Rich Merritt

Rich Merritt

Rich Merritt was born in 1967 in Greenville, South Carolina. In 1973, his parents enrolled him in the first grade at Bob Jones Elementary School where he would receive his education all the way through high school. He then attended Bob Jones University for two years.While still attending BJU, Merritt enlisted in the United States Marine Corps Reserve. After returning from boot camp at Parris Island, Bob Jones University seemed unbearably narrow-minded and the exclusivity demanded by fundamentalism seemed the height of arrogance.

Within two semesters, Rich Merritt was expelled from Bob Jones University. He graduated from Clemson University and became an officer in the Marines, serving nearly eight years on active duty. He "came out" of the closet - at least, the closet of denial - at the age of 25 while stationed in Okinawa, Japan.

In 1998 Rich Merritt received an honorable discharge from the United States Marines Corps and in 2001 he graduated from the University of Southern California Law School. He is presently an attorney in Atlanta.

Rich Merritt now spends much of his time speaking to a variety of organizations. Among the messages he shares is a plum piece of advice given to him by a wise therapist:

Our secrets keep us sick.

Spiritual Probation

A Novel

CreateSpace Independent Publishing (October 2012)

Nate O'Connor wants to do right. His senior year of college, though, gets off to a rocky start. He's a student at Bob Johnson University, the flagship institution of higher learning in American fundamentalism, where he and his best friend are placed on spiritual probation after being accused of disloyalty to the school. Their attempt to repair their reputation backfires and when Nate meets two women--one beautiful and smart, the other wise and charming--his entire belief system is uprooted. Nate's world is further rocked by tragedy and his life will never be the same.

This book is for you if:

— You know little or nothing about the fundamentalist movement in America but you want to understand why it has become such a prominent force in our government;

— You are concerned or curious about the problem of religious abuse and spiritual bullying that takes place in fundamentalist churches and schools;

— You are still part of the fundamentalist movement but you have doubts, questions or concerns; or

— You want to be moved by reading a good story that will make you laugh, cry and become angry.


Code of Conduct
(Kensington; FICTG edition, 2008)

"You've gotten away with it for so long, you think you're immune to the danger..."

At thirty-three, Don Hawkins has spent the better part of his life, in every sense, as a U.S. Marine. Enlisting to escape an alcoholic father and stepmother, he became the unofficial leader of a group of gay servicemen and women, all compelled to guard their sexual identity as faithfully as they serve their country. But with newly inaugurated President Clinton's promise to lift the ban on gays in the military, Don is optimistic that a brighter era is dawning--and not just politically.

Ten years now since his lover died in Beirut, Don is finally ready to love again, and falls headlong for Patrick, a handsome young helicopter pilot. As their relationship develops, Don lets his guard down--in potentially dangerous ways. Because forces are at work in the Naval Investigative Service, in Congress, and even in the bars and clubs that Don views as his turf, with a vicious agenda that will have unforeseen consequences...

Drawing on his own experiences as a Marine, Rich Merritt has crafted an extraordinary story of love, loss, duty, betrayal, and hope. Most of all, Code of Conduct is a deeply compelling exploration of the power of loyalty--to friends, lovers, country, and the unwavering dictates of our own hearts.


Secrets of a Gay Marine Porn Star
(Kensington, 2005)

Secrets of a Gay Marine Porn Star is the true tale of self-realization by a man who cannot be defined by the standards of others. As we all must find our own way, Merritt found his; it just happened to take him through intense fundamentalist brainwashing, self-hatred, the military, the adult film industry, addiction, suicide attempts and law school before he found happiness.


Spiritual Probation

"Setting his tale inside the closed society of a fundamentalist university, Rich Merritt tells a fascinating story that is alternately disturbing and inspiring. Spiritual Probation opened my eyes and touched my heart.
— Joe DiPietro, Tony Award-winning playwright of Memphis

"In every decade, a true classic emerges, which demonstrates the strength of the human will to conquer and survive the ills of its society. Merritt has written such a work in this coming-of-age story of courage and conviction in a world that is perceptively lacking in empathy and compassion for the individual spirit and soul. A poignant 'must read' for such present times, which is so heavily burdened with the painful effects of  emotional bullying and spiritual abuse, so currently at the forefront of daily life."
— Lynda Mandell, M.D., Ph.D., Board Certified Psychiatrist

"For those of us who have left fundamentalism, our exodus stories are often met with a caveat-emptor-inspired 'You chose to go there!' or a flippant 'You should have known better!' Merritt's Spiritual Probation meets those consumerist dismissals head on. Merritt's is a very human story--with bright, promising young people caught in an oppressive, intrusive ideology and thrown into the most senseless tragedy. Few have endured the premature death of a loved one and a federal lawsuit, but we on this side of the fundamentalist subculture have consistently survived public humiliation, veiled threats, and metaphysical 'probations.' This story is our story, and it demonstrates how the so-called 'choice' was initially not ours to make and our 'foreknowledge' was limited at best."
— Camille K. Lewis, Ph.D., author of Romancing the Difference: Kenneth Burke, Bob Jones University, and the Rhetoric of Religious Fundamentalism.


Code of Conduct

From Publishers Weekly
Memoirist Merritt (Secrets of a Gay Marine Porn Star) delivers a thought-provoking fiction on the problem of being gay in the military. As Clinton begins putting the don't ask, don't tell policy into place in the early 1990s, closeted and disturbed Naval Investigative Service Agent Jay Gared goes on a mission to catch violators of Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice—i.e., the rule that states sodomy is a criminal act. Chief Petty Officer Eddie L. Johnson, who has been switching blood test vials for six years to get around the service's mandatory HIV test, gets into Jay's sights. When Eddie catches Jay snooping in his home, Jay shoots Eddie and fakes Eddie's suicide. Shocked friends and family know better, and for a group of close-knit gay and lesbian military personnel, the suicide is a call to arms. Marine Gunnery Sgt. Donald A. Hawkins, a gay rights advocate, vows to learn the truth. Merritt raises provocative questions and delivers a graphic crime tale.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Reviews
A novel of romance and intrigue from former Marine Merritt (Secrets of a Gay Marine Porn Star, 2005).Don, a Marine, and his best friend Eddie, a sailor, are part of a closely knit group of gay men and women in uniform. These individuals have made careers for themselves in the military, and the life they have chosen means they must keep an essential part of themselves a secret from all but their closest friends who share that secret. But it's 1993, and there's a glimmer of hope on the horizon: Bill Clinton has just been inaugurated, and he's promised to end the ban on gays in the military. Don's circle of friends has other reasons to be optimistic, too. Eddie is just beginning to emerge from the despair that overwhelmed him when he lost his lover to AIDS, and Don has embarked on an exciting new relationship with the sweet and handsome young Patrick, a marine eager to finally embrace his sexuality. But the happiness Don and his friends experience is short-lived. Clinton's promise turns into the compromise of "Don't ask, don't tell." And the gay marines and sailors of San Diego face a more immediate threat in the form of Jay Gared, an agent for the Naval Investigative Service who will do anything - anything - to expose homosexuals in the military. Merritt makes a persuasive case when he argues that a policy meant to foster cohesiveness actually creates a class of servicemen and servicewomen who can never wholly trust their brothers and sisters in arms. And his depiction of the crushing disappointment and sense of betrayal felt by many gays in the military when Clinton was unable to deliver on his pledge is poignant. But the narrative is a mess. The main characters are flimsy and Agent Gared, the villain, is a cartoon. The plot is both overblown and underdeveloped. The dialogue is, more often than not, painfully stilted, and the pace is frequently excruciating. Intriguing subject, terrible execution.


Secrets of a Gay Marine Porn Star

THE MOST IMPORTANT AUTOBIOGRAPHY BY A GAY MILITARY MAN IN 25 YEARS. Merritt authoritatively documents that, for the Marines he served with, his "secret" sexual proclivity was not a big deal. Having found acceptance where he least expected it, it was all the more torturous when he was "gay-bashed" on the cover of the widest-circulation gay magazine in the U.S. His crime? Modeling in the nude. After surviving 20 years forcibly steeped in the darkest wells of puritan-fringe cult lunacy, Merritt was crassly condemned for "sexual impropriety" by "the gay community" in The Advocate, a sister publication of Freshmen, Men, Unzipped, etc. Merritt's succinct concluding observation (in the book) subtly transcends clichéd idealized notions of Marine brotherhood, gay community, and even Christian "fishers of men." What keeps us alive? Strong friendship.
--Steven Zeeland, Author, The Masculine Marine: Homoeroticism in the U.S. Marine Corps

Merritt has written a powerfully honest and compelling story of living two lives. One is of service to his country and one is of courageously seeking to come to terms with being a sexual human being.
--David Mixner, Political Activist and Author, Stranger Among Friends

If only we all could be this honest about ourselves (and this forgiving of our critics).
--Leslie Lange, Author, Dyke Drama: Your Guide To Getting Out Alive

This is a timely and powerful memoir, an eye-opening survey of wildly incompatible worlds including Bob Jones University, the gay Marine underground, the porn industry, and the circuit party ghetto. At a moment when our country has fallen prey to the lure of various Fundamentalisms, this book issues a compelling indictment of what its author calls "the internal tyranny of fundamentalist dogma." Secrets of a Gay Marine Porn Star spellbindingly charts a young man's perilous journey from the iron-clad, killing certainties of his upbringing to adulthood's hard-won self-acceptance and compassion. Rich Merritt writes incisively and, indeed, often quite sexily about a life of closets, confusion and, finally, the great courage of his convictions.
--Paul Russell, Author, War Against the Animals and The Coming Storm

Rich Merritt writes an honest, inspiring, sexy, funny, and courageous story. It is filled with insights into military life and the workings of the media, but what truly resonates is the account of one man's journey to self-acceptance and the welcoming, joyous embrace of gay culture.
--William J. Mann, Biographer and Novelist, Edge Of Midnight: The Life of John Schlesinger and Where the Boys Are

Inspiring, thought-provoking, and brutally honest, Rich Merritt's story is much more than that of a Marine who found himself at the center of a political firestorm. It is the story of a young man's coming of age, of the hypocrisy of the gay media and political organizations, and, ultimately, of what it means to come to terms with who you are while being pulled in multiple directions.
--Michael Thomas Ford, Author, Tangled Sheets, Alec Baldwin Doesn't Love Me, and other books

Rich Merritt's had an amazing ride, and his memoir rivetingly takes us along on it, tying together his disparate roles - good Christian, porn star, military gay - with saucy wisdom. You couldn't make this stuff up!
--Michael Musto, The Village Voice

For more information on Rich and his work, visit his website at