In 2007, 18-year-old J.T. Chestnut’s father forced the openly gay young man to join the army in order to “straighten him out.” In the army, Chestnut endured steady harassment for being gay, and when he finally couldn’t take it anymore, he fled to California. In West Hollywood, he found a vibrant LGBT community, made many wonderful friends, and began boldly speaking out for LGBT rights.
Unfortunately, though, Chestnut’s decision to flee from his abusers has come back to haunt him. He was arrested on Halloween in West Hollywood while on his way to a friend’s house, and when his having gone AWOL was discovered, he was ordered to return to Fort Sill, Oklahoma to face a court martial. As of this morning Chestnut remains in military jail, alone and scared, waiting to be brought up on charges. He released this statement:
“I am so grateful for the support that I am receiving. I decided to go through this process because I know going AWOL wasn’t the best decision, but if I didn’t receive the bullying and harassment for being gay, I wouldn’t have done it. I was 18, scared, and just came out of the closet. I respect the men and women who serve our country.
Thank you to my sister and every single person who has been a constant support and helping me through this every minute. I can’t wait to see all my friends, sing Whitney Houston, and have a glass of Kendall Jackson Chardonnay.”
New Hampshire activist Kevin James has started a Change.org petition calling on the U.S. Army to free J.T. instead of prosecuting a victim of bullying and harassment. Please head over to Change.org and sign it.