‘Tell: Love, Defiance, and the Military Trial at the Tipping Point for Gay Rights’
By Major Margaret Witt with Tim Connor, foreword by Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer
No doubt about it: you know the score.
You’ve known it since the beginning because you were told, clearly and unequivocally. There’s no grey area, no questions to ask. You know what’s up but, as in the new book “Tell” by Major Margaret Witt (with Tim Connor), the outcome may be out of your hands anyhow.
For those who love her, Margie Witt has always been known as an active, take-charge, caring person. A tomboy growing up, she befriended the friendless, got along with everyone and was a super-responsible leader. So it was a natural fit when, in 1987, Witt decided to join the Air Force, even though she was gay.
But, of course, nobody was supposed to know that. As an elite member of the military, Witt fully understood that just being gay meant a military discharge. By order, nobody could ask her about that, though; she, in turn, could not discuss her sexuality.
Still, because secrets are never totally secret, Witt was ever-cautious. Fearing rejection, she hadn’t come out to her parents or her siblings yet; on the other hand, close pals knew that Witt was a lesbian, as did a fellow reservist who’d defied “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in order to put his suspicions to rest.
Even Witt’s girlfriend was mum, but there was trouble on that front: Tiffany desperately wanted a baby and was pressing, but Witt was uninterested in parenthood.
With a pregnancy deadline-or-else ultimatum looming, Witt took solace not only in her job as a pediatric physical therapist in Spokane, Wash.,, but also with her friends in the Air Force Reserve and her work as a flight nurse. She kept busy, was sent overseas to the Middle East and received commendations for saving a life there. Her knowledge was admired and, as her relationship crumbled, her natural sense of humor helped her stay level but she needed a confidante. Witt turned to a married-but-“struggling” female colleague who soon became more than just a friend with a sympathetic ear.
And in the ensuing “’very, very ugly’” divorce, in which a soon-to-be-ex-husband seized upon two women spending the night together, DADT was no longer possible.
That, of course, is not the end of what you’ll learn inside “Tell.” There’s much more to the story, sometimes too much.
In an oddly appealing third-person voice, author Witt (with Tim Connor) starts her tale with a deployment and moves quickly to a charmingly nostalgic biography that ultimately loses some of its charm in an overload of details. There are a lot of peripheral people in this tale, the presence of which sometimes feels more shout-out and less necessity.
Stick around: the details have a shift of focus about mid-way here, once you get past the set-up and into the book’s raison d’être. Things move faster in the re-telling of the legal aftermath of Witt’s exposure, the fight for gay rights in the military, and Witt’s own (mostly)-happily-ever-after. That’s what makes this slice-of-life history tale one that’s highly readable and deeply personal.
That’s what makes “Tell” a score.