September 20, 2012

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Never Mattered

Cpl. Sean Dennison
Desert Warrior Staff

So it’s been a year today since the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and the Department of Defense is still functioning.


For some background: DADT, created in 1993 under the Clinton administration, circumvented the ban on homosexuals serving in the military by allowing them to serve under the condition they do not reveal their sexual orientation. The number of discharges resultant from DADT number is generally agreed to be in the 13,000 range.

I remember when the repeal happened there was little to no reaction. Some people scoffed, some people smiled, some people shrugged. I was at Kandahar Airfield working with the Marines of Marine Attack Squadron 513, so I tried throwing around small puns like gayviator and entertained the thought of having one of the pilots fly a rainbow flag through Afghan airspace.

Otherwise, it was just another work day and operations continued without any threat of orgiastic, deviant homosexual activity —not that it doesn’t/didn’t exist within the Department of Defense, I’m sure—which seemed like the inevitable result of the repeal according to a lot of senior officials.

One retiree predicted it would “break” morale.

As it seems, nothing has changed, for better or worse. The notion is backed up by the post-repeal study published by the Palm Center, Sept. 10. The Palm Center, which examines the impact of sexuality and gender within the military, compiled an exhaustive work that features dozens and dozens of interviews with service members both on active duty and retired, straight and gay. The researchers collected evidence through interviews and questionnaires. Many of the inclusions are anecdotal, straight from the troops themselves. The entire report is a difficult task to get through, definitely not a Sunday afternoon read, but it makes for fantastic literature regarding military culture.

The study found that, “The repeal of DADT has had no overall negative impact on military readiness or its component dimensions, including cohesion, recruitment, retention, assaults, harassment or morale.” There are outliers here and there. Individually, morale went up or down, depending on the service member’s feelings, but overall, unit cohesion remained unaffected, something I could’ve told you would happen when I first joined.

DADT always seemed like a knee-jerk reaction to me. I’m a bit surprised it took this long to repeal, considering how progressive attitudes toward homosexuality have been in the last decade. Gay servicemen and women were getting discharged during the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns, both post-9/11 endeavors, when the last thing on anybody’s mind should’ve been their fellow fighter’s bedfellows. Then again, it was such a turbulent time in domestic and foreign affairs I don’t doubt mentioning a repeal would’ve garnered some baffled looks from people.

On that note, the Center’s report indicates an admissible, if not accepting, attitude toward openly gay troops.

Civil rights aside, DADT never made sense to me logistically. Of the thousands discharged, how many were mission-critical specialists, including linguists, infantry men, and medical aides? What difference could they have made on the front line? Nowadays, you have an openly gay general not giving two flips about being seen with her girlfriend. For Army Brig. Gen. Tammy Smith, she just wanted to be able to enjoy her relationship while serving her country and didn’t even bother coming out to her troops for some while after the ban.

Still, a few people aren’t handling the life post-repeal too well. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) recently said he is for reinstating DADT should his party win the White House, and the Palm Center’s study revealed service members have had adverse reactions concerning the repeal, some involving violence.

However, uniformed professionalism usually won out in these encounters. Many service members say they talked or received a talking to about using gay pejoratives (which are honestly no different than the racy and risqué quips Marines are known for) and this often led to a less tense, more courteous work atmosphere.

So here we are, one year later after an important event in military history. Marines are still considered among the elite of America’s uniformed men and women, and some of them like men and women. I’m glad people are now able to serve without the specter of discharge hovering over them because of who they like.

I don’t know how this bodes for the gay service members of Yuma, there’s little enough to do in this city for straight people.

In closing, I’ll address the thankfully-dying-down notion that gay Marines can’t perform better than their 180-degree counterparts: how many straight Marines do you know who are a boon to Corps standards?

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