebook for gay and lesbian military men and women" is off to a slow start, with only 53 members. Although President Obama has signed the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" into law, the military is still planning its process for rolling back the long-held ban on openly gay servicemembers. But Friday writes, "Even so, some members say they aren't waiting and do not fear the possibility of losing their military job."

Presumably, most or all of Outmilitary.com's 53 members joined up before Obama ended "don't ask," or even before the repeal, which the Senate sometimes looked unlikely to pass, became certain. The existence of Outmilitary.com suggests the speed with which some gay servicemembers are willing to come out of the closet. But Friday's interviews suggest that some might join the Facebook-like site because they feel comfortable being gay and in the military, while others might join precisely because, despite the law change, being a gay servicemember could remain quite difficult.

"It gives people a social platform to communicate," Kristin Orta, a private first-class serving with the Florida National Guard, said about the site, which she joined last week after seeing an ad on Facebook.

... Another Out Military member, Vietnam veteran Bill Royal, claimed he was the victim of sexual abuse during his time in the military and said he hoped the site would help others suffering the same experience. "I joined, more than anything, so that I could maybe help someone else," explained Royal.

Still, the fact that the website only has 53 members, who are presumably scattered across the globe, makes the site more of a statement than an actual community. Will that change once repeal is formally implemented, and more gay men and women feel comfortable publicly adding their names to the website?

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.