She dated a girl named Martha who would be known as Mark. Then it was Jessica, who was known as John. Korrie Bayer was extra careful while serving in the Navy with its Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy toward homosexuality.
Bayer joined in 1996 and left for Boot Camp in Great Lakes, Ill., days before Christmas that year. Less than a year later, she confirmed to herself that she was gay.
Bayer served four of her six-year enlistment, spending time in the Chicagoland area and in San Diego, including a stint on the USS Boxer out of Southern California. Ultimately, she wrote a letter to her captain, stating that the Navy's policy toward gays in the military was 'horrible' and that she could not support it anymore by serving in the Navy.
Six week after out-ing herself to her captain, Bayer was a civilian.
Her discharge papers arrived March 9, 2001, stating: Homosexual Conduct Admission. Ironically, she was to leave San Diego on March 14 for a six-month deployment, which would have ended about the time of the tragic terrorist activities now known as 9/11.
'I had to put on a great facade that I was heterosexual, but, I'm just not a very good liar,' said Bayer, now 28 and living on the West Side of Chicago. 'If I had come out ( as gay ) before I joined ( the military ) , I don't know if I would have joined. But I probably would have. If I had the chance to do it all over again, yeah, I probably would. I don't believe in regrets. I know the military experience helped make me who I am.'
Bayer said she dated females throughout her enlistment. In fact, at one point she lived with a girlfriend. However, she never dated anyone in the military. That was not an option, she said.
Bayer was one of about 300 females on the ship of about 3,000.
She knew about 12 lesbians and 10 gay men.
'It really sucked for my parents because they had to be a lot more closeted than I did. There just are not a lot of Jewish girls from suburban Detroit joining the military,' she said. 'One of the reasons gays are not allowed in the military is because they can be blackmailed and, thus, a security risk. But they can only be blackmailed because the policy doesn't allow them to be out. If gays were allowed in the military, they couldn't be blackmailed, but that logic doesn't seem to exist.
'It's a lot harder to be a gay man than a gay woman in the military. There was that constant looking-over-your-shoulder. You always had to be careful who your friends were and who knew, because anyone can out you.'
Bayer is still fighting nowadays, but by her choice.
She is a boxer who trains at Cornerstone Gym on North Harlem. Bayer will compete in the 2006 Chicago Golden Gloves, which runs through April 7 at St. Andrew's Gym ( 1658 W. Addison, Chicago ) .
'Every time I move to a new city, I pick up a new sport,' she said, laughing. 'When I moved to Minnesota, I started playing rugby. When I moved to Boston, I started rowing crew because how can you pass up the chance to row on the Charles ( River ) . When I moved to Chicago ( about three years ago ) , I moved less than a mile from Hamlin Park—and they have boxing, so I just figured I'd start boxing.'
She has been training for almost three years and has a 1-1 record in amateur fights, although her lone victory came by default; there were no females in her weight class.
Bayer suffered her lone loss in 2005, fighting at 165-pounds.
She is now in the 156-pound division.
'I love boxing; it's so much fun. It's a great stress-reliever. After a long day of work, it's nice to go beat the hell out of someone,' she said, laughing. 'I tend to be an aggressive boxer, mostly because I have to. At the gym I train at, there are a lot of taller girls than me, so they'd have that reach advantage against me.'
Bayer said she has not been hurt in a fight or a sparring session. 'About the closest I've gotten to being injured is, after my fight last year, I had the marking of kind of a black eye, but it was barely visible,' she said. 'There have been no bloody noses and no bruises. So I must be doing something right.'
Bayer is one of five females at Cornerstone, four of whom will compete in the Golden Gloves. She is the only lesbian.
'The ones I've met have all been straight and it's been no problem,' that I am lesbian, she said. 'I have my 10-year high school reunion upcoming and, if I could get in just one pro fight ( before the reunion ) , I'd be cool to say, 'I'm a professional fighter.'
'Either way, I enjoy amateur boxing.'
Ironically, though, she admitted she did not like boxing as a youngster.
'I thought it was silly, two guys hitting each other,' she said. 'But once I started doing it, I realized what an art boxing is. Being able to read what someone is going to do, and then trying to adjust your style accordingly, is interesting, to say the least. There are a million things to think about in a match, but when you're in the ring, you can't be thinking about them; you have to work on instinct.'