CAF Story | CAF Pride

Video / August 24, 2020


People make a lot of assumptions about people of certain sexual orientations. Those stereotypes definitely made it hard for me to realize who I was.

My name is Second Lieutenant John Byrtus. I'm a Public Affairs Officer and I work with the Director of Air Force Public Affairs. I always wanted to join the army ever since I was very, very young. My great-grandfather served in World War II. My dad was in the Navy for 23 years. Actually, everyone in the Forces right now with the last name Byrtus is related to me.

As a bisexual person in the Canadian Armed Forces, I can tell you that he hasn't always been easy. But if I can make it easier for one or two people, everything's worth it, right? Early on in my career, I wasn't out and I definitely realize now that I experienced harassment about it. The thing about people of other sexual orientations in the Canadian Armed Forces is it's been like that forever. For the longest time, gay people were really good at hiding the fact that they were gay, because they really needed to. For the first few years there, I didn't really feel like I can go to my chain of command and go: "Hey, I am being made fun of." Or "Someone's making fun of someone for their sexuality." But since then, I want to say that it's changed a lot. Nowadays, I don't know who I couldn't go to.

The reason I say it's changed a lot in the past ten years is because of the turnover of that old guard. But we have to acknowledge the bad things the Canadian Armed Forces have done in the past. We have to know that an organization is just made up of people, and as the people changed, so does the organization.

The stereotypes of men who have sex with men as being particularly flamboyant, it didn't make it hard for me to come out. It made it hard for me to realize that I was gay. If you don't feel like talking about it. If you feel like that's your personal things, that's okay. Just know that there are people out there you can talk to. It's hard keeping secrets for a long period of time.

I joined when I was 16. For once, there was like a greater purpose. When you're sitting there, cold and wet, what really matters is the person next to you and the job you have to do.

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