Don’t ask, don’t tell documentary explores gays in the military


After watching Tasha deal with some serious homophobes on The L Word, where she dealt with the effects of the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, I couldn’t help but agree with what Alice had to say: “You’ve worked your whole life to just deny who you are?”

The big ol’ mess that is “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” technically started in 1993, when Bill Clinton became a thorn in the proverbial gay side after promising to allow people of all sexual orientations to serve in the military — only to approve a ban on gays in the military after he was elected.<?p>

Dubya signed off on the official “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” bit when he took office in 2001, and the gist of the law is this: Sexual orientation will not bar anyone from serving in the military, unless you’re gay. If you’re gay, you’re outta there.

Rightfully, the policy has been widely criticized for more than 15 years, and President Obama reportedly started working to lift the ban last week.

Unfortunately, the policy that asks those willing to die for their country to deny who they are is still alive and kicking, and acclaimed filmmaker Johnny Symons’ latest documentary, Ask Not sheds some light on queer soldiers affected by the policy.

Symons has been tackling LGBT issues through film for years, and the documentary, slated to air on PBS June 16, has some critics saying it should be required viewing.

The clips alone from the film beg the questions: Who thought this was a good idea? How in the world is this justified?

The film shows a group of military men, including former secretary of state Colin Powell, saying that homosexuality is “not compatible” with military service. Because, you know, when you are fighting wars, the most important thing is your sexual orientation.

Another clip tells the story of a soldier’s struggle in Iraq. It doesn’t mention whether the soldier is gay, but it shows him asking bigger questions: “Will I come back alive? Will I come back with all my limbs? Will I see my friends again or my family?”

Through the documentary, Symons aims to show how the U.S. military should not claim to represent democracy and freedom while denying a willing and able segment of the population the right to serve.

Symons’ documentary is a needed reminder for us to stay on Obama when it comes to overturning this ludicrous policy. Watch clips of the film here.

Would you serve in the military if you had to deny being gay? Have you served and faced discrimination?

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