Dec. 18, 2010, Katherine Miller was riding home for that long winter break that all college students look forward to, text message alerts constantly going off on her cell phone as she was just waiting, waiting for the messages to end and to receive that phone call that said it was done.
A few minutes later, her eyes lit up as her friends yelled through the phone that victory had finally come and that it had really happened. All of her hard work had not been in vain, her decision to speak out had been a good one and her vision to influence change was now a clear picture positioned right in front of her.
On that day, in a 65-31 U.S. Senate vote, the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy, preventing openly gay and or lesbian persons from serving in the military, had finally been put to rest.
Miller, a 22-year-old sociology major at Yale University began her journey with the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy in June 2008 with her arrival at West Point Military Academy.
According to Miller, she had known she was gay since the age of 16 but “didn’t think being gay had anything to do with me going into the army,” she said.
“I knew that Don’t Ask Don’t Tell existed but I thought it was literally people wouldn’t ask and I wouldn’t have to talk,” Miller said. “Little did I know that this policy would be much more invasive than I ever thought it would be.”
Her training unit was much more than just that, they were her classmates who grew to be “much more than my friends, they were my only friends.”
Upon her arrival at West Point, Miller was constantly presented with questions in regards to her personal life back at home, which is how her transformation began.
“I would always get asked if I had a boyfriend back home, and I had a girlfriend named Kristen, but I just said ‘no’ and that I was single,” Miller said.
With this policy in effect, there was no revealing anything to anyone, so her only option was to lie about who she really was and those lies are what led her to lead a double life.
According to Erica Gordon, a first-year microbiology major in Miami University’s ROTC program, service members would be able to more effectively serve if they didn’t have to conceal their sexual orientation, something Miller was forced to do each day at West Point Academy.
“Being Christian, I don’t feel that anybody should be gay but they shouldn’t be treated differently for it,” Gordon said.
Keeping up appearances wasn’t easy for Miller.
“I still had long hair and looked straight which invited a lot of men to express interest which made me realize that expressing that I was single probably wasn’t the best idea either,” Miller said.
So from there, Miller changed to telling people that she had a boyfriend named Kris, “creating a reality that didn’t exist.”
However, in the midst of all these lies, Miller was always thinking about how she seemed to have violated the honor code at West Point every time she opened her mouth. The honor code states that, “A cadet will not lie, cheat or steal and will not honor those who do.”
Along with this came the consequence that any cadet who has been charged with breaking the honor code two times will undoubtedly be asked to leave. This was a passion to Miller so she found it inside of her to create a very convincing image to those around her.
However, Miller expressed, “I started to resent who I was … I didn’t feel like I was becoming the person that I wanted to be or the person the army wanted me to be.”
In April 2009, Miller was sitting in class when the topic of gays in the military came up with a group of students who were in her company, otherwise known as a group of students in which a cadet trained, and in Miller’s case, considered to be close friends. Miller was most disturbed by one particular student who she knew very well whose stance was a very strong one.
It was his belief that, “gays were disgusting, against his religious beliefs and he was glad that he didn’t have to serve alongside gays.”
Miller was shocked by the moment.
“I felt surrounded by people who hated my presence and all I wanted to do in that moment was stand up and tell them that they were talking about me but there was this law prohibiting me from doing so,” Millers said.
It was in that moment, that Miller knew that if the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy wasn’t repealed by the time that she was presented with a binding contract, that she would have to leave West Point.
“We as Americans have made homosexuality have a bad connotation and because of that everyone looks at them differently,” Miami first-year Ryan Brogan said.
It is these same connotations that Brogan expressed, that drove Miller to have to make a decision between what she loved and the person who she wanted to be.
In August 2010, Miller released her letter of resignation to the media while she still held her position as a cadet at West Point. From there, she told her story on the Rachel Maddow show, an MSNBC primetime hit tackling the biggest stories of the day, and things took off from there.
Miller began to network with a variety of organizations and made it her business to work towards the repeal of this policy that was affecting thousands of other men and women just as it had affected her. She became a spokesperson for OutServe, which is a board of gay and or lesbian service members who spread stories such as Miller’s.
In the midst of all of this, Miller enrolled as a student at Yale University.
All this is what brings us back to Dec. 18, 2010 when Miller’s goal was realized through the 65-31 Senate vote to repeal the 17-year-old “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy. This act granted openly gay and or lesbian service member the right to serve in the US armed forces. Miller plans to rejoin the military as an officer.
Katherine Miller along with numerous others has made it possible for thousands of men and women to be exactly who they are. From Yale University to Miami University, no service member has to be quiet about who they are to serve their country.
“It was a huge victory,” Miller said.