Peace Corps Service with Pride by Dan Barutta, RPCV Jamaica

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Jamaica: Peace Corps Jamaica : The Peace Corps in Jamaica: Peace Corps Service with Pride by Dan Barutta, RPCV Jamaica

By Admin1 (admin) on Wednesday, July 04, 2001 - 9:25 am: Edit Post

Peace Corps Service with Pride by Dan Barutta, RPCV Jamaica

Peace Corps Service with Pride by Dan Barutta, RPCV Jamaica

Peace Corps Service with Pride

-February 2001
-- Dan Barutta, RPCV

Itís hard to believe that itís more than six years since I packed up my nine boxes of belongings and moved from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. to take a job as Placement Officer with Peace Corps. At my welcome breakfast I couldnít wait to tell people about my involvement with the LGB RPCV Steering Committee, my work with gay youth, and other lesbian and gay activities. It didnít take long for one of my co-workers to sheepishly approach my desk when no one was around and ask, "What does Ďtransgenderedí mean?" From that moment up to my riotous good-bye party this past September in Shriver Hall at Peace Corps Headquarters, I have felt so PROUD to be an openly gay man, an RPCV and a dedicated Federal worker.

Let me touch on some of the milestones. It is because of courageous people like former Associate Director Judy Harrington that our monthly gay and lesbian staff luncheons began in 1994. Judy was also instrumental in paving the way for Peace Corps Director Carol Bellamy to add sexual orientation to Peace Corpsís equal employment opportunity policy. Later, our next Director Mark Gearan added his support. Iíll never forget the day he came to the National Mall on a Sunday afternoon in October of 1996 to read names of people who had died of AIDS from the Names Projectís main stage. He then joined 30 of us (PCVS, RPCVs, friends and family) as we held a memorial service surrounding the beautiful quilt section lovingly sewn by the women and men of our LGB RPCV group in San Francisco. The four panels have the names of 27 RPCVs and staff who had died of AIDS, no doubt a fraction of the actual number. Another high point was the 35th Anniversary of Peace Corps celebration in Washington, also in 1996. Our Washington D.C. LGB RPCV group volunteered to run the registration desk for the entire event. After weeks of preparation (including stuffing packets, making signs, checking lists as we networked the NPCA) we were there in force wearing our RPCV pink triangle buttons in the foyer of the George Washington University gymnasium, the main meeting hall for the conference. It was wonderful to see the surprised and supportive looks of RPCVs, straight and gay, as we helped them register for the conference and answered questions. In the past two years I have been honored to work with two very courageous people: Vic Basile and Kevin Baker. Vic came to Peace Corps just as Judy Harrington was leaving Peace Corps to return to her beloved South Dakota. Immediately Vic had us meeting and planning and we soon became an active chapter of GLOBE - the LGBT Employee Association for Federal workers. How lucky we were to have Vic as part of staff! In addition to having been a VISTA Volunteer he also served as the first Executive Director of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). Thanks to his efforts last year we had the pleasure of hearing House Representative Tammy Baldwin from Wisconsin speak to us about being an openly lesbian member of Congress.

Then there is Kevin Baker who is serving as a the Professional Training Officer in Poland. About a year ago Kevin was asked to write a story for our newsletter about life a as gay overseas staff member in Peace Corps. Kevin went through a lot of soul-searching. Coming out internationally is not an easy decision. He and I exchanged emails as he ruminated about his decision. His courage to publish resulted in an incredible article that I hope all of you have read. (Kevin Bakerís article is available on our web site at

Over the years weíve also marched in the DC Freedom Day Parade, walked in the AIDS Walk, helped organize AIDS Awareness Week at Peace Corps and have supported other diversity programs at Peace Corps Headquarters. The Washington BLADE has also been very supportive of our efforts - weíve had stories published about us including a feature story in August of 1999. In that article the incredible efforts of Dennis Gilligan and the local chapter of our LGB RPCV group were highlighted. Dennis was among the original group of Washingtonians who founded the national group in 1991 at the 30th Anniversary of Peace Corps.

Why do we need openly gay and lesbian staff members here in the US and overseas? While there are a lot of "out" people working at Peace Corps and serving as Volunteers, there are many more closeted people. Of course that is their decision. However, during my time at Headquarters Iíve seen so many people creep out of the closet as they realized they could be who they are and celebrate it! Itís one of the many accomplishments I will treasure from my six years as a Placement Officer and "Queen" of the LGBT employee group. When we can be out, proud and joyous, then we can change peopleís lives.

Even more important, we can help those who are ready to embark on a Peace Corps tour. I cannot count the conversations Iíve had with applicants who want to know what it will be like serving as a lesbian or gay Volunteer. Having the LGB RPCV newsletter to send to interested applicants has also been such a benefit. If an lesbian/gay applicant walks into a Recruiting Office and sees LGB RPCV newsletter on a desk, a rainbow sticker on the wall, a pink triangle on a billboard, she/he will feel so much more at home and hopefully will feel more safe to discuss this with her/his Recruiter. The same can happen at Headquarters as people are placed in projects. Once they get to their country of service, having open and supportive overseas staff becomes even more important.

Having left Peace Corps I am now working at The Corporation for National Service (CNS)- the agency that runs Vista and Americorps programs - in the Recruitment, Placement and Selection Office as a Marketing Specialist. Itís another group of great people interested in national and community service. Once again the challenge continues to be myself and spread the joy that comes from celebrating diversity and doing the best job I can as a dedicated Federal worker.

Dan Barutta was a volunteer in Jamaica before his Peace Corps staff experience. He can be reached at

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Story Source: LGB RPCVs

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Jamaica



By ricomen ( - on Thursday, December 16, 2004 - 11:15 am: Edit Post

I'd like to know if there currently are PC boy in Panama.
I'm gay and would like to know if there are any gay boys here from PC.

By Andre Gillard ( - on Wednesday, March 02, 2005 - 1:19 pm: Edit Post

I'm a long-time friend of Danny Barutta. Trying to get in touch with him. If you know him, please pass this information on to him. Thanks andre

By Jim Greenberg ( - on Friday, May 13, 2005 - 3:58 am: Edit Post

I am also an old friend of Danny Barutta. I'd like to get back in touch with him. If you are in touch with him, please let forward my email on to him. Thanks Jim Greenberg

By sonja steelman-szymeczek ( - on Tuesday, September 27, 2005 - 2:45 pm: Edit Post

I am trying to get in touch with the members of Jamaica PCV Group 53 to notify them of a group members death. Any ideas?

By sonja steelman-szymeczek ( - on Tuesday, September 27, 2005 - 2:44 pm: Edit Post

I am trying to get in touch with the members of Group 53 to notify them of a group members death. Any ideas?

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