Sharing our truth opened and closed quietly with one performance on Veteran’s Day Weekend as part of the URI Providence Campus Arts and Culture Program to honor the service of all veterans and family members. The nine-member ensemble presented a staged reading of stories woven together by Melissa Rayford contributed by LGBT members of different branches of the service during various times in our history. Men and women each had harrowing accounts of isolation, harassment, and prejudice both from family members and service personnel alike.
Directed by Frank Toti, Jr the setting was a support group to which we were all participants at an American Veterans for Equal Rights meeting. The stories are taken from original source material from veterans. The play began as one story told by Theresa Duke, a trans woman veteran for an anthology sponsored by the Museum of American Military Family and Learning Center in New Mexico.
The anthology by Lora Beldon and Circe Olson Woessner told each service person’s life experience before and during their tour of duty. The common through-line through all the stories was dissatisfaction with a life they couldn’t create or sustain. Each said the Military helped them find discipline and purpose. Some found first loves and often comradery. One more thing they all said they had in common: their dignity and pride in their service.
Sidebar: Harvey Milk, the LGBTQ political activist who was discharged from the Navy in 1955 for being openly gay and later murdered, recently had a vessel named after him.