When Honesty Leads to Discharge: A Gay Jew in the Navy

Korrie Xavier, 32, reflects on the decade between her exit from the Navy in early 2001 and the signing of a new law repealing the 'Don't ask, don't tell policy'.

Will the law allow return, Korrie Xavier wonders, for gay former military service members like her, who left the service only because they had to?

Just five years after her bat mitzvah, Xavier joined the Navy as a seaman recruit. She was trained to maintain and fire weapons systems on the USS Boxer, an amphibious assault ship based in San Diego. She liked the structure, the camaraderie, and sailing to ports from southeast Asia to Abu Dhabi. Barely in her 20s, the Michigan native became the nerve center of Jewish shipboard life — all while hiding her sexuality under her Navy uniform blues.

Korrie Xavier, in Navy blues, gets a handshake and a promotion from her commanding officer
Courtesy of Korrie Xavier

“I loved being out to sea — in the middle of the night, when you’d hang off the fantail, and just listen to the water. It was incredibly calming, and you could see all the stars in the world,” she said. And she loved that it was possible to feel alone in a floating village of 3,000 people.

But the stress of lying wore on her, and four years into a six-year commitment, she wrote a letter to her captain: “For the last few years, I’ve been willing to compromise myself.… I realize now that there is no honor or pride in serving an institution that is so obviously ashamed of me.” Within months she was discharged, as the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law required for service members who acknowledged their homosexuality.

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