How many times have we heard our sexual orientation and or gender identity is a choice? We are hard-wired as LGBT people. The real choice is the political party and religion a person affiliates with or not with.
The First Amendment guarantees us “Separation from religion with matters of the State.” Yet we know that the religious views of some are at the very root of the discriminatory laws that we have been dealt.
Right now in America there are very important roads we must travel to achieve full equality. The last thing we should do is sit back and wait. This is about our lives and the lives of those we love and care about.
Equality is guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment yet remiss in the daily lives of LGBT people. Those of you who are married now must endure the confusion at tax time of being separate at the federal level and joint at the state level. Those in the military know that they - especially the females of color - are being pursued. Even when they do not tell, they are asked.
Recently I interviewed a 2007 victim of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) - Kris Longaker, an Army veteran. She has a butch appearance and was stereotyped as lesbian during her tour of duty. Her first sergeant asked her if she was gay. She responded in the negative.
He then had her fill out an Army form that asked her 21 ways if she was gay. To each of these she responded in the negative. They still discharged her. It is important to point out that even in 2007 it was illegal for the Army to pursue and ask her. Let alone discharge her for being gay.
She also explained in that interview that another service member, a male, raped a female service member. He was given a slap-on-the-wrist punishment and was allowed to stay in the military.
He was definitely guilty of a violent sexual assault on another service member. There were actually two rape victims, but only one female was able to identify him. Both victims had a difficult time getting into their uniform as a result of being raped by a fellow service member. You can see that interview below.
The point is the Army kept the rapist and kicked out the perceived good gay! The good gay did not just get discharge papers and leave. During the time that Kris was awaiting discharge, she said she was extremely hassled. That harassment was not only illegal, but it was encouraged and came from leadership, she said.
Kris and another person awaiting the “gay” discharge were forced to extreme extra exercise and were told to stay away, because they were contagious. She was already getting discharged and yet during the final time period they harassed her.
Presently there is a survey for service members and their families. It is not for the smooth implementation of a definite repeal of DADT. It is to find out if there will be any impacts should DADT be repealed.
That is a very big difference in definitions of what this analysis is about. It is not about implementation, but what it is about is taking an emotional temperature of employees and their families about working with openly LGBT.
You can see the video of Army Gen. Carter Ham explaining the analysis below. This does match Secretary of Defense Robert Gate’s most recent statements.
Although this is referred to by the military as an “Objective” analysis it is as subjective as it gets. In fact, many military officer ministers at base churches have co-signed a letter for keeping DADT. Do you think these ministers might perhaps re-use the Prop. 8 strategy and get their parishioners to do the surveys indicating impacts?
We cannot allow the analysis that is ongoing to delay the repeal of DADT for even a nano second. This week we have over 300 LGBT veterans in Washington, D.C., to lobby Congress and the military. San Diego is being well-represented. Through this effort the goal is to get the repeal of DADT now. As well as set up a working group of volunteer LGBT veterans to work with the Pentagon on the DADT issue. Although this is a good idea it is not enough to obtain repeal. It lacks teeth, but from the outside it looks good.
Consider the fact that the Department of Defense does know of at least two LGBT employees it has that are openly proud LGBT. Those people are Lt. Dan Choi (National Guard) and I (Navy veteran and civil servant). If the department included existing LGBT employees, they would have to fund our travel and work. If we said anything that contradicted the department’s take on the results of the analysis and the road ahead to implementation of the repeal, our comments would be taken seriously.
As paid employees we have legal recourse and that is something LGBT volunteers do not have. Volunteers are involved based on the whims of the government. Additionally volunteers must come up with funding and take time off of their paying jobs. Volunteers have real constraints to what they can contribute.
Normally a group such as LGBT would be allowed a leadership caucus of internal employees. The department has been asked for this often over the last decade and it has never come to fruition. They have even been asked for this during the present administration. All requests have either been denied or ignored; still no LGBT caucus.
In fact, LGBT are the only group that is excluded from diversity events. Requests for LGBT inclusion over the last decade have been either denied or ignored. Diversity events exist to mitigate hate against a group within the government. There are movies about LGBT service members who have been killed for being LGBT by other service members. If any group was ever in need of diversity event it is ours. Yet there are none to date!
You might be wondering why; is a nice, well-groomed West Point Academy graduate, Lt. Dan Choi, chained to the White House fence on a monthly basis. His reward is to spend a dreadful night in jail and pay a $100 fine.
Well, he and others are doing our LGBT version of “Refusing to sit in the back of the bus.” They are doing it, because they see through the “Smoke and mirrors.” Isn’t it time we all saw beyond the mist and pushed for our equality?
L.S. Kove is executive director of DOD FED GLOBE, a nonprofit that advocates for and educates about LGBT employees of the Department of Defense. This commentary is based solely upon Ms. Kove’s opinion as the executive director of DOD FED GLOBE and it is not intended in any way, shape or form to represent the opine of her employer, the Department of Defense.