Monday, March 22, 2010


The federal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy, which prohibits LGBT folks from serving openly and honestly in the nation's military, is filled with bigotry and prejudice.

I don't mean it's homophobic, which is obvious and the policy's entire point. Instead, I'm referring to it's presumably unintended consequences of racism and sexism.

The Service Women's Action Network (SWAN), an organization dedicated to helping women servicemembers and vets, has produced a great fact sheet (PDF) on these discriminatory effects of DADT.

SWAN has publicly opposed DADT since its inception, arguing that not only is it discriminatory, but it also plays into the hands of racists, misogynists, and homo/transpobes. They also argue that it can be used as a blackmail tool by sexual predators in the military who threaten to use it to blackmail servicefolks.

According to their fact sheet:

DADT disproportionately affects women. Although women made up 15% of the armed forces in 2008, 34% of service members discharged were women. The impact of DADT on women varies according to service branch. For example, women comprised only 20% of the Air Force yet made up 62% of Air Force discharges. Racial minorities are also disproportionately affected by Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Non-white active duty service members represent 29.4% of the total military population, but comprise 45% of all DADT discharges in 2008. Service Branch/Percent Women Discharged Under DADT/Percent Women Serving in Branch:
  • Army 36% 14%
  • Navy 23% 15%
  • Marine Corps 18% 6%
  • Air Force 62% 20%
Race/Ethnic Group Percent discharged under DADT:
  • White (non-Hispanic) 55%
  • Black 20%
  • Hispanic 9%
  • Asian/Pacific Islander 8%
  • American Indian 3%
  • Other/Unknown 5%

Note the huge disproportions between the representative populations and the discharge percentages. Obviously women and racial minorities are being targeted under this policy, either expressly or subliminally.

SWAN also notes:

In addition to being formally excluded from the military, LGBT service members also endure informal discriminatory treatment from their peers and superiors in the military. Service members suspected of homosexuality are frequently harassed, mocked, and generally experience hostile treatment based on their real or perceived sexual orientation.

Women are especially vulnerable to so-called lesbian baiting, defined as “the practice of pressuring women for sex and sexually harassing women by using the threat of calling them lesbians as a means of intimidation.” Women in the military who do not conform to gender stereotypes or refuse to engage in sexual activity with men are at risk of being labeled a lesbian. Some of the increased scrutiny of service women’s sexuality is undoubtedly the result of women’s hyper-visibility in the military, along with the attitude that women do not belong in service.

Transgender individuals also endure many forms of exclusion in the military. In the first place, individuals who have undergone genital surgery in order to change their gender may be denied the opportunity to serve in the military at all. Furthermore, individuals diagnosed with “gender identity disorder” are barred from serving in the military, which effectively excludes most open transgender individuals. They are subject to harassment, hostile treatment, and are generally unwelcome in the military. Also, even though transgender servicememers are not necessarily gay, lesbian, or bisexual, they may be assumed to be and thus targeted under DADT.

A new poll commissioned by The Vet Voice Foundation and conducted jointly by Republican and Democratic pollsters finds that most veterans are “comfortable around gay and lesbian people, believe that being gay or lesbian has no bearing on a service member’s ability to perform their duties, and would find it acceptable if gay and lesbian people were allowed to serve openly in the military."

Obviously it's time - past time! - the United States ditches the failed DADT policy, which not only prevents LGBT servicemembers from serving honestly with honor and dignity, but also fosters other bigotries and stereotypes.

Our servicefolks deserve better, and so does our country.

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