It's graduation time at America's military academies, and for the first time, gay students are celebrating without having to keep their sexual orientations a secret. For many, that means bringing same-sex dates to end-of-year events. In the past, notes a West Point cadet, "I had to do the ambiguous, 'Oh, she's my best friend,'" when introducing her girlfriend, she tells the AP. The repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell "was a remarkable thing for me."
The repeal has also brought other on-campus changes: The Air Force Academy, for instance, has officially recognized a gay students' organization for the first time. The shift also bolsters networking and mentoring opportunities between gay students and alumni; a West Point gay alumni group recently held its first annual dinner honoring gay graduates and students. The change "allows us to be a complete person, as opposed to compartmentalizing our lives into different types of boxes," says an Air Force academy grad.