The first openly gay psychology resident in the
U.S. Air Force talks about finally getting his dream job.
BY HARRIET BROWN
s a high school student in rural Wisconsin,
Air Force pilot. When a recruiter came to his high school,
Simonson signed up to talk to him. Turned out there was one
insurmountable problem: Simonson is gay. “I came out when I
was 12,” he says. “The recruiter told me, ‘At this time, you could
The military’s attitude toward homosexuality goes back
to 1778, when Frederick Gotthold Enslin became the first
American soldier to be discharged from the army because he
was gay. Under “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT), the Clinton-
era policy compromise that let lesbian and gay service members
serve as long as they didn’t act on or reveal their sexual
orientation, more than 13,000 troops were discharged for being
gay. Others, like Jordan Simonson, simply didn’t pursue careers
in the military in the first place.
Jordan Simonson dreamed of serving his country as a U.S.
“That work helped me better understand the issues LGBT
youth face in our world today, their strengths and the kinds of
interventions that may ensure the success of this generation,” he
It also inspired and informed his research on anxiety and
depression in the LGBT community, especially among children
In his third year of graduate school, Simonson was dating
a former Army sergeant, who heard through the veterans’
grapevine that “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” was likely to be repealed.
“That was a pleasant surprise,” says Simonson. “I thought it
would take a lot longer.”
By that point he had friends in the military, and he’d
become aware of the mental health issues service members
and veterans faced. So, he called each Air Force training site
and talked with the training directors, mentioning the fact
that he was gay and asking if he might be a good fit there. In
September 2011, DADT was repealed, and Simonson applied
for a psychology internship with the Air Force. In August 2012,
Simonson became the first openly gay psychology resident in
the U.S. military.
Simonson is now completing his internship at the Malcolm
Grow Medical Clinic at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. He
says repeal offers benefits to both gay and straight service
members. Gay friends who had to keep rigid boundaries