Naval Station Norfolk

By Akeem Pitts.

“Hello Everyone, my name is Akeem Pitts. We are currently outside of the Norfolk Naval base.
As we know the naval base in Norfolk is one of the biggest one in the United States. The base
has been here for many year and has attracted many military personnel to the area. With it being
the biggest base in the states they have dealt with plenty of controversy. Today, I will be
speaking about the march to the naval base to stand up for the rights of those who are in the
armed forces and were a part of the LGBTQ community.”

Photograph from Our Own of the march in 1991.

“Being a part of a huge organization that does not support the type of love that you give is very
dishearten. The LGBTQ community were not being accepted in any aspect, weather it was the
military or in corporate America. During this time those were gay or lesbian were not able to
love openly with their partners with fears of losing their jobs, which most did. Most also claimed
to be asexual and had to cover up their prior sexual experiences. A man wrote a letter to Our
Own explaining the difficult obstacles gays had to endure while on naval ships. He explains that
men were getting gang raped and beaten by men who were in their units and were claiming to be
straight. Also, they were putting people under investigation if they suspected they were gay.
Those who were suspected of being homosexual and they lost their case were being put out of
the military and losing their rank. Based off what I have found those people who were in the
armed forces seemed to get the worst treatment, because they were losing their jobs. During this
time in the armed forces people did not have the option to follow “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”
policy. This policy was to prevent anyone from being fired from their job based on their sexual
orientation, if it was not spoken upon. Meaning if no one talked about their sexual orientation
then they could remain employed. Since this was not an option for them they decided that they
needed to take action. They decided to go against the grain and not care what others said about
their sexual orientation and as a result they were terminated from being a part of the armed
services. Feeling angry, out of place, and not supported those people along with The Hampton
Roads Lesbian and Gay Pride Coalition decided to arrange a march. On June 15, 1991 about 80
men, women and children met up at a disclosed location and marched to gate 2 of the naval base.
During the march, they were holding 6 American flags, a flag for each branch of the military,
and a rainbow flag. All of the flags were held by people who were kicked out of the armed forces
at one point in time due to their sexual orientation. With the flags, they also carried signs with
phrases such as “Proud to be gay, Proud to serve” and may other things. From the march, there
was no coverage from other news outlets and it was only covered in Our Own. Which I find very
interesting because I feel like it was an important event in Norfolk Naval history, but it shows
that they did not want any bad media in regard to being homosexual in the military.”

The Naval Station as it appeared in 1991.
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