This is part one in a series that will appear to be endless. These are text style interviews done with people who are from all sorts of backgrounds, occupations, sexual orientations, identities in general and so on. This is meant to highlight what it is like to be these people and to show others what a diverse world we truly live in.
For this feature we have Jason Paul Phillips.
1. State your name, age, sexual orientation if you don’t mind the use of that term, if you are a veteran or not and state the campaign you participated in.
“Jason Phillips (though I prefer to go by Skyy), 27, gay, and a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.”
2. As a gay veteran what specific issues do you feel like you face and how do you think society in general views you?
“As a gay veteran I’m often confronted with the classic “I didn’t know you were gay” or “You don’t [sound/act] gay.” While this is the worst I get while outside of the military, it’s far from it when I was still in. Even while I was in Afghanistan I was alienated from almost all of my unit, treated differently from the rest of my unit, punished unnecessarily and under the guise of being punished for something else, and one time I can recall one person that didn’t like me specifically taking my bolt out of my weapon so that it wouldn’t fire in-case I needed it. Generally, society has some pretty mixed views when it comes to gay veterans mainly because people want to support their veterans and at the same time they typically don’t like the fact that I’m gay. While this doesn’t really bother me personally it does bother me that this idea even exists. I’ve heard storied of gay veterans coming out to their family and friends and they seem to turn a blind eye to them. We as veterans (especially wounded combat veterans) don’t have much prospect for jobs in America. Hell, even here in Washington State they’re giving out $10k tax credits to businesses who give veteran’s preference in hiring and it still seems to be a problem. All-in-all, there is just this stigma that exists and for seemingly no intelligent reason what-so-ever.”
3. You are a gay veteran but assuming you were gay in the service as well have you ever faced discrimination and if so, if it isn’t triggering for you, could you explain what you faced in terms of discrimination or outright hatred?
“The discrimination I faced in the military beside what I mentioned before was I was given less respect as a soldier during work. The people in my platoon felt like they had to ‘baby’ me in some way; that somehow I couldn’t perform as well as they could. I was moved to several different rooms and eventually had to be moved into a room where my roommate had to be “warned” that I might be homosexual. The rest of them acted like I had slept with their wives which wouldn’t have even been the case. They either wouldn’t give me the time of day or they would literally say “fag” under their breath.”
4. When facing this discrimination did you ever have or believed you have had an ally who was on your side?
“Well yeah, a friend and a few other people were on my side as much as you could be. Considering that at the time the DADT (Don’t Ask, Don’t tell) policy was just being lifted there wasn’t a lot that any of us could do about it other than intimidate those who tried to hurt me. Even though I was facing all that discrimination, I was getting through the deployment with the help of a friend and the rest of our little group.”
5. Could you elaborate on the type of discrimination you witnessed and were subjected to while in the service?
“Besides what was mentioned above, no I can’t. I didn’t know any other homosexuals while I was in Afghanistan or afterwards while I was at the Warrior Transition Battalion at JBLM. Any homosexual I met was outside of the military, so I couldn’t really share my experiences as a gay veteran with any other gay veteran.”
6. Now that you are out of the service how have you been treated as a veteran? Does the VA (Veteran Affairs) do right by you?
“I’ve been treated OK as a veteran. I say OK because I honestly feel like there are a lot of programs out there that I just don’t have the resources to participate in. It may because I’m too far away and don’t have the money for transportation or because I don’t have the time. I honestly feel like me being gay has had 0 affect on my personal life outside of the military in relation to the VA. Honestly, I can’t tell if the VA does right by me. I’m currently rated at 70% disability but I still can’t seem to find a job that fits my disabilities and can provide me with a steady income. I honestly don’t think I’ll ever be able to either owing to the fact that sometimes I completely lack the ability to talk. Last time I checked talking is a pretty big factor when it comes to every single job I can possibly imagine myself comfortably doing. So I’m honestly not sure if the VA is doing right by me. I can pay my bills, but just barely so. I can’t really save anything. I dunno.”
7. You’ll probably admit there are unique issues that gay and lesbian veterans may face. Do you feel like there is enough support for coming from the United States Government and the VA (Veteran’s Affairs) to assist you with those issues?
“There are definitely issues and most of them are civil. Most of them don’t even deal with the VA anymore. No, there really isn’t enough support coming from the United States government and the VA to deal with these issues even if they’re aren’t exactly causing them to begin with. It’s mostly the people and the social injustices that they exact upon other people for no legitimate reason. I have racked my brain so hard thinking of any legitimate reason why anyone would want to put someone through any type of difficulties simply because of the person they choose to love and I can’t come up with anything other than they are a complete idiot.”
8. If you don’t want to answer this question it would be more than understandable. Do you feel like your family and friends are supportive of you? Are there people who are in your life or were once in your life who treat you badly because of who you are?
“Honestly I can say that the majority of my family supports me in some fashion. Either they love me enough to look past the fact that I’m gay, or they don’t care because I’m still they same person. I can also say that there are a few people in my family who treated me the exact opposite of family at the time they found out. They treated me like I had just raped their sister or something. It’s awful and it’s an awful feeling.”
9. You seem like a nice guy. Do you have someone special in your life? If you, and given how you expressed combat experiences (assuming there were traumatic experiences), how does that special person in your life feel about how you were treated?
“I do and his name is John and he’s OK with me and my prior service in the military. I’ve told him about what had happened and it actually makes him want to hurt the people who hurt me. It’s kinda sweet in it’s own little way.”
10. If there was one thing you want to get across to others about gay veterans what would you like for them to know about Skyy Phillips and others who are gay and happened to have served their country?
“While situations have definitely gotten better in some areas, they haven’t in others. If only we could unite as an group and bring awareness to the fact that these people exist and that they are still being treated less than fairly then maybe something could be done about it. I know what it’s like to go to war and to be treated like crap because of who I love and I would support anyone who needed it who’s also going through the same thing.”
“Just one. Hooah (Army’s battle cry or morale cry)”