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Cross-dressers have often been misunderstood and maligned, especially in societies with rigid gender roles.
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Darren Manzella urging the repeal of DADT.
Darren Manzella, one of the heroes in the struggle against Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT), the policy that barred openly gay servicemembers in the U.S. military, died on August 29, 2013 as the result of injuries sustained in an automobile accident in Pittsford, New York.
Manzella came to national attention in 2007 when he announced on the CBS newsprogram 60 Minutes that he was gay. He became the first openly gay service member on active duty to speak to the press from a war zone.
Manzella joined the U.S. Army in April 2002. In March of 2004, he deployed to Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II.
Rising to the rank of Sergeant in the medical corps, he provided medical services during more than one hundred 12-hour patrols on the streets of Baghdad.
While under fire, Manzella cared for Iraqi National Guardsmen, Iraqi civilians, and his fellow service members. He earned the Combat Medical Badge, a swift promotion, and several other awards honoring his courage and devotion to duty.
He returned for a second tour of duty in the Middle East in 2006 and was stationed in Kuwait when he appeared on 60 Minutes.
Manzella had earlier come out to his commander and members of his unit, but the Army had declined to discharge him, illustrating the military's unofficial policy of discharging openly gay servicemembers only after they returned from dangerous assignments in war zones. Such a practice gave the lie to the argument that DADT was necessary to preserve unit cohesion.
After his appearance on national television, however, Manzella was speedily discharged.
He worked for the repeal of DADT with the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.
After the repeal of DADT in 2011, he enlisted in the New York Army National Guard.
In 2011, Manzella accepted a position as health services specialist with the Department of Veteran Affairs in Rochester, New York.
On July 5, 2013, Manzella married Javier Lapeira in Rochester.
According to deputies with the Monroe County Sheriff's Office, as Manzella was trying to push his car off the highway after a minor crash, another vehicle hit him from behind. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
In addition to his husband Javier Lapeira, Manzella is survived by his parents and siblings and other relatives.
In the clip below, from the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, Manzella urged the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.