I spent six years on active duty in the US Army and as a lesbian, I can assure you that the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy is not a homosexual witch-hunt and it’s really not that big of a deal. Honestly. There are far bigger fish to fry on the gay and lesbian civil rights wish list.
You may not be aware that there are the hundreds of outdated and straight up (no pun intended) ridiculous regulations in the military’s “Uniform Code of Military Justice” (UCMJ). The “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy is only one of many that need amending. Most military folks are well aware of these silly regulations and just turn a blind eye. For example - it’s a UCMJ violation to have sex in any position other than the missionary. This probably dates back to when?1892?! But really, do you think that code is strongly enforced? The answer is ‘no.’
DADT mandates the discharge of any service member who is openly gay and according to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, 13,500 soldiers have been discharged from the military under DADT since 1994. But what do they really mean by “openly gay?” It’s certainly not standing in front of the unit formation and declaring, “I’m gay,” at the top your lungs. That might be enough to open an investigation, but the truth is, there needs to be some hard evidence to actually get you kicked out. I’m talking something along the lines of a very descriptive, pornographic video. Even that might not be enough.
Here’s what it took for four women (out of the total 13,500 discharged) to violate DADT. During a deployment to Iraq, a group of lesbians were engaging in sexual acts in a tent. First of all – gross! Living conditions during the first rotations into Iraq (especially in the tents) was anything but pleasant. Now to the point - These tents aren’t little private hideaways. Each tent houses between 15 – 30 soldiers with no walls and about 5 feet of space between each cot. That’s 5 feet of distance and zero of privacy between each bed. These women were having sexual relations in full view of the straight, female soldiers sharing their tent. The straight soldiers were slightly disgruntled by the free show night after night, and eventually they reported it. I would have felt the same way after only the first time. Needless to say, the four women were discharged. There was plenty of evidence against them since they shared the tent with other soldiers. But remember this – the women could have been discharged for the same thing if they were engaging in heterosexual sex. Technically, and statistically, they were discharged for homosexuality. In reality they were removed for being ignorant, disgusting, and screwing right in front of their peers (and probably their supervisors) in a combat zone, which is a violation in and of itself, straight or gay! This is a no-brainer. Their sexual encounters were so public and so frequent that you have to assume these women wanted to be discharged.
Looking for a way out of the service isn’t a new idea. Since 9/11, soldiers have been going to extraordinary measures to find the quickest way out of a deployment including intentional pregnancies and cutting off fingers. Hell, my unit’s chaplain (who was gay, by the way) went AWOL! He ran away with his lover to Canada the night before we left for Iraq. That’s a nice morale booster for the soldiers.
During my time in the Army, a large percentage of the DADT investigations were caused by straight soldiers playing the homosexual card to get out of going overseas. These guys would go to the extreme, staging photographs and videos of themselves with other men, or maybe even making out in front of their commander. They were using DADT as a potential free ticket out of a deployment.
The military has parades, but it isn’t a place to parade around our sex lives, gay or straight, so if we sign up to serve, it’s not hard to live as a happy gay man or woman when the workday is over. Just don’t have sex on the conference room table, and no packing before PT. Is it that hard?
What the gay and lesbian soldiers DO need, far above abolishing DADT, are the legal rights provided to married couples by the military. Without having the right to marry, removing DADT hardly does a thing. Here’s an example – a lesbian soldier who was serving in Iraq might be informed that her girlfriend (the woman she would have married if she could) was killed in a car accident. The lesbian soldier may be able to serve openly (without DADT), but STILL wouldn’t be afforded the same rights as a legally married solder. Without marriage equality, the lesbian soldier wouldn’t be able to go home because emergency leave is only approved for family members.
The bottom line is – get your priorities in order. Don’t spin your wheels repealing a ridiculous and pointless regulation. Instead, keep your eye on the prize and fight for marriage equality. Without it, we’ll never be out, or equal, in the military or in the rest of America.