Gay soldiers say the military has grown more tolerant in recent years, with younger, more liberal commanders loath to lose skilled troops to a ban they see as outdated. Underground gay communities have sprung up on bases both at home and in the war zone, with email groups keeping gay soldiers in touch. A growing number are now confiding in their commanding officers, generally without consequence.
One 26-year-old, for example, says his sexuality was a poorly kept secret during his time in Iraq, but his career didn’t suffer. “I don't know if I won any hearts and minds among the Iraqis,” he tells the Washington Post, “but I did among my brothers in arms because I did my job well.” That’s not to say the military is especially gay-friendly; in a 2006 poll, only 26% of service members favored repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.