Gay servicemen and women talk about life under ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’

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From President Obama to Sen. John McCain to pop star Lady Gaga, numerous politicians and celebrities have weighed in on the debate surrounding the military’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ rule. But sometimes, it’s good to hear from the men and women whose lives are directly impacted by the government’s policy that bans openly gay individuals from serving in the armed forces.

For almost two years, Los Angeles photographer Jeff Sheng has been traveling across the country taking portraits of gay servicemen and women, their faces at least partially concealed. In total, he took close to 60 portraits in 25 different states.


A gallery exhibit of his work featuring 20 photographs is running Sept. 18 through Oct. 23 at the Kaycee Olsen Gallery in L.A. In addition, Sheng is publishing a new volume containing more photographs from the project.

Four gay service personnel who participated in the photography project recently agreed to talk about their experience serving in active duty. Their names and locations have been changed in order to protect their identities.

A repeal of the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy currently is making its way through Congress, with the Senate expected to vote on the measure on Tuesday. Opponents of the repeal, including McCain and numerous conservative pundits, have questioned how it would impact troop morale and combat effectiveness. The policy has led to the discharge of more than 13,000 service members since it took effect in 1994.

Read the full story on the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ photography show and be sure to check out the photo gallery above.

-- David Ng