05/16/2013 03:35 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

10 Years and Another World Later


Ten years ago, I was a 20-year-old Marine who was about to cause a world of trouble by becoming the first person in the military to publicly speak out against the Iraq War. I'd end up court-martialed, fined, demoted to Private, given a Bad-Conduct discharge, and sentenced to six months in military prison -- but not before I was able to travel around the country informing people in the military their right to dissent, encouraging young people to think hard before enlisting, and speak out about my experiences as an out, gay, antiwar Marine.

When I finished my prison sentence, I returned in February 2004 to a San Francisco that was issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. After spending the extended holiday season behind bars for refusing to fight an immoral and unjust war (aren't they all? well, this one especially!) I was delighted even just to see all the colorful little houses made of ticky tacky driving through Daly City on the way home. I remember uncontrollably crying when I saw the first pair of grooms walking arm and arm down Market Street in the Castro. The week before I was wearing an orange jumpsuit and cleaning up yellow ribbons and other garbage on the side of the freeway with other imprisoned Marines -- I literally jumped from one world to another and it was emotionally overwhelming.

Of course those marriages would soon be voided with Proposition 8, the constitutionality of which will be decided by the Supreme Court this June. It is amazing how much can change in one decade.

This April, exactly one decade after I held a press conference outside my base, I organized Another World at the de Young Museum presented by the San Francisco Bay Guardian. Like all the events I organize, Another World was basically me and my friends getting together to entertain and speak our minds. I just happen to hang with lots of antiwar veterans, fierce drag queens, and queer creative geniuses. With DJ sets by GO BANG! Another World sure did.

May 15 is International Conscientious Objector day. Ten years ago on this date, I made a public statement about my upcoming court-martial and connected my struggle to the struggles of conscientious objectors around the world who are being imprisoned and harshly treated for simply refusing to participate in something that goes against their core beliefs. I encourage all my supporters to continue to support the rights of the brave men and women around the world who are standing up against war and refusing to fight! Currently, PFC Bradley Manning is about to go into his court-martial this June and public support is imminently important!

Want to see what happens when veterans, artists, activists [and drag queens!] get together to organize Another World? Check out video here.