Reflecting on defining moments of self discovery, M Steve Snyder-hill weaves a tale that culminates in his taking a firm stance for equality.
Many may remember Major Snyder-Hill as the ‘Booed Soldier’ of the 2011 Republican Primary. This event provided the springboard for Major Snyder-Hill to become the voice of gay and lesbian soldiers who, through years of ridicule and fear, were silenced under the policies of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT).
Through his memoir, Soldier of Change, Major Snyder-Hill bravely opens his own closet door in ways that would make many gay men—even openly gay men—apprehensive. He reveals his own struggles as a young man dealing with questions about his sexuality, as well as conflicts he faced during his first tour of duty at age twenty, detailing the challenges and victories that came with coming to terms with his sexuality.
It is clear that DADT had a profound impact on his personal and professional life, as well as on the lives of those around him, as he was essentially required to lie to wear the uniform. He takes the reader along on his second tour, twenty years after his first, when, in an instant, he came out to the world, giving a face to gay men and women in uniform.
Events culminate as he becomes an outspoken advocate for gays and lesbians in the military, as well as their families. Major Snyder-Hill doesn’t stop there, as he and his husband continue to pursue social justice and equality under the law for all those across the LGBT spectrum.
In his memoir, Major Snyder-Hill reflects a profound honesty, and all is done with sensitivity and care. When he injects humor or even deeper meaning into the truly powerful moments of his amazing journey, it rings true.
Where Soldier of Change finds its real power, though, is through the openness and honesty with which it presents the concerns of the LGBT community and its supporters. We are drawn in as the pages verbalize our own internal fears, the struggle to accept our own identities, or, in many cases, the attempts to hide them. We see the fear of being accepted, and of course, even more so the fear of being rejected. Snyder-Hill gives voice to realities that the LGBT community faces on a daily basis in such a way that it seems as though our own lives have somehow been immortalized and shared through the pages of his book.
This book does more than present the reader with a good or even an inspirational story: it encourages us to become co-authors and interlocutors, lending our own voices—our own unique and powerful stories—to the fight for equality. We, too, are called to inspire and change the hearts and minds of others. In this way, stories have a strange power. They evoke the strongest memories and emotions. They pull us into the lives of others: their fears become our own. We feel their sorrow and their joy. We revel in their success and mourn their loss as though it were our own. We live a thousand lives through the eyes of others. But, through words such as those on his pages, we are challenged and inspired; we find strength and hope.
“By having pride in yourself and your community—and coming out and telling your story—you change lives.” It is through telling our own stories that we find the power to become our own communities’ soldiers of change.
“There are moments in your life that permanently scar you. A fraction of a second, one word someone says that you will hold in your memory until the day you die. This day was about one of them.
‘You don’t take it up the ass, do you?’
It’s funny, but I wasn’t even offended at the time—because I didn’t. I kept telling myself, I am not one of them. He was directly asking me if I was gay, but I wasn’t anywhere near ready to even admit that to myself, let alone anyone else.”
— from Soldier of Change
Soldier of Change. Stephen Snyder-Hill. Potomac Books: University of Nebraska Press, 2014. 198 pages.