- The Magazine
One of the Navy’s few openly gay pilots is leaving after a homophobic incident that left him feeling “segregated” from the military.
Lt. Adam Adamski told San Diego’s KPBS that he felt supported for the majority of his six-year Navy career, until the 2019 incident.
In November 2019, Adamski attended the West Coast Marine Corps Birthday Ball and was invited to an after-party in one of the hotel rooms at the resort where the ball was held.
“When I walked in the door, I knew something wasn’t right,” he said. The room’s television had been moved to face the door, and Adamski’s dress whites were “draped over and around the TV.”
On the screen, “there was hard-core gay porn playing.”
Adamski said it felt like more than a prank, and other Marines in his squadron seemingly agreed, trying to find those responsible. However, he was preparing for his first deployment and opted to drop the matter.
But Adamski said that, as word spread of what had happened, he started to hear from both closeted and out servicemembers in the squadron, telling him “that they are upset. That the climate, especially for pilots, is not a good climate and they think that I should report it.”
The three Marines responsible for the incident were subsequently identified, with their squadron commander substantiating Adamski’s account and offering to pull their wings.
Adamski declined, telling KPBS it was too harsh a punishment, and that he’d prefer “an in-person apology from all three of them. I want a meeting, in which they are there and I can talk to them.”
But 18 months later, he has yet to receive those apologies, or a note in the Marines’ permanent records. He had to initiate a Navy Inspector General complaint after the three Marines told their commander that they’d apologized to Adamski.
His career and personal life were also impacted, with fewer flight hours logged and an accident that impacted his ability to qualify to fly, and a relationship with a closeted Air Force pilot ended after he witnessed what happened to Adamski.
Adamski has also had multiple meetings with Naval Air Command regarding his decision to speak out about the homophobic incident.
“I lost a lot. I’m not happy. I no longer feel I’m an effective leader, an officer, a pilot,” Adamski said. “I don’t feel part of the military anymore. I feel segregated.”
Lambda Legal attorney and former Marine Sarah Buchert told KPSB that, despite the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell ten years ago, its impact is still felt.
“It’s one thing to have Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell removed,” Buchert said. “It’s another thing to have a culture where people feel safe being who they are and not have to worry about being discriminated against…a lot of this comes from the top down.”
Adamski said he has now accepted an offer to retire from the Navy, with his official leaving date set for later this year.
However, he has vowed to continue seeking some kind of justice for the incident, saying he’s “not someone who will back down easily or ever. I’m not going to do it.”
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