(Foreword by David Mixner)
The military has lots of rules and they are all expected to be followed. United States Marine Corps Sergeant Justin Elzie, wanting to make a difference, followed a rule of integrity and came out publicly on ABC Evening World News in January 1993. He became the first Marine discharged under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and later reinstated, becoming the first Marine to challenge Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell with a Federal Court Case and went on to serve four years openly gay. Justin Elzie takes you on a journey of self-discovery from his early years growing up on a farm in Wyoming to joining the Marine Corps and finding an underground gay subculture within the military. He was described by his superiors as an exemplary Marine with two meritorious promotions, being named Marine of the Year and having served as an American Embassy Guard. After coming out he was recommended for promotion and served as a Platoon Sergeant in charge of Marines on a ship and in the field. He testified at the Senate Hearings opposite General Schwarzkopf, participated in the MTV show Free Your Mind and was photographed by Richard Avedon for the New Yorker. His story appeared on ABC, CNN, NPR and in the New York Times. Playing By The Rules is one man’s struggle for acceptance by his parents, the Marines and the realization that when you play by the rules there are some things that can t be taken away from you.
“Justin Elzie was a patriotic American, a proud Marine, when his faith in truth and justice ran up against the military’s ludicrous Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy. This powerful book explains in tragic detail how this policy shames and humiliates the thousands of gays and lesbians who proudly serve in the military only to be tossed aside if they dare tell the truth about who they are. This is an extraordinary book; I cannot recommend it too highly.” —Perry Deane Young, author of Two of the Missing, The David Kopay Story (with David Kopay) and Gays and Lesbians and Sports
Justin Crockett Elzie is a self-described Renaissance Man, and a writer and actor in New York City. He is a Progressive Activist on Environmental and Civil Rights issues and a blogger on the Queer NYC blog team.
From David Mixner’s Foreword:
Justin Crockett Elzie has written a remarkable book. His story should be read not only by our activists, but by every American. The beginning of his journey, on the plains of Wyoming, born to devoutly religious parents, to finding his identity in being a Marine is powerful. Every step of the way, Justin relives his pain with brutal honesty to ensure that we miss nothing of his struggle.
I am mesmerized by his childhood in the Wyoming prairies. The constant battle of being forced to stand up for himself against bullies and emotional terrorists is jolting. Justin had to be strong from Day One. In those windswept plains, it was just him attempting to come to terms with his homosexuality in the most hostile environment that you can imagine. Parents who were abusive to not only him but also his sister made difficult any search for truth. By the end of this book, each and every one reading it, their heart will ache with the pains of his journey. However, not one of you will view Justin as a victim. Because in the end, he is victorious and is living as a free man who has more honor and dignity than most other Marines.
This is a book for the ages, and I am in awe at Justin’s courage in writing it and sharing it with us. The best way we can honor his journey, and his courage, is by sharing his story far and wide.