A remarkable journey of self-discovery and survival, as the author navigates a perfect storm of homosexuality, religion and military service.
Gay-themed memoirs have become more and more common, but this work stands out based on the unique circumstances surrounding the author’s life. Tripp describes his childhood in Montana as a kind of war zone: “Growing up in an alcoholic home, I was never sure where the beginning was or where on the path I would hit a landmine and have the evening explode in front of me.” He eventually seeks refuge in the structure and discipline of the armed forces but incurs the psychological burden of having to hide his true nature. Tripp’s inclusion of excerpts from his personnel file adds another layer to the narrative, underscoring his criticism of the massive amount of resources expended by the military in an effort to weed out homosexual service members. Amid the subterfuge, the author finds tender moments of human connection as a lonely teenager working in a nursing home, a sexually repressed young man living on a submarine and a decorated officer approaching retirement. In fact, a submarine is the ideal metaphor for Tripp’s odyssey: He attempts to move undetected through largely hostile waters while facing potentially disastrous consequences if discovered. The author also has a knack for explaining decisions that led him to pursue “reparative therapy,” heterosexual marriage and fatherhood. Aside from some editing issues at the end of the book, the only drawback is Tripp’s fondness for well-worn or clunky similes, which will strike some readers as folksy or distracting. Regardless, this memoir full of sharp insights will appeal to a wide audience—not only gay men, but anyone who wants to better understand a loved one struggling with sexual orientation and identity.
A powerful testament to the importance of self-acceptance and perseverance.