I served with two lesbian Marines in Iraq on my second tour. They served admirably and without any indication of their sexual orientation.
They helped our unit triage and evacuate my fellow Marines in a small arms attack just south of Fallujah in the Zaidan province. It was only after we had returned to Camp Lejeune that we found out they were lesbians.
It didn’t take long before the chain of command found out and less than a year later they were discharged simply for the fact of their sexual orientation.
I’ve met many Marines on deployments and, now that I’m in school, many former Marines. Very few of them can I say I trust my life with when the shit hits the fan.
Those two Marines performed as well as any infantry Marine and I would have no greater honor than to serve overseas with them again.
The Department of Defense recently implemented regulatory changes designed to reduce the number of discharges of service members under the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law.
According to our Military non-profit partner – the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), “under new guidelines announced by Secretary Gates, anonymous tips, hearsay and privileged statements made in confidence to doctors and other medical professionals and clergy — previously among the reasons gay and lesbian service members were discharged-can no longer be used to spark a DADT investigation.”
Also according to SLDN, “the updated language does not change the fact that statements, acts, or same-sex marriage, are still grounds for discharge under DADT, including:
“A service member can still be fired if outed by his or her parents;
“A service member can still be fired for revealing his or her sexual orientation while making a statement to the police that would prevent or help solve a crime;
“A service member’s middle school teacher can still out the service member 10 years after he came out to her in social studies class;
“A service member can still be discharged if he reports that someone has threatened to kill him for being gay;
“A service member can still be fired for hugging someone of the same sex;
“A service member can still be fired for getting married; and
“A service member can still be fired for saying she would like to return from Iraq to care for her dying girlfriend.
“SLDN can say that under the new Instructions, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender service members can now safely talk to psychotherapists and clergy, in their professional capacities; safely talk to a medical professional in furtherance of medical treatment or a public health official in the course of a public health inquiry; and safely seek professional assistance for domestic or physical abuse.
“While the psychotherapist, chaplain, and other medical professional protections might not greatly decrease the number of discharges under the law, the 66,000 lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members serving in the US and deployed to war zones around the world can breathe a little more easily… The impact of the rest of the changes has yet to be seen.
“But one thing remains the same. At the end of the day, until Congress changes the law, lesbian, gay, and bisexual service members will continue to be fired simply for who they are.”
GET INFORMED, GET INVOLVED
In his recent State of the Union address, President Obama pledged a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Since 1993, over 13,000 men and woman have been discharged from the armed forces for being gay under the policy. Currently, the Department of Defense is conducting a review of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which is due on December 1st.
Yesterday, a group of troops were pulled together to discuss the policy. The following is an excerpt from an article by The Associated Press about the meeting:
“Troops attending the first meeting of its kind on ending the ban on gays in the military said Tuesday they want to know what changes were in store for them if gays were allowed to serve openly.
“Picked at random and assembled in the Pentagon auditorium, about 350 rank-and-file troops asked the leaders of a new working group whether bunking arrangements would change and if the spouses of gay personnel would be given military family benefits, among other issues.
“The answers to those questions aren’t expected until the end of the year, when the working group releases its findings on the impact openly gay service might have on the force.
“Officials say they will spend the next several months reaching out to troops and their families in focus groups and meetings like the Tuesday forum to determine what concerns they’ll have to address.
“Attendees of the Tuesday session said that one female Marine stated that bunking with a lesbian would be the same as being told to share a room with a man. A soldier said he didn’t want to wade into the political debate and that he would follow orders.
“Another service member asked if a gay service member who gets married — now forbidden under law — would receive military family benefits.
“At one point, a moderator asked how many troops believed they have served with a gay person. About half the people in the audience raised their hands.”
GET INFORMED, GET INVOLVED
I knew I was done hiding behind the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy after returning from a four month deployment flying missions to Iraq as a loadmaster with the 37th Airlift Squadron. It was my second tour — one I’d picked because of the long hours and irregular schedule, a lifestyle that I thought would make it easier to keep my personal life private. But lying about who you are, especially to people you are serving with, is never easy.
In 2008, my commander who I served with in Iraq said to me, it was an honor to serve with you and if you need anything, just let me know. He then sent me home. That was my last day in the U.S. military after 7 years of honorable service. I had violated federal law by telling someone I was gay.
During the time it took for my discharge to get processed, I decided I would share my situation. My friends and co-workers on base responded in one of two ways. The first was, “Tony, we all figured that from day one, we just didn’t care that you were gay.” The second was, “Tony, why didn’t you ever tell me? It pisses me off that you couldn’t trust me with that information.” I had to explain that I had to remain silent because I didn’t want to lose my career; it wasn’t about trusting them.
You can bet I wanted to fight my discharge. But my attorneys from Servicemembers Legal Defense Network advised that it is virtually impossible to win a legal challenge to the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” law. So I was forced to throw in the towel and accepted the fact I had to begin a job search.
I did not want out of the military—I would go back in tomorrow–but I had to move on. It just so happened that my exact skill set, gained through Air Force training, was in high demand with defense contractors. Within three weeks of my discharge, global contractor KBR hired me to go back to Iraq as a radio repair technician. (KBR, by the way, knew prior to hiring me I was gay and received an honorable discharge). Within one month of being in Iraq, a former Chief Master Sergeant (CMSGT/E9), now retired, sent me to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan to manage its technical operations. While there I worked with three prior service members I had worked with while on active duty, but now I was working as an openly gay contractor. An Army Sergeant who I was also working with said, “I can’t believe they are still discharging military members for being gay. Don’t they know we need everyone we can get in this fight?”
I am a straight mother of three. I have a thirteen year old straight son who plays tuba and guitar,and wants to work in the tech field when he grows up. I have a seventeen year old straight daughter who plays baritone, has a beautiful singing voice, and wants to go to college to become a psychologist. I have a nineteen year old gay son who is broadly musically gifted, attends college, and wants to be a teacher. While my younger son and daughter will very possibly achieve their dreams, my oldest son may not. So, I give a damn.
Where we live, and where my son wants to teach, being openly gay will likely cost him his job. While my two younger children’s teacher’s can share stories of their husbands, wives, children and lives, if my son does so, parents will complain to the school board that my son is teaching their children immorality. But he hasn’t given up on his dream. He’ll be attending his second year of college next year to become a teacher, in hopes that when he begins teaching, his sexuality won’t matter to his students and their parents as much as his qualifications do. So, I give a damn.
My oldest son is in a committed relaionship with a wonderful boy who spent years in R.O.T.C., in hopes of becoming a flight engineer. He felt it would be not only wrong, but incredibly difficult to keep their relaionship a secret due to D.A.D.T., so unfortunately he chose to leave the R.O.T.C. This young man should have NEVER had to make such a choice. His sexual orientation shouldn’t have had to play a part in what he wanted to do with his education, and his life. So, I give a damn.
My children talk of the day they will be parents. I have no doubt that all three will be excellent at parenting. My younger son and daughter will be able to do so with no trouble. While if my oldest son and his committed partner want to adopt, they will likely be denied that right. So, I give a damn.
I want the opportunities my two straight children have, to be available for my gay child. I want to not have to worry that my son might be a victim of a hate crime. When my son chooses to commit his life to someone, I want to know that he’ll have the same rights and protection as a straight couple would. Most of all, I want my children to see and believe what I have taught them their entire lives; that you can grow up to be anything and anyone you want to be.
So, I GIVE A DAMN!
I give a DAMN about equality… ONE of my daughters is gay…
I have raised three daughters. I’ve taught them the fundamentals of life and living in this world, then went beyond this to teach tolerance, equality, independence, faith, compassion and love.
What a joy to watch three beautiful young children grow into the adults they now are! What a joy to nurture each as individuals while treating them equally. What a joy to teach them to be anything they wanted to be. What a joy to watch them learn to love and develop healthy relationships. What a joy to witness them embracing each day.
Each day brings new discoveries for all three. Along the way, my youngest daughter discovered her sexuality as a lesbian. Within our family, this discovery was recognized and acknowledged. We did not judge, and our family still lives with the values of respect and equality that we’ve always lived by.
But for me, the need for social equality outside of our family became more important than ever! I was to send my youngest daughter into the world–and she would learn that the teachings and equality in our home would not necessarily follow her.
I have raised three daughters… and as individual as they are, now they are not treated equally.
TWO of my daughters can…
- Walk safely down any street holding hands with their significant others
- Practice careers without fear of discrimination
- Marry legally (if they choose) in a courtroom – OR – in a religious environment of their choosing
- Have an open relationship with a member of our armed forces
- Practice their religious upbringing openly–not questioning their faith because of a lack of tolerance
- Reap the benefits of “joint” tax returns, health insurance, marriage law…
The list goes on and on.
I hope that someday, this will change to: “All THREE of my daughters can…”
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.
Get informed and get involved. Register to join the campaign and let us know you give a damn about equality.
Spread the word about equality. Watch our damn videos and share them with the people in your life!play
Share your story with us and the people in your life. Tell us why you give a damn about equality!play
Our co-founder Cyndi Lauper has released the following statement on today's marriage equality rulings by the United States Supreme ...Author:
The following is an excerpt from a story by ABC News / The Associated Press: "After years of debate and months of final preparations, ...Author:
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.