[HTML1]Proposing call signs like “Fagmeister” and “Gay Boy” — and the winner, “Romo’s bitch” — one can only assume that at least a few of Lt. Steve Crowston’s fellow officers in Strike Fighter Squadron 136 felt pretty sure the unit’s administrative/legal officer and avid Dallas Cowboys fan was a homosexual. But Crowston, who filed multiple inspector general complaints over what he regarded as anti-gay hazing in the unit, had steadfastly refused to acknowledge his sexual preference, saying it was irrelevant and that his concern was over inappropriate workplace hazing.
Tuesday evening, on the 6 p.m. newscast of Norfolk’s WAVY-TV, with the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy no longer in effect, Crowston came out. “I’ve been in 17 years, livin’ a lie, hiding who I really am, said Crowston (1:52 on the video), interviewed at a downtown Norfolk celebration of the end of the policy’s demise Tuesday. “People have suspected through the years, but I couldn’t come out. Now, I have that choice, without losing my career over it.”
Crowston’s complaints, first voiced following an August 2009 call sign meeting attended by his CO and XO, eventually found their mark. In July, the Navy announced that the very recently retired Cmdr. Liam Bruen, the former CO, had been censured by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus — this after being removed from his post-command job as operations officer on the carrier John C. Stennis. The former XO and current CO, Cmdr. Damien Christopher, wasn’t cited by Mabus but received two formal counselings from senior commanders and an unspecified letter of admonition. He was allowed to remain in command, with officials citing superior performance while in command.
Bruen and Christopher both took issue with the punishments. Bruen said he felt the Naval IG interpreted the Navy’s Equal Opportunity policy too broadly in saying he’d condoned hazing by allowing the call sign meeting to continue, even though he called a subsequent all-officers meeting at which he vowed to provide a command environment “free from hostility and marginalization.” Christopher said the IG used “flawed legal analysis” to impose a “new standard” under the Navy’s hazing policy upon him. Christopher also told Navy Times that the Naval IG’s findings are under review by the Department of Defense IG.
Crowston, now the administrative officer for the Naval Ocean Processing Facility at Dam Neck Annex, told Navy Times Wednesday night that he feels a great sense of relief that the policy has been eliminated and that he’s no longer in the position of “living a lie.”
“It’s such a relief to know that the silent knife that could stab you at any moment and cause you to lose your career in the military is no longer there!” he wrote. But while the policy is gone, there are battles ahead within the ranks, he told WAVY-TV.
“There’s still gonna be homophobia,” Crowston said. “There’s still gonna be bigots. There’s still gonna be people who, you know, are gonna judge you, now that you can declare who you are.”