Jan's Struggle -- a Pride Month Story, by Bill Wanlund

I’ve known Jan Krc casually since the 1990s. He’s a calm, good-humored, good-natured, low-key guy, a good Foreign Service Officer. Jan replaced me as Counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Vienna in 2007.
I also knew a little of his back story – he had come to the U.S. as a child, an immigrant from what was then Czechoslovakia, and felt he owed a debt of sorts to the country his parents had sought and which had taken him in. And, I knew he was gay, had been fired by the U.S. Information Agency years before, after USIA Security learned about his sexuality and had only recently, when I met him, come back to the Agency. 

What I hadn’t known were the details of that experience, or that my friend had become a civil rights hero for his ten-year legal battle with the State Department, which led to his rehiring in 1993. Jan retired in 2018.  

And now the struggle is behind him. Payback time, right?

Well, no. Instead, he opted to be gracious, saying:

“I think it’s great to see our country… standing up for a (gay) minority that is still mistreated in many countries around the world. So, we’re not only doing outreach representing America, its democratic principles, and its tolerance, but also helping oppressed people around the world that need our help. I think it’s one of the best things that’s happened in our Foreign Service in many years.”

In the photo, Jan Krc, marching in the Vienna Gay Pride Parade with Ambassador to Austria Victoria Kennedy on June 8, 2024. Photo courtesy of Jan Krc.

As with any inclusionary social movement, it’s difficult to say when the struggle for full gay rights will end, if it ever does. There are only milestones along the way that are reminders of progress but also of what it took to get there. Jan’s story is like that: The resolution of his legal case was indeed a civil rights milestone. But an often-overlooked part of the story – the bulk of the iceberg -- is the diligent,10-year effort by Jan and some equally committed supporters to bring it home. Every movement needs that commitment.

Jan told his story in 2016 to interviewer Mark Tauber for the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training. Please read it; click here to do so.
Jan also figures prominently in 
this Atlantic magazine article by Jonathan Rauch from February. The article deals with “the lavender scare” – the historical treatment by the federal government of its queer employees. 

Bill Wanlund is a PDCA Board Member, retired Foreign Service Officer, and freelance writer in the Washington, DC, area. His column, Worth Noting, appears occasionally in the PDCA Weekly Update; it seeks to address topics of interest to PDCA members.