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There have always been LGBTQ people serving their country in the military. The only question is whether they are able to live openly while doing so. In the United States, long-standing policy was that homosexuality was “incompatible with military service.” In 1993, President Clinton signed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” bill onto law, which in theory allowed gays and lesbians to serve as long as they didn’t disclose their sexual orientation. But the reality was much different.

Even under DADT, gays and lesbians in the military had to hide who they were. To avoid exposure — and the likely resulting dishonorable discharge — LGBTQ service members had to constantly be on alert. Some even developed a code to speak to their partner on the phone. The mental toll of having to hide and always be on guard was exhausting at best, and often led to depression.

The focus of Surviving the Silence is the case of Margarethe Cammermeyer, whom the military sought to remove from the National Guard for revealing she was a lesbian. What few, if any, knew at the time was that the officer in charge of the proceedings was herself a lesbian. While her hands were tied by military regulations, the way Col. Pat Thompson conducted the proceedings allowed Cammermeyer to introduce enough evidence to help her when the case was appealed, despite the risk Thompson was taking in possibly outing herself and ending her own military career.

While much progress was made in allowing LGBTQ individuals to serve openly under President Obama, the current administration has reversed some of that progress. Though the service members featured in this film are dismayed by the events of the past few years, they remain optimistic that those who fight for the freedom of our country will themselves enjoy the freedom that comes from being able to live and serve openly and authentically.

~ Christopher Roesch

Opening Night – Out on Film Atlanta LGBTQ Film Festival

Official Selection – OUTshine LGBTQ+ Film Festival (Miami and Fort Lauderdale)

  • Year
  • Runtime
    80 minutes
  • Language
    English (Closed Captions available)
  • Country
    United States
  • Director
    Cindy L. Abel