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Katie Miller is silent no more
Lesbian ex-cadet shares her 'Don't ask, don't tell' struggles
At midnight on Sept. 20, 2011 Katie Miller sat in her Yale dorm room on Facebook. She stared at the newsfeed as comments rolled in. The comments from around the world made her smile; but it wasn’t her birthday.
This day was unofficially named “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Repeal Day” at Yale.
“Twitter was blowing up too,” Miller said. “People were celebrating and congratulating one another…I got pretty teary.”
This was a day she had been waiting years to see. She publicly resigned from the United States Military Academy at West Point after two years because of “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” the policy that bans service members from openly displaying their homosexual orientation or homosexual behaviors.
As a lesbian cadet, she was forced to lie about her real identity, while under a military honor code that includes integrity as a key pillar. She used her resignation to gain media attention by posting her letter online, prompting waves of interviews. She was featured on CNN, MSNBC and ESPN, as well as in national newspapers including The New York Times and USA Today. The media attention brought light to the policy, which was eventually repealed last year.
“I’m astounded by the number of people who thanked me,” Miller said. “First this started off as being something to restore my integrity. Then it was something for my friends. Then seeing people I never even met before thank me has been one of the most profound things for me.”
Quinnipiac’s Gay Lesbian And Straight Supporters brought Miller to Quinnipiac last Wednesday to share her message in Buckman Theater. Since Miller escorted Lady Gaga to MTV’s Video Music Awards two years ago and “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was repealed last year, QU GLASS thought Miller was a very relevant speaker for this year’s “Day of Silence” keynote.
“The ‘Day of Silence’ is for those who don’t have a voice, like LGBT students who have to hold back their voice and can’t be heard,” GLASS Vice President Ian Jackson said.
April 20, the national “Day of Silence” is a day when “students across the country vow to take a form of silence to call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools,” according to the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network.
Friday at 5 p.m. in Buckman 137, QU GLASS will hold another event to discuss participants’ experiences at the conclusion of the “Day of Silence.”
“There will be a very open discussion about how their day went and how people reacted to their silence,” Jackson said. “Did the teachers discuss it or did they say okay you can just sit in the back and not say anything?”
Jackson has been an active participant in “The Day of Silence” since he found out about it in high school.
“Being a gay male, I see how some of my friends who are not out how they basically have to put on this mask and how they can’t talk with me about certain things,” Jackson said. “So I am doing it for the people I know, for the people I don’t know and for the people who don’t have a voice.”
Jackson said he experienced a range of reactions to his participation in the “Day of Silence.” Some respond negatively by trying to make him speak, while others decide to join in the silence to show support.
“You have to stick to the point of the day,” Jackson said. “It’s a vow of silence. That’s when you really see how it’s hard to stay silent in certain things when it hurts you or people tell you you’re wrong for doing something.”