Steve Ralls

Darren Manzella on Coming Out, Speaking Up... and Staying In

Filed By Steve Ralls | February 26, 2008 9:10 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Politics, The Movement
Tags: 60 Minutes, coming out of the closet, Darren Manzella, Don't Ask Don't Tell, United States Army

Many Bilerico readers have been closely following the story of Army Sergeant Darren Manzella, the openly gay Army medic who 'came out' in December during an interview with 60 Minutes.

As we reported here on the site in late December, Manzella returned home from Kuwait (just in time to spend the holidays with his family), and later reported back to Texas for duty. Now, more than two months after his interviewed aired on CBS, Sergeant Manzella tells Ambiente magazine, in a new interview, that he's still serving in the Army, and still receiving support from his colleagues.

"Since the 60 Minutes segment aired in December, I have received a massive amount of e-mails from individuals both military and civilian thanking me for speaking up against 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,'" he tells Ambiente. "Some have described me as a role model to them but I would like to think that I am just an example of a person who strongly believes in something and am not afraid to stand up and voice those beliefs. I know the stress and pressure that accompanies being a gay man in the military and I hope that my story proves that this policy is outdated and needs to be repealed. If I am seen as a role model, I hope it is for all of the men and women who are afraid to show who they truly are. I truly believe that every individual should be proud of who they are and what they believe."

"I have yet to hear a reaction from the members of my command," he notes. "Each day I go to work and wonder if I will be called to see my commander but nothing has happened. My colleagues are supportive and many are curious as to how I am treated among other Soldiers. I have received overwhelming support from peers in the workplace and many of my supervisors. The amount of acceptance among my peers and colleagues was surprising to me at first. Now I realize, along with I feel the majority of the Army, that sexual orientation in the military is not the issue that was previously speculated or that continues to be enforced by this outdated policy."

He also tells the magazine about his own coming out experience, and his family's reaction.

"When I came out to my parents I was extremely nervous, although now that I look back over their reaction I don't know why I was," Manzella says. "I told my father first and he told me that he loves me no matter what and that all he and my mother want is for me to be happy. From the moment that I told them I have felt the bond between us tighten. The same goes for the relationship I have with both of my brothers and the rest of my family. Once I was finally able to admit who I truly was and dispense with the self-doubt, lying and hiding, I felt like a new person. Today I am a proud, confident man because I know people love me for who I really am as a person, regardless of my sexual orientation."

"I am from a very small community and I grew up doing what every other boy did," he says. "I played football, I worked on the farm, I watched movies with friends. There were a few individuals I encountered as I progressed through high school that I thought of as gay or lesbian. To be honest I was always intrigued. At this point in my life I had little concept of the gay lifestyle and was obviously still in denial concerning my own sexuality, but speaking and interacting with these individuals and realize that the stereotypes portrayed on television or in the movies were not correct. These people I saw everyday were just that, everyday people that I had grown up with my entire life."

And always the soldier, Manzella, whose current enlistment ends in 2011, has said he'll continue his new fight, too, and continue speaking up about the need to repeal the ban.

"After my career in the Army is complete, I will definitely continue to work for the repeal of the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy if it is still in effect," he says.

You can read the full Ambiente interview with Sergeant Manzella online here.

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“Some have described me as a role model to them but I would like to think that I am just an example of a person who strongly believes in something and am not afraid to stand up and voice those beliefs."

I'd call that a role model. :)