USC Gould Search

Rich Merritt Comes Out and Tells

Friday, February 15, 2008

Gay former Marine decries military policies

—By Cecilia Hong

Rich Merritt first publicly revealed his homosexuality over a drink with a lieutenant in a military station in Okinawa, Japan, at the age of 25.

Raised in a conservative family, Merritt struggled with his sexuality through his teen and early adult years. The author of the new book Code of Conduct, published last month by Kensington Publishing Corp., he spoke to USC Law students Feb. 11 during an event sponsored by OUTLaw. Merritt is a 2001 graduate of USC Law.

Rich Merritt, former Marine and porn star, is now a New York attorney and writer
Rich Merritt, former Marine
and gay porn star, is now a
New York attorney and writer
As a teen, Merritt questioned the values of the authority figures around him. His conflict with his sexuality intensified when, at age 17, Merritt found that “he might be attracted to one of his good-looking guy friends” at school. Merritt said that as a student at Bob Jones Elementary School and later Bob Jones University, he resisted doctrines that challenged his own opinions and beliefs about life.

Merritt was ultimately expelled from Bob Jones after being seen “dancing so freely” at a night club one evening. Although he felt somewhat liberated, Merritt said he also felt he “lost everything” familiar about his life and decided to start over by joining the Marine Corps.

“The Marine Corps was a liberalizing experience,” Merritt said. “Joining the Marine Reserves was the first real time away from a Fundamentalist life. It gave me the opportunity to think about life and gave me the chance to live differently.”

Seeing the world and foreign cultures also made him question the ramifications of American policies like “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

“After coming back to the states, I felt that something wasn’t right,” Merritt said. Such policies “really mean that you have to actively lie about who you are. ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ is really hell.”

Merritt rebelled. Instead of talking about his frustrations with stigmas and policies against homosexuality, Merritt said, he vented his anger through writing and an “unhealthy choice to become a porn star.

“I felt like I was going against everything,” Merritt said.

After Merritt’s partner encouraged him to quit the porn industry, Merritt turned to writing as a healthier way to express his feelings. He began writing columns for “The Navy Times,” and in 2005, his autobiography, Secrets of a Gay Marine Porn Star, was published.

“Things can change,” Merritt said of gay rights in America. With more homosexuals coming out, he said gay rights will have to be addressed.

Merritt currently works as contract attorney in New York. His most recent book, Code of Conduct, is a novel that explores what “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” really means for the military. Merritt says the policy destroys unit cohesion by forcing homosexuals to live a lie for the sake of the organization.



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