It was not until 1982 that the Department of Defense enacted a policy explicitly banning gay men and lesbians from its ranks. Same-sex relations and the mention that one was gay prior to 1982 was cause for investigation or discharge. Despite this stigma, or rather because of it, many service members hid their orientation--literally serving in silence. In 1993, the Clinton administration enacted the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, or DADT, allowing closeted LGBTQ people to serve in the military so long as they didn’t announce it. In 2010, under the Obama administration, the U.S. Senate overturned “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, allowing gay, lesbian and bisexual people to openly serve in uniform.  In 2021, acceptance of LGBTQ people in the armed services expanded with the lifting of the ban on transgender service members. 

Join this inter-generational conversation where two Navy veterans reflect on their military careers serving as gay service members, the significance of women serving in uniform, the importance of women’s self-reliance, and their individual and collective power to inspire others. Developed in association with Naval History and Heritage Command, Office of the Director’s Action Group, this program will air on the museum’s Facebook page.     


About the Speakers:  

Rear Admiral Sandra Adams served as a Navy officer for 34 years. Originally from Michigan, she has lived in California for over 20 years. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Michigan State University and a Master of Arts degree from the Naval War College. After receiving her commission through Officer Candidate School in 1981 and completing Surface Warfare School, she was assigned to USS Puget Sound (AD 38), based in Italy, as SIXTH Fleet flagship. She transitioned to the Naval Reserve at Long Beach Naval station in units including Mobile Inshore Undersea Warfare Unit 105. She has served as the Commanding Officer of the USS Bolster (ARS 38) reserve unit, Mobile Inshore Undersea Warfare Unit 203, reserve headquarters for Naval Forces Japan, and U.S. Pacific Command. ln 2010, while assigned to Afghanistan, served as the senior advisor to an Afghan Minister of Defense Lieutenant General and his staff. Her first Flag Officer assignment was as Deputy Commander, Navy Region Midwest Headquarters, Great Lakes, IL. Prior to retiring she served as Deputy Commander, Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC), Virginia Beach, VA.  


Command Master Chief Octavia D. Harris retired from the Navy in August 2012 after 30 years. She led in commands at sea, ashore and overseas. In 1994, she was assigned to USS Nimitz (CVN 68) as one of the first female Sailors on a combatant warship. During her career, she completed seven Middle East deployments in direct support of the war on terror. Her Command Master Chief at-sea tour was aboard USS Pinckney (DDG 91). Her final tour of duty was as Command Master Chief Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command leading over 10,000 men and women in the Commander’s vision and mission of Information Warfare Dominance across the Enterprise, DoD and Global Operations with our allies. She earned a BA Degree in Healthcare Administration from National University and MS Degree in Healthcare Operations Management from the University of Arkansas. Most recently Harris was Program Manager for the Comprehensive Advanced Restorative Effort (CARE) program at Naval Medical Center San Diego.  She was recently appointed by the Secretary of the Department of Defense as the Subcommittee Chair (Employment and Integration) of the Defense Advisory Committee On Women in The Services (DOWITS), and Chair of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee on Women Veterans (ACWV). Born and raised in New York City, she currently resides in San Antonio, TX. 


Register for this program on Eventbrite. Email with issues concerning Facebook access.  



Left: RADM Sandra “Sandy” Adams, USN (Ret), and CMC Octavia Harris, USN (Ret)