Friday, May 28, 2010

Ending Don't Ask, Don't Tell

I just got off the phone with a friend of mine who has been serving in the military for the past ten years. She told me she hasn't been able to sleep since last night's vote by the House of Representatives to eliminate Don't Ask Don't Tell. The vote was 234 to 194 to end this discriminatory policy that has caused so many service people to live in the closet and so many to have been dismissed from the military.

My friend, who is a happily out lesbian in her personal life, has lived "don't tell" for her entire military career. That's meant having to never answer questions about whether she's married or partnered, never having a picture of her partner on her desk or being able to bring her to a social event, and worrying during dangerous overseas assignments about how her partner would learn if something happened to her. It's meant never sharing with her work colleagues about her outside life and trying to "pass" as heterosexual.

I've admired her commitment to her military career but have always wondered about the cost to her well being to living such a bifurcated life.

There's still a vote in the Senate to come, but the Senate Armed Services Committee also voted yesterday to repeal DADT as it is known. Some military chaplains have expressed their dismay that they won't know how to minister to gay service people. Some have wondered how they will be able to handle sleeping quarters for gay and straight men and women. The quick answer is, "you already do." There is no reason to believe that the military doesn't already reflect the general population figures that at least 4% of people are gay or lesbian.

The larger answer though is that discrimination doesn't belong in the military. The military was able to integrate people of color. They have slowly been figuring out how to integrate women. And they will be able to do so for gay, lesbian, and bisexual military as well.

The decision to publicly affirm one's sexual orientation -- whether straight, gay, lesbian, or bisexual -- should be up to the individual, not public policy. It's time -- it's past time -- for the Congress and the military to reverse policies of exclusion for my friend -- and all the other GLB servicepeople proudly serving their country.


Janet L. Bohren said...

European military services have integrated gay and lesbian men and women for years successfully -- does our military and congress have blinders on in regard to this?
Do hope full senate passes the repeal and finally your friend and others can serve and not fear being "outed" and losing their chosen profession.

Desmond Ravenstone said...

My grandfather was a Naval veteran, having seen combat in command of a destroyer in the Pacific theater of WWII, then did humanitarian relief in post-war China. When DADT was first proposed, he revealed that he was well aware that some of the men who served under his command were gay -- and that it didn't matter a bit.

He passed away a few months ago. Were he still alive, I'm sure he'd say with a grin: "It's about time!"

Kay & Sarah said...

I am afraid that allowing the GLB folk to serve is not as simple as changing the law. One important factor will be other people's perception of the GLB community as an abomination gathered and carried from home churches and families who are homophobic teaching their children to also be homophobic.

Clashes will happen within the ranks against each other.


Nicholas Barnard said...

Sarah I'm quite sure it is illegal for one service member to harass another service member. I presume it will remain so.