In last week’s post I talked in great detail about homosexuals in the military. As I mentioned last week, up until 1993, only 18 years ago, homosexuals were not able to join the U.S. military at all. In 1993, newly elected president Bill Clinton tried to challenge the ban of homosexuals in the military but the opposition was too strong. As some kind of compromise the “don’t ask- don’t tell” (DADT) policy was written and put into law. DADT gave homosexuals the opportunity to join the military, as long as they kept their sexual orientation a secret and didn’t talked to anyone else in the military about it. I talked a little bit about the reasoning behind DADT in last week’s post. Certainly, not everyone was satisfied with this compromise. No doubt, DADT discriminated against homosexuals in many ways and certainly had great implications on the everyday life of homosexuals in the military.
At this point I would like to share a personal story related to the discussion around DADT:
Two years ago, I went back home to Germany for Christmas to spent the holidays with my family and friends. On the second day of my stay I went to one of Germany’s traditional “Christmas markets”, similar to a big fair. I met up with one of my old friends from high school, her name is Tanja. I had not seen her in a while. Tanja is a lesbian and brought her girlfriend Brenda, who is a high-ranked officer in the U.S. military stationed in Germany. As we walked around the fair I noticed that the two women were very cautious not to show too much affection, for instance in form of holiding hands or standing to close together. If they were holding hands or hugging each other, they were very cautious about their surrounding and the people passing by. At that time, I didn’t really understand what was going on. After a while I asked my friend Tanja about it and she told me that they have to be really careful because of DADT, as Brenda is an officer in the U.S. military. There are lots of U.S. military bases in this area in Germany and it is very likely that another military member could have seen them together and report them. Hence, for Brenda the constant fear of being discharged for being a lesbian was always present, even when going out to have a great time with her girlfriend. Before this incident, I didn’t even know that DADT existed and what implications it had on the life of homosexuals serving in the U.S. military. After spending some time thinking about it, it didn’t seem like that well of a compromise anymore.
When researching DADT online, I found a lot of personal stories of individuals who got discharged from the military for being openly gay. The chart below shows the numbers of individuals discharged from the U.S. military between 1980 – 2008. The total number of people discharged reaches 30,050 in this 28 year period. Those people were not welcomed in the military anymore because of who they were, for being homosexuals, no matter of their rank in the military.