Don’t Ask Don’t Tell

dadt_by_jeriluIn 1951 the US military declared homosexuality an unacceptable risk and dishonorably discharged about 2,000 men and women. With that said, gay and lesbian soldiers have come a long way in gaining some acceptance and openness in the military. But is it enough?

The gay marriage debate has caused me to reflect on so many other issues currently affecting the community. Although President Obama has not followed in Clinton’s footsteps by showing any interest in reevaluating “don’t ask, don’t tell” it wasn’t any less of a hot topic for social conservatives during the 2008 presidential primary.  The focus on the economy has been a driving force and primary topic of  focus as of late, but with the gay marriage debate heating up daily and changing public opinion, this particular debate looms in the distance. As the fight for gay marriage picks up steam, gays and lesbians are constantly on alert about their sexuality and behavior while serving domestically and overseas. I consider Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell  a legislative band aid to a problem that must be addressed in the near future due to pressure from the political right-wing, and some supposed liberals as well. For now, it’s taken a backseat to gay marriage.

I suspect that with changing attitudes about gays and lesbians being allowed to serve starting back in the early 2000s, the biggest deterrent to openly serving is the fact that it opens the doors for other civil rights and liberties to be requested and granted, and quite possibly all of them. It’s also a point of contention that the government is allowed to openly discriminate, while also affording certain protections to those facing that discrimination. And as much as some staunch civil rights proponents wish to contend that the fight for gay rights is nothing like the black plight, these battles share similar arguments for and against. When the military began integrating blacks into the core, some of the same arguments were voiced and subsequently put to rest or shown as being based on nothing factual and mostly out of fear of inclusion.

Opponents of openly serving: Straight men who do not like to be objectified and more importantly objectified sexually.

Well, who does? And what makes them think that every gay male would want them sexually anyway.

Opponents: Sexual harassment complaints would rise.

There are already many rules and regulations in place to govern how soldiers must behave and the code of professionalism is non-discriminatory. Does it mean that all the sexual harassment complains currently lodged against mostly heterosexual men are only happening because they are allowed to be openly straight? Improper sexual advances are not acceptable in any setting as the rules apply to everyone.

Opponents: Allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly will ruin the good order of the military.

 It was one of the same arguments used  against Blacks integrating, along with the criticisms that they couldn’t see at night or swim.  And it’s the same argument against women being deployed to forward operations units overseas. In each of those occurrences the military did not collapse, fall apart or descend into utter chaos once these discriminatory practices were overturned. When a soldier pays with his life in his duty of serving his country and protecting our freedom, his sexual orientation doesn’t and shouldn’t matter to any extent. His body of work is based on how he lived life above all else, not his sexual preference. I believe that fighting for ones country against many odds is an act of courage. I have respect for what you’ve done regardless of your reasons. I firmly believe that gays and lesbians should be able to openly serve in the US military. What are your thoughts?

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Comments

21 Responses to “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”
  1. Glennisha Morgan says:

    I definitely think that we should be able to serve openly in the military. Don't ask don't tell is one of the most blatantly discriminatory laws ever made. I honestly don't see how people a part of the LGBT community even join the military knowing that their lifestyle isn't accepted. I know I couldn't do it. I'm not a fan of the military period for various reasons anyway but, I definitely would like for my fellow my gays and lesbians to be able to live their lives comfortably.

  2. Meshia says:

    I agree with you on that. Sexuality shouldn't really play a part in wanting to serve ones country. However, I can partially understand why "don't ask don't tell" was instated. If one can recall the story of PFC Barry Winchell, this happened not too long after I'd joined the military myself. This was the story of a young soldier who was beaten to death for falling in love with a transgendered female. Now how the band-aid concept comes into play here is that "don't ask don't tell" was instated for the express purpose of preventing these kinds of hate crimes. In a sense it benefits the service member if his sexuality is not openly disclosed. The military doesn't really have any other kind of stipulations established for dealing with hate crimes which is why they chose to cut the middle man out by asking that we not divulge our sexual preferences to other service members. It is a rather lacklustre laissez faire approach to handling a problem that affects society as a whole. Not withstanding, I still do believe that all gay and lesbian soldiers should be able to serve openly. However I also do believe that stricter regulations should be set in place to deal with the onslaught of outright discrimination and hate crimes that would ensue should such a legislation be passed. As per our Government, don't ask don't tell is there for our protection. However it's stil not 100% effective because these things do happen.

  3. Knowledge says:

    Thank you for shedding your personal insight, Meshia. That was needed. I also agree with why DADT was instituted… it's the main reason I didn't attack its merits because I know it was needed and it allowed thousands of gay and lesbian service members to continue serving in silence and without fear of reprisal. Clinton knew what he was doing at the time.

  4. Knowledge says:

    That's my biggest concern. Not that if it was repealed we'll have all these gays proudly declaring their sexuality…. quite the opposite would happen I'm thinking. They'd consider it a silent victory and keep on doing what they've always done and remained discreet.

  5. Glennisha Morgan says:

    You have a good point. That would definitely be defeating the purpose

  6. AJ the DJ says:

    One of my best friends got discharged from the Air Force just because they launched an investigation on her lifestyle. There’s alot more to the story, but it’s very unfortunate and a clear violation of privacy when you can’t be you and live like you want to. This is one of the bissgest reasons I got out the Marines…I felt like I was someone else. I felt so lonely and went through so much. I must say though that gay men in the military find life way more harder for the gay female. Good post.

  7. AJ the DJ says:

    (Sorry for the typos…in a serious hurry).

    • Knowledge says:

      Not a problem, happens to us all. Plus, you got your point across just fine. Sorry to hear that about your friend and you… I think people don't realize how intense it is even with DADT in place. Being able to be yourself shouldn't come with a price. Keep strong.

  8. Alix says:

    I think that Clinton had good intentions when DADT was put into place. I think the mind set that was around when the bill was passed is a bit archaic.

    Do you realize that even though gay marriage isn’t legal in most states, even if a soldier has an unlawful ceremony, they are still in violation?

    In our workplace, we have certain types of protection to make sure that we are not discriminated against because of our sexuality. If the military is indeed a career, why shouldn’t those same protections be in place?

  9. BWABW says:

    I definitely think this policy should be done with. I do have a few questions to add (if that's ok).

    Do people think there's a "right" time for this? For instance, when we're not at war? Some believe, like you've mentioned Knowledge, that it'd disrupt the army and camaraderie. Maybe if an openly gay person's life is at risk, his homophobic fellow soldier might not save him.

    Also, with blacks and the military, they began with all-black regiments. As a first step, should there separate LGBT-friendly regiments where LGBT soldiers and allies can serve openly?

    I don't necessarily have answers to this, but I'm curious to hear what others think.

    • Knowledge says:

      BWABW, I appreciate your comments and questions — always welcome. I don’t necessarily think it would disrupt comaraderie as much as people suggest. We can look back to the all black regiments and sure, it was considered a “radical step” to commence with integration and this had everything to do with the climate and mindset of the public at the time. I think the biggest change we’d see would be a greater reach for recruiters, who are already recruiting people who have admitted their homosexuality. It took from 1945 to 1954 for full intergration of blacks into the armed services so the the difference here is that gays and straights are already serving together so I think separation would be a step backwards and counter-productive. Separate but equal isn’t equal. I’ve talked to a few straight military guys I know, and for the most part the general consensus has been “the only thing that matters is whether or not this soldier will defend my life on the battlefield just as I would do the same for him”.

  10. SteadyCat says:

    The military has always had gay people in it's ranks. I was in the military and everywhere I went, there were loads more gay people. The fight is actually about treating the gay people in the military with the same dignity and respect afforded the heterosexual soldiers – who don't deserve more respect just because the men go home and f**k a woman and vice versa.. Being treated the same in a place where we are offering our lives should be a given…not something we have to beg and cry for.

  11. SteadyCat says:

    And…before Bill Clinton made the DADT into a law..there was no LAW that said it was illegal for gay people to be in the military. People acted on their own biases, not a governmental law. Thanks to Bill Clinton, his law allowed them to kick more gay people out of the military then gays kicked out in the entire history of the military. Bill was no idiot. He knew what he was doing. He traded the lives of gay people in the military for support he needed on some other issues from homophobic right wingers. In the case of the DADT law. Bill Clinton was a wolf in sheeps clothing.

    • Knowledge says:

      No, but they were kicked out of the military for having no choice except to disclose that they were gay or answer to accusations and face dishonorable discharge. Evenwith DADT in place, this happens, but I want to believe it protects more gays and lesbians than formerly having no protections. A dishonorable discharge affects the rest of your life.

  12. Meshia says:

    Having personally served in the Military and experienced that camraderie, I doubt that an issue would arise during war time with openly gay servicemembers. When I went in I was worried about race becoming a factor in the rapport I would develop with my counterparts. As it stands my color was never an issue. It was funny because no one in my unit saw any other color besides green. I'm thinking the same goes for sexuality. But maybe I'm stretching it as we're still in an age where the struggle for homosexual equality is quite significant.

  13. SteadyCat says:

    @knowledge – You know its a good game if it tricks people into not looking below the surface. DADT sounds like it means that if they don't know, they have no right to ask you – therefore you'll never get kicked out of the military for being gay. That was a great marketing ruse, but false advertisement. We did not get kicked out because they asked and then we told. That is not how it works. They have agents (people go in the military to spy on fellow soldiers) set up at gay bars, pretending to be gay…fooling everybody. They have someone becoming best friends with the gays…because they are gay too…so everybody thinks. They don't ask you if you're gay. It has never been that simple for gay people hiding their gayness. They just go on getting their information just like they always do.

    A law that is designed to help people will not allow the millitary to increase its rate of kicking people out by a thousand fold. Thats because it was not designed to help people. Now, you can't get kicked out and fight it legally in court because Bill Clinton wrote it in the books as LAW that you cannot be gay in the miltary and covered the LAW with Dont Ask Dont Tell. Before, it was a military preference but never a USA law. Ask the gazillions of gays that got kicked out since DADT if it protected them. The answer is NO. Sorry to burst the sweet Bill Clinton bubble but he did some nasty stuff and got away with it …. because nobody in power cared about gay people. President Obama knows the deal and says he will repeal the DADT law that has allowed the military to do more harm than good to gay peole. I support him all the way. I believe there are links on the internet that spell out clearly how DADT harmed gays in the military instead of helping them. It's not just me running my mouth…OK? 🙂

    • Knowledge says:

      SteadyCat, I look forward to Obama repealing DADT. In fact, I think you might be preaching to the choir on this one. If you think I am a proponent of DADT and nothing more, you have completely missed the point of my post. I didn't bother to include the personal experiences of my ex-girlfriends, two of whom have joined and are still in the military. One was asked outright if she was a "dyke" and she plainly stated to her commander "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and that was that. She was not kicked out of the military and there was no investigation launched into her lifestyle. However, believe me when I tell you that I know all too well that it does happen for so many other gays and lesbians. Mostly in the Air Force, but even once is enough. If you weren't clear about where I stand, I firmly believe that gays should be allowed to serve openly. That means, in plain English, I would love to see DADT completely done away with. I'm sorry if I confused you by thinking I believe otherwise.

  14. Kelly says:

    The policy was introduced as a compromise measure in 1993 and approved by then President Bill Clinton who, while campaigning for the Presidency, had promised to allow all citizens regardless of sexual orientation to serve openly in the military, a departure from the then complete ban on those who are not heterosexual. The actual policy was crafted by Colin Powell and was maintained by Clinton's successor, George W. Bush.

    Sexual orientation will not be a bar to service unless manifested by homosexual conduct. The military will discharge members who engage in homosexual conduct, which is defined as a homosexual act, a statement that the member is homosexual or bisexual, or a marriage or attempted marriage to someone of the same gender.

    – quoted in "The Pentagon's New Policy Guidelines on Homosexuals in the Military", The New York Times (July 20, 1993), p.A14.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don't_ask,_don&…

  15. BWABW says:

    That's great that color wasn't an issue for you and that all they saw was green. For some reason, that surprised me to read. Maybe people don't give the military enough credit…or people's capacity to overcome prejudice.

  16. BWABW says:

    Good point about gays and straights already serving side by side. I can see why you'd consider it a step backwards.

  17. Jane Doe says:

    I rarely comment on blogs but yours I had to stop and say Great Blog!!

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