A Canadian soldier who served in Afghanistan says he received a threatening note, written by someone working at Kandahar Airfield, because he is gay.
Warrant Officer Andrew McLean, who had tried to hide his sexual orientation, told CBC News that he found the letter on his work station in September, during his 4½-month tour of duty in Kandahar.
"It said, 'You're gay. Because of this, minus-2' … that's metric [for] six feet, 6½ feet under?" McLean said in an interview from Winnipeg, where he recently took part in the Rick Hansen Relay.
"I went through a lot of emotions. I went through anger, embarrassment, humiliation … fear for my safety."
Canadian Forces officials said a harassment complaint was launched when McLean came forward with the discovery, but a full investigation could not be conducted without knowing who left the note at the NATO-run airfield.
Officials told CBC News on Monday that McLean's complaint was taken seriously, and new military camp harassment policies were even developed as a result.
McLean has since been moved to another job.
Kept sexuality a secret
McLean said he had spent years trying to hide the fact that he was gay.
"I tried every trick in the book to be heterosexual," he said.
When asked why, he replied, "Because that's the conflict. That's what society expects you to be."
"You see the negativity all around you, and why would anybody choose to confront that?" he said.
McLean said he was deployed to Afghanistan in mid-July and spent two months there before the note was left on his desk.
"It was a gut punch," he said. "I had been there for two months, doing a really good job. We were working together."
McLean said he struggled for two days before taking the threat — and the truth about his sexuality — up the chain of command.
"These types of notes are what pushes people over the edge," he said.
Now with his sexuality out in the open, McLean said he feels like he is 100 per cent himself for the first time in his life. He said he hopes his experience will empower other gay men and women to take a stand.
While he said he may never know who left the note on his desk in Kandahar, he said he won't ignore what happened.
"If I don't stand up, who's going to stand up?" he said. "If I don't identify something, then who's going to identify it?"