Omer Sternberg, who serves as an officer at the Israeli army, took time during Tel Aviv Pride Week to try to explain what’s it really like being a gay officer in a straight-dominated organization like the IDF
Over the past year and a half people have been asking me: “So Omer, what it’s like being a gay officer in the army?”
At the beginning I would reply that there is no difference between a gay officer and a straight one, but with time I realized that it was not quite like that.
So in honor of Pride Month, and to save all the people that maybe were going to ask, here’s the answer:
It’s good. And it’s bad. And it’s mostly right.
Being a gay officer means going back in to the closet and coming out again every four months or so. With every new role, every class commander who is replaced, almost every day you go back to that kid you were in the 11th grade.
Being a gay officer is living in two worlds. It’s to dance with your religious friends before Shabbat dinner on Friday, and a week after, dancing with your gay friends at a party, and in between, trying to explain to both sides why they shouldn’t be afraid of each other.
Being a gay officer is being ‘the gay guy’ in everything you do. It’s when you overtake someone running and you know that he thinks, “Shit, the gay guy overtook me!” Or when you are awarded the outstanding commander vine and know that everyone says, “Wow, the gay officer won outstanding commander! ”
Being a gay officer means representing a community whom you’ve never chosen to be a part of, carrying a flag that you’ve never chosen to have been yours, and yet doing it without hesitating for a second.
Being a gay officer is to sleep spooning with someone you met last week, and wondering if it doesn’t bother him that you are so close to him… not to mention what he’s thinking when you take a shower at the same time…
Being a gay officer is to know that there are so many closeted gay guys around you, but you have no way to help them, even though you once were there too.
Being a gay officer is to ask yourself all day long if the soldiers know about you or don’t know about you, and if they do, what they think of you, or if they don’t, then what does that say about you.
Being a gay officer is knowing that there are two things in the world that you are willing to die for – the state and who you are.
Being a gay officer is loving yourself.
So for all the guys who chose to walk the hard path, for all the girls who choose to be themselves against all odds, all those who choose to love themselves and all other sons and daughters in the world, knowing you are not alone, I am every day fighting for us all, and God willing, next year we will no longer need empowering and strengthening posts like this.