Rob Smith is an openly gay Iraq war veteran, journalist, and author of the #1 bestseller Closets, Combat and Coming Out: Coming Of Age As A Gay Man In The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Army, which is the recipient of the 2015 National Indie Excellence Book Award for LGBT Nonfiction and a nominee for the 2015 Lambda Literary Award for Memoir.
He served for 5 years in the United States Army as an Infantryman and deployed to both Kuwait and Iraq, earning the Army Commendation Medal and Combat Infantry Badge in the process. In 2010 he was arrested at the White House with 12 other LGBT activists in protest of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law which barred lesbian, gay, and bisexual soldiers from serving openly, and he was later a guest of President Barack Obama at the ceremony that repealed the law.
He has spoken about veterans’ issues and LGBT rights and empowerment at dozens of college campuses, pride events, and corporate functions across the United States, including Vanderbilt University, Virginia Tech, the Reaching Out LGBT MBA Conference, and the 2014 Midwest Bisexual Lesbian Gay Transgender and Allies College Conference among many more.
In 2014, he served as the Grand Marshal of the Key West Pride Parade, and was a featured speaker at the NYC Pride Rally. He recently pioneered video coverage of the Democratic and Republican National Conventions for NBC Out, the first LGBT-focused vertical from a mainstream news organization.
He is a recipient of the 2015 National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association (NLGJA) award for Excellence In Blogging, and the 2016 Gay City News LGBT Impact Award for multimedia coverage of issues impacting the LGBT community. He holds an M.S. in Journalism from Columbia University. He’s been featured on HLN’s The Daily Share, Huffpost Live, Dr. Drew On Call, and Arise Television. As a writer his work has been published at NBC News, CNN.com, The Advocate, Salon.com, The New York Post, and Metro Weekly among many others.
Lectures for '16'-17
The State of LGBTQ People Of Color in 2016 and Beyond
Thanks to trailblazers like Laverne Cox, Empire star Jussie Smollett, and sports icons like Jason Collins, LGBTQ people of color are more visible than ever. However, the life of the average LGBTQ person of color is far different than that of those of our most prominent figures. QPOC contend with with racism within the LGBT community, institutional and economic barriers to resources and healthcare, and HIV/AIDS rates that continue to rise even as they stabilize among other communities.
Openly gay Iraq war veteran, author, and journalist Rob Smith has been on the front lines of all these issues. As a journalist exploring economic differences in access to PrEP for HIV prevention as a part of a Columbia University journalism project, he spoke with young black gay men and healthcare professionals who were on the front lines of advocacy. As one of few black, gay figures involved in the fight against DADT, he spoke and reported about how African-American soldiers were disproportionately affected by the discriminatory law, and advocated for open service by transgender service members post-DADT repeal. Finally, as a black gay man negotiating a career in media and advocacy, he’s dealt with his own share of racism in the wider LGBTQ community.
In his lecture The State of LGBTQ People of Color in 2016 and Beyond, he offers sobering statistics and anecdotes from his own life as well as his journalistic work in the hopes of giving allies of LGBTQ people of color an insight into the issues we face, and the tools and advice that POC ourselves need to survive in a society where the deck is stacked against us.
CLOSETS, COMBAT AND COMING OUT:FINDING THE PATH TO PRIDE
Rob Smith entered the U.S. Army as a closeted teen and emerged as a decorated war veteran before becoming a national figure in the anti-DADT movement. In his lecture Closets, Combat and Coming Out: Finding the Path to Pride, he details his life as a closeted soldier, his experiences at war, and the transition into becoming a leading voice for veterans and LGBTQ people - first as an activist - now as a Columbia University educated multimedia journalist who currently reports for NBC News, Time, and AOL.
In his Lambda-Literary Award-nominated memoir Closets, Combat and Coming Out: Coming of Age as a Gay Soldier in the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Army, Smith wrote a personal and deeply compelling chronicle of the coming out process and the experiences and effects of war. Smith has given lectures and workshops about the issues faced by veterans all across the country. In this conversation spanning intersectional issues of Veterans’ rights and LGBTQ struggles he goes in depth into the challenges that young LGBTQ people face, as well as the challenges that veterans face on the battlefield - and the home front.