Saturday, May 30, 2015

Brett Jones, left, the first openly gay Navy SEAL, plays basketball
with his husband, Jason White, and their son, Ethan, 13.

Navy's first openly gay SEAL
builds his life anew

For years, Brett Jones lived a double life. He was a Navy SEAL, a muscular M-60 gunner trained to kill and survive in enemy territory. He was also gay.
He held his secret close, so close that his SEAL teammates — his closest friends — never suspected. Jones was careful to introduce his male lover, a Navy sailor, as his roommate. He persuaded an attractive friend to pose as his girlfriend whenever the SEALs threw parties.
But one day in 2002, Jones accidentally outed himself. He left an "I love you'' phone message for his lover — a stupid mistake, he realized the instant he hung up.
A sailor heard it and turned him in. The Navy launched an investigation designed to dishonorably discharge him.
That mistake led Jones here, to the deeply conservative Bible Belt country of north Alabama, to a brick ranch home on Drury Lane he shares with his husband, Jason White, a burly former police detective and self-professed country boy raised in northern Alabama. The two men are parents to Ethan, a precocious 13-year-old known in the flat, clay and pine country as the only kid in school with two gay dads.
The first openly gay SEAL has built a new life here at age 41 with a family that has replaced the two families he lost — the one that raised him and the one he built with fellow SEALs. Both his parents and the Navy banished him because he's gay.
On this steamy night, the two gay parents and their straight son are sweating and shoving as they fight to win a roughhouse driveway basketball game called Cheater Ball. 
The three of them horse around, joking and teasing like teenagers. They are close, and necessarily so, since a gay marriage — not to mention gay parenting — is viewed with deep suspicion and outright hostility in perhaps the most anti-gay state in the country.
When Jones and White attend Ethan's baseball games, they say, coaches and other parents barely speak to them. There are loud whispers and hard stares. No one will sit with them.

The parents of Ethan's friends refuse to allow them to spend the night in the house Jones and White built together in little Toney, population 13,000. But the friends are allowed to stay over with Ethan when he's at the home of his mother, White's ex-wife.

School is worse, the family says. It's a rural county school, almost entirely white and deeply conservative. In science class one day, White says, a teacher stressed that marriage was strictly between a man and a woman. Teachers and students pass Bible verses to Ethan.
Source: Los Angeles Times, David Zucchino, May 29, 2015

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