Jonathan Mills, executive editor of OutServe, a magazine for active-duty LGBT personnel, knew he was gay long before he joined the Air Force. He was raised in Corinth, Miss., where he came out to his parents in high school. They promptly sent him to “reparative therapy,” a controversial practice that claims to help gay or questioning people become straight. After a few months, he decided he would put his feelings aside and move on in life as a straight man. He married his high school sweetheart at 19 and entered the Air Force a year later. They divorced in 2008 and have a 5-year-old daughter.
Tuesday is a big day for Staff Sgt. Mills, who’s based in Washington, D.C. It marks the official end of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the policy that forbade gay men and women from serving openly in the armed forces. Mills is ecstatic. “I feel so light. I’ve had to work very hard be keep my lives separate. I’ve had to worry if I say the wrong thing it could end my career.”
Mills has been involved with OutServe for the last year. OutServe started as a Facebook group of about 500 people, known as “the underground network” to connect gay service members with one another and to support the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Over time, the group has grown to over 4,000.
Although Mills feels a sense of relief, he doesn’t plan to make any dramatic announcements at work. “I look forward to answering honestly if anyone asks me [if I’m gay]. One of my co-workers was saying to me, I know you are seeing someone, why don’t you bring her out, or tell us who she is? The military is very close, it’s hard to have to come up with a lie. People [suspect you are lying] and feel like they can’t trust you.” Mills has a boyfriend who lives in Philadelphia, whom he plans to introduce to his co-workers. “If he’s game, then absolutely.”
OutServe’s newest issue features 101 active-duty military personnel who are celebrating the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” by coming out in the pages of the magazine. These 101 people volunteered to be some of the first public faces of the estimated 70,000 gay men and women who are currently serving in the military and reserves. You can see the full photo spread at the OutServe magazine website (registration required), or view a selection of those images here.