Land of the Free and Home of the Brave
I give a damn about gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender equality.
I give a damn because no person should have to lie and hide at work because of who they are. I am talking about working for the greatest military in the world; and specifically the U.S. Army.
Each person chooses military service for different reasons, but it is a choice. Last time I checked, this is the “Land of the Free, and the Home of the Brave.” And being in the army is a job that should be available in the same manner to all individuals. Supporters of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) will tell you that they aren’t saying gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender (GLBT) folks can’t serve in the military; just that their private life – or rather – the person that they are – must be hidden. Asking an individual to act and live in a hetero-normative fashion to fit into a work place in the year 2010 is unacceptable.
I give a damn about equality because I used to hate going to work on Monday mornings. I would actually feel nauseous sometimes, and it wasn’t because I didn’t like work. It was because I was paralyzed with fear that someone would ask me about my weekend and I might happen to mention something personal that would give me away. How I stayed at my girlfriend’s apartment or saw a movie or had dinner with her – one lesbian slip of the tongue could result in me being terminated.
The stress was a lot to handle, and when the military decided to discharge me due to medical reasons, I didn’t try to refute it. I gladly left them to their devices. I was to be stationed with an infantry division in Germany that would have deployed to Iraq shortly after my arrival. There is a statistic that 13,000 people have been kicked out of the military under DADT, but that number doesn’t come close to capturing people like me – who left on their own or chose not to extend their duty. I made the decision to be in the Army to serve my country – because I believe in it enough to want to defend it. It is ironic that I ended up leaving because it didn’t want to defend me in return.
My story is benign compared to a lot of other active duty military personnel. Those who are deployed away from their loved one and that partner/girlfriend/boyfriend/etc. has no access to that individual’s whereabouts; no access to the same medical benefits that other military families have; and when a GLBT soldier is killed, the US Government doesn’t lift a finger to acknowledge to that soldier’s partner what his or her commitment has meant or to condole them for the loss of their lover.
So I give a damn about equality.
As a board member of Knights Out (an Organization of Alumni, Staff, and Faculty who are united in supporting the rights of LGBT soldiers to openly serve their country) I receive correspondence from Active Duty individuals who feel that they can no longer bear the stress of lying to their peers, friends, and command. I was talking to a student at West Point who is going to quit before they reach the 3rd year because they don’t think they can last until DADT is repealed. That individual is making a life decision of where to complete their higher education and also what career path to choose based on a horrific and needless policy.
I give a damn about equality for every person who has served, is serving, or will choose to give their life for our country.
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Sexual orientation has nothing to do with how well a service member performs his or her job. But under the 1993 “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law, being openly gay can be cause for discharge from the military.