Rand Henderson was born in Oak Harbor, Washington. The son of a Naval Officer, Rand lived in several states on both coasts of the U.S. and did a stint in Taiwan as well. After his father retried, he managed to matriculate at one high school and graduated in 1965 from Princess Anne High School in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He received a competitive nomination to the Naval Academy from Thomas N. Downing, Congressman for Virginia’s 1st Congressional District.
While at Navy, Rand struggled through all the math and science courses that were mandatory at the time. He found his home, though, in the English, History & Government Department and proudly earned a “Bull” major in Foreign Affairs. When not helping his classmates with term papers and research projects, Rand spent his “free” time with Navy’s debate team, traveling all over the country and gaining experience that would prove useful after his naval career.
Rand opted to enter the submarine force upon graduation and is happy to verify that all those “urban legends” about interviews with Admiral Rickover are absolutely true. After surviving Nuclear Power School, Rand reported aboard USS HAMMERHEAD (SSN 663) in January 1971. He remained aboard HAMMERHEAD for the rest of his five year obligation, serving as SONAR Officer, Electrical Division Officer and finally as Communications Officer. Among other “at sea” adventures, he had the opportunity to live The Hunt for Red October and was deployed to the Mediterranean for 6 months. While he very much enjoyed his time at sea, it was his experience during a one-year overhaul at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, that led him to decide he might be happier in another line of work.
After leaving the Navy in 1974, Rand attended Wake University School of Law and graduated, with honors, in 1977. Joining the Law Department of Gulf Oil Corporation, he practiced law in North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Texas before finally settling down in California, where he has lived since 1987. He practiced law both in house with Gulf and as Of Counsel to Paul, Hastings, Janofsky & Walker in Los Angeles. He is now a sole practitioner in Pasadena, California. While the bulk of Rand’s early career involved complex, commercial litigation (the debate experience at Navy did prove useful), he now focuses on mediation in an effort to help litigants actually find true resolution to their disputes. You can learn more about Rand’s practice at TrueResolution.com.
Rand is among that large percentage of gay Navy alumni who got married. Sadly, his wife passed away barely 14 months later, and he did not remarry. He has one son and two grandchildren of whom he is immensely proud. And, yes, his family knows he is gay and a member of USNA Out.
I knew for years before I graduated from high school that I was “different,” but I was definitely unwilling, or unable, to admit what that difference was. I graduated from high school two weeks before the Stonewall riots in New York. The word “gay” had not yet been embraced in the American lexicon. The only words I knew of were “faggot,” “queer” and “homo.” And I just couldn’t have been one of those.
A fair amount of my time at Navy was spent wishing that I wasn’t “different,” wishing that I fit in better with the guys. I didn’t date all that much, but no one really seemed to care – no one except me. Every time we came back from leave, we were required to sign an honor pledge that we had not gotten married while on leave and that we had not exhibited any “homosexual tendencies.” I hesitated every time I filled out that card, but I signed it. After all, I hadn’t actually “done” anything. That experience haunts me to this day.
There were very few times during my active duty that the issue of being gay ever came up – but it was always in the background. One night, when I had the duty in port, one of the crew aboard my ship forced himself on a crew member from another ship. The incident was reported and he was, quite quickly, administratively discharged. I interviewed him the following morning and listened as he said he felt like a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders. All I could think is that “I’d love to feel that way, too, but I don’t have the courage to do anything about it.”
I was never really sure exactly why I stayed in the closet as long as I did. In the beginning it was certainly out of fear of rejection and ostracism for being gay. As the years went by, though, a layer of fear about having “lied” by living a “straight” life was added to the mix. Then, in my 50’s, a friend happen to mention “there is no such thing as an inconsequential lie.” I thought about what he said for a long time and finally realized that the greatest lie of all is to live a life that denies who you really are. It was at that point, at the age of 55, that I started coming out – admittedly very, very slowly – but I started. I’ve never looked back.
I was almost positive that I was “alone” during my four years at Navy – like so many other gay and lesbian midshipmen must have felt. I was floored to find out that I had two classmates who were also gay. Sadly, both have now passed away and I never had the chance to say “me too” to either of them. I joined USNA Out initially just as a more public statement that I am gay. It has been that, but it has also been so much more. I have met so many brothers and sisters that I am now privileged to call “friend.” I am proud of my 5 years of active duty and proud of my service to my country. I now wear my class ring for the first time in decades. I attend my 40th Class Reunion in October, 2009. It felt as though I had never left.