After almost 20 years, we are finally getting rid of the discriminatory policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell within our nation’s military. The rule that allowed for gay witch hunts is no longer as of today — and that is cause for celebration.
In the last two decades, there have been a lot of stories told about service members who were found out or who came out, only to be dishonorably discharged. Today we should think about them and about those who are finally able to serve in the military as the openly gay people they are.
And while many of the cases we hear about seem to focus on men, it’s lesbians that were actually affected the most by DADT. According to AOL, “lesbians accounted for 48 percent of 195 discharges under the don’t-ask, don’t-tell policy, even though women make up only 14 percent of the [army]. More than half, 51 percent, of those [in the air force] discharged were women, who make up 20 percent of the service. Marines: Nearly one in four, or 23 percent, of discharges under the policy were women, who make up just 6 percent of the Marines. That’s up from 18 percent the year before. Navy: The sea service discharged 22 women, or 27 percent of the total ousted for being gay. Women comprise 14 percent of naval personnel.”
And now these women can serve without worrying about being outed and ousted. If you want to remember DADT, and think about how far we have come on this historical day, here are a few ways to remain mindful of where we’ve been.
Watch Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story
Glenn Close played the colonel who refused to lie about her sexual orientation. She was forced into retirement but did not stay quiet, choosing to make her voice heard at the gays-in-the-military hearings that led to the instatement of DADT in 1993. The TV movie won several Emmys, a GLAAD Award and a Peabody, but I have a feeling Margarethe feels most triumphant about today’s victory.
Watch The Rachel Maddow Show
Rachel Maddow has covered DADT extensively during her MSNBC reign, and she frequently features commentary from Margaethe and others who have been discharged from the ranks. Here’s one segment on Katherine Miller, who was let go from West Point.
Watch The L Word
Rose Rollins played Tasha, a soldier who came under fire for being a lesbian. Kelly McGillis played her captain, who had a no-nonsense approach to the DADT enforcement that eventually came down on Tasha. It was sad, especially because it was so real for so many people. When the military is your life, and you also happen to be gay, you are fighting against yourself.
Jeff Sheng‘s collection of photos and stories of gay soldiers is a telling depiction of individual stories, most of whom are still in the armed forces and hide their faces for fear of being discharged. Worry no more!
Read Don’t Tell
K.A. Kron‘s romance about two female soldiers falling for one another is available for the Kindle. Indulge!
Real stories from the frontlines, including some from those who were in Washington to help make this day a reality. It’s also a great historical reference on gays in the military.
Read Proud to Serve
Jo Ann Santagelo‘s collected portraits of out members of the military, including herself. It includes veterans, too, and everyone shows their faces.
Listen to “The Brightest Light in the Room“
Singer/songwriter Shannon Curtis wrote this song for a fan who was in the military and wanted to propose to her girlfriend. Shannon said the song “will remind listeners that in dark times, there is love to light the way. Love is universal. This song was written for these two women, but it could be about anybody. I think if more people were able to see their own stories in stories like this one, the debate over gay rights in this country would end.”
Let’s not let history repeat itself, ever ever again by keeping these stories in our minds and hearts. How will you say goodbye to DADT?