HARTFORD, Conn. -- With the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" effective yesterday morning, Katherine "Katie" Miller said she woke up and "I felt a little bit lighter. It just felt like the world was a better place today."
Ms. Miller, a Findlay High School graduate, was a top cadet who left West Point a year ago to enter Yale University because, as a lesbian, she could no longer live with the military requirement that she hide her sexual orientation.
"First I started lying because I thought that was the way to handle it," she reflected a year ago on her experience at the academy. "The lies started spiraling to the point where I didn't even know who I was."
Now a Yale senior slated to graduate in May as a political science major, Miller, 21, said "it feels amazing" to think that she will be able to re-enter the military and be honest about her sexual identity.
When President Obama signed legislation repealing "don't ask, don't tell" in December, Ms. Miller reapplied to West Point, but she was turned down in April because at that time it was unclear exactly when the policy would be lifted.
That was disappointing, she said, but she plans to start officer candidate school after Yale, which, she said, is "an equally good way to get into the military" as graduating from West Point.
Of her experience at Yale, she said, "I've thoroughly enjoyed it. It's been a whole other experience -- a little bit of a shock."
At Yale, she said, the freedom to be herself and speak her mind -- "that's been wonderful."
"It felt great having a political voice," Ms. Miller said. "I wasn't silent anymore. I could say what was on my mind." Ms. Miller did a lot of public speaking and appeared on television shows with Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, and Anderson Cooper. Her story was on the front page of the New York Times and she accompanied Lady Gaga to MTV's Video Music Awards last year.
Also, while at Yale, she said, she got to see "an actual functioning LBGT (lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender) community whereas at West Point it's very much hidden and secret … We all felt that sense of shame being part of a counterculture."
At Yale, she's also learned more about being a feminist, she said. "That was kind of a derogatory term at West Point. At West Point, it was synonymous with being a man-hater. … At Yale, everyone had a sense of respect and regard for women."
Ms. Miller acknowledged that in some ways it will be hard to go back into the military.