DADT Still Not Repealed, Gay Soldiers Still Being Discharged, Are Unsafe

While we continue to dawdle through the seemingly endless limbo of the DADT not-quite-repeal, there was some hope that the military would put an unofficial halt on discharges for gays. No one expected the military to issue that as an order, but just based on the sheer amount of paperwork and wasted time that re-instating discharged soldiers will require once DADT is actually repealed, it seems like it might be in the military’s best interest to put the time and money required to investigate and then discharge gay soldiers elsewhere. However, since at least four airmen were discharged in the past few weeks, that doesn’t seem to be the case. 

An important point of clarification: some of the soldiers in question were discharged of their own accord, when they volunteered their sexual orientations to their superiors, saying that they needed to be discharged in order to get away from anti-gay harassment in their units. That’s not insignificant. But there was also at least one servicemember who was discharged against his wishes, exactly as people have been for years under DADT. From the Service Members Legal Defense Network:

These Air Force discharges underscore that DADT investigations and discharges continue. Unfortunately, SLDN has a client right now who was recently recommended for discharge at a board hearing, and his paperwork is headed to the Navy Secretary. He made no statement, and he wants to continue serving. We have another client who is having a board hearing later this week, and if this senior enlisted person is recommended for discharge, her paperwork will likely be before the Navy Secretary in short order. She, too, wishes to continue serving. Let me be clear. At SLDN, we have scores of clients who have been advised they are under DADT investigations. Some of these clients have between 10 and 15 years of honorable service, few made voluntary statements, and none to my knowledge has asked to be ‘separated expeditiously.’ For these service members, especially, certification and final repeal cannot come soon enough. The continued stress of investigations and the risk of separation under DADT is real and very much imminent.

DADT won’t be fully repealed until the repeal is certified by the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and THEN a 60-day waiting period has ended. Until that time, the military is perfectly entitled to discharge gay and lesbian servicemembers just as they did before. Objectively and ethically speaking, this is very bad news for our military and our nation. But paradoxically, it might be good news for some — for instance, the four airmen mentioned above.

The Executive Director of Servicemembers United has said that “The Pentagon has made it abundantly clear that… it is more than willing to deal with any lingering harassment issues through the chain of command or, in the case of command involvement, the base’s or post’s Inspector General’s office.” But that doesn’t seem to have been the experience of these soldiers, who out-and-out asked for discharges because it seemed like the only way to end the harassment they were being subjected to. If their stories are any indication, the chain of command isn’t working. One soldier, Airman 1st Class Albert Pisani, went so far as to ask for an expedited discharge — a supervisor had told him that after the DADT repeal, he expected an increase of “friendly fire” deaths for gay soldiers. In the military, harassment at work can be deadly.

It’s a question that’s less often explored on the subject of DADT, because so much of our attention is focused on whether or not it will ever really be repealed: will the military be a safe environment to come out in, once it’s permissible to do so? The military has been instituting trainings that are focused on a smooth transition to a post-DADT armed forces. One internal communique that reflects these new guidelines is as follows:

A TIERED APPROACH TO ENSURE PERSONNEL RECEIVE THE APPROPRIATE LEVEL OF TRAINING. THE CENTRAL MESSAGE OF THIS TRAINING WILL FOCUS ON LEADERSHIP, PROFESSIONALISM, DISCIPLINE, AND RESPECT.

A. LEADERSHIP. This is a major policy change and focused leadership is required to set conditions for success for unit cohesion, readiness, and the effectiveness of a given command. Frontline leaders are tasked with building unit cohesion and maintaining readiness in a diverse force to meet mission requirements. By providing leaders at all levels with accurate information, we enhance our ability to ensure a smooth policy transition with minimal disruption to the force.

B. PROFESSIONALISM. We have taken an oath as military professionals to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and we are committed to our navy core values. Emphasizing these professional obligations in a post-repeal environment will reinforce expectations of personal behavior and will help reduce any impact a policy change may have on our effectiveness.

C. DISCIPLINE. The uniform code of military justice (UCMJ) remains the legal foundation of good order and discipline. The ucmj provides for enforcement of standards of conduct and laws and prohibits harassment, sexual assault, and other violence. Accountability is a cornerstone of good order and discipline and will continue to guide standards of acceptable behavior.

D. RESPECT. As leaders we must focus on our values and Navy traditions as the foundation for maintaining the strength of our force. Central to that strength is treating all people with respect and dignity regardless of sexual orientation.

As Albert Pisani’s story proves, the issue of “treating all people with respect and dignity regardless of sexual orientation” can be one of life and death. The military is telling us with the recent discharges that it’s not ready to give up DADT. But when it is, are its servicemembers going to be ready for life after it?

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Rachel is Autostraddle's Senior Editor and the editor who presides over books and news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy."

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26 Comments

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    Thank you for covering this. I’ve been having a hard time explaining to my friends that DADT isn’t fully repealed, even though it’s been through congress. The concept that it isn’t being implemented seems to be a nonissue for some people. Like, “Hey, we threw you guys a bone. Be happy.”

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    Good article, Rachel.

    To certify that the military is “ready” for repeal includes having every single Servicemember sit through the appropriate tier training. Usually a Powerpoint. We had snacks.

    I could go on a tangent, but I guess what I want to get at is that it takes time. Anyone who’s in the military can tell you how miserable it is to get people to do regular annual training, much less the entire armed forces.

    People are still being discharged under DADT, yes… because it’s still in effect. It would’ve been nice if Uncle Sam said “listen up y’all, let’s save some trees and stop all this malarkey” but I personally never expected that. At the training, they stress that the policy still stands and to keep your big gay mouth shut a little while longer. Not in those exact words.

    “…will the military be a safe environment to come out in, once it’s permissible to do so?”

    My last command was small, very family like. I was basically out amongst friends and coworkers, no one cared. Almost 1/3 of my division was queer. I never once felt unsafe or discriminated against. With that said, there’s always certain people you’re not going choose to share you sexuality with, especially in the workplace.

    So…will it be safe? No, probably not completely. Neither is Taco Bell.

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    in my old company, there’s a witchhunt going on (not among the cadre, among the privates)unfortunately, it’s the guys getting hit.

    everyone knew i was gay. no one had a problem with it. but the males…the second a guy seemed the smallest bit effeminate, no matter how much the guy claimed to be straight, they would hunt for more clues. guys that were open about their sexuality to the smallest degree would get turned in. and the guys that would go into detail about their sex lives were constantly getting harassed. now, i never talked about my sex life, everyone just knew i liked girls, but still, i was only harassed once, and that was before i came out, and that was by a very christian woman who’s main joy in life was playing christian gospel music super loud to bother everyone and then invoke her religious freedoms.

    since DADT got “repealed” and we had our DADT breifing (i wore this under my uniform, btw http://i.imgur.com/rLiUa.jpg) and people have tried to come out, it’s gotten worse. i have had a couple of instances that were amazing, guys standing up for a guy who “acts” gay but says he is straight by saying it doesnt matter if he is or not, people dont need to call him out and put his shit on blast. and to the honest, the two guys that they were trying to get kicked out were hated in the first place not because they were gay, but because they were snitches they were kissing the sergeants asses. when it was made obvious they were gay, at first it wasnt apparent if the guys were trying to get the out because they were gay or for revenge. but as it progresses it seems more and more filled with hate.

    the best thing we can do is to get DADT FULLY repealed so that gays have rights like everyone else, and we don’t have to hide. there will always be a few dickheads, but once we have the legal system to protect us, not many people will go beyond that to fuck with us. getting in trouble in the army means losing money, rank, free time and more. messing with someone because of who they like isn’t worth all that to most people.

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      “once we have the legal system to protect us, not many people will go beyond that to fuck with us.”

      If what I’ve read is correct and that’s the same legal system currently “protecting” US servicewomen with a 1 in 3 sexual assault rate by fellow US servicemen, you might want to have a plan B.

      Sexually assaulted women and men had to resort to a class action lawsuit filed against Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, for failure to make measurable progress and marked improvement to the Pentagon’s abysmal record that appears to tolerate sexual abuse and rape

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        There are always a few assholes. But there are a lot of regulations in place to try to protect everyone, not just from rape and assault, but from being accused of rape and assault. we have battle buddies so we’re not alone, lots of reports to follow. I’m not saying the system is perfect, but it’s better than if there is one. i know i probably had a better experience that most, but i’m only claiming to speak from my own experience. plus, once the regulations are set to law, new recruits have to learn it from the beginning. a lot of the problem people in the military are people that have been in since before women were allowed to have certain positions, and make their platform obvious when talking to us. mostly infantry, but still. new recruits are almost always better.

        also, one thing that I am proud of the army (at least the program we went through) for was the sexual assault course we went through. it didn’t victim blame at all, it was more “dont be an asshole, if someone says no, back the fuck off” (which proves that non victim blaming programs ARE possible, and need to be used more. it was very effective) it said that it didnt matter how much the victim had to drink, how they dressed or acted didnt matter, if they said no, that was it. another good point was if you see your battle buddy going after someone in an inappropriate way, or trying to get them drunk, or drug them, STOP THAT SHIT. and showed a bunch of ways to help. plus it mentioned that it wasnt always a male assaulting a female, which was something that a lot of people dont understand. i have to admit, i was impressed.

        i know that was off topic a bit but i just wanted to mention it. We try to weed out assholes and get them out asap. We had a big problem with people crying wolf with rape too, which slowed down the process. people that slept with someone and when that person didnt get what they wanted the next morning they cried rape. and admitted it later. the entire system is fucked, but they really are trying to fix it.

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          it sounds like you have a really good command structure implementing programs the way they’re supposed to be implemented, and that is awesome! like you said, there will always be assholes, no matter how much education, training, or ucmj action they receive. but when the chain of command cares enough to focus on the aspects of programs that really matter (i.e. the actual intent of the programs in place…like protecting servicemembers from being assaulted instead of blaming them for someone else’s decision…or teaching people that it doesn’t matter if someone’s gay or not, instead of that everyone needs to watch what they say now because they’ll get in trouble for saying something bad about “the gays”), those assholes will find that they’re not going to be protected in their attempts to be assholes. they’ll either have to change their ways or get out of the system.
          thank you for sharing your experiences; they made this issue more tangible and gave hope for the eventual success of the programs the military is attempting to use to keep its people safe…or at least content enough to keep their mouths shut and drive on with their missions. and slowly, the branches are learning which people should be the ones to shut up.

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            when i went through my training, we had a q+a type session afterward. there was, of course, one asshole, but for that one asshole there were 3 people calling him out on his asshole-ness. i’m just speaking from my experiences, but that seems to be more realistic. for every jerk you have at least 3 people who are the opposite. the sad part is that it’s that one guy who garners more attention as opposed to the 3 people who can participate in discussions and actually back up what they are saying with something that actually makes sense.

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    “the best thing we can do is to get DADT FULLY repealed so that gays have rights like everyone else, and we don’t have to hide. there will always be a few dickheads, but once we have the legal system to protect us, not many people will go beyond that to fuck with us. getting in trouble in the army means losing money, rank, free time and more. messing with someone because of who they like isn’t worth all that to most people.”

    Yessss.

    I’ve noticed a lot more of the “horror” stories come from the Army for some reason. I’m not sure if there are really “types” of people who join different branches or if I just have a skewed point of view.

    One of my best guy friends said he’s basically on an “open” ship right now. His LPO brings his boyfriend to command functions and everyone loves him. Kinda makes me wish I hadn’t put in for shore duty…sigh.

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      what’s sad is we had a lot of cadre that would hint at their homosexuality, but they still have to investigate everything. and all of those cadre were female. it sucks, because outside of the military, in the gay world, everything is aimed more towards gay men. but in the army, it’s a lot safer to be a gay female. if anyone had a problem with me, i never heard it, as far as being gay was concerned. i hung out with mostly guys, because i have a huge fear of straight girls (THEY ARE INSANE) but the female friends i had were really awesome. they would do silly stuff like sport fishing a lot, but they knew what my type was and that that wasnt it. and when i found a girl i wanted to talk to, they would try to help out. I felt so bad because they guys had it a lot harder. I hated the two that were mentioned before, personally, but that was because of their grating personalities and the fact that they were backstabbing assholes that would try to get me in trouble for being alone with a boy (everyone knew i was gay, big deal. guys came to me for advice) and then try to be my best friend. i wanted to be on good terms just because we had to deal with the same bs, and it made me feel bad to hate them so much. i know it’s dumb, but i really try to get along with everyone.

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        I think the same goes for Navy, and the general population – everyone is a lot more accepting of lesbians than gay males.

        I typically hung out with males as well and definitely tried to stay away from straight girls – ESPECIALLY out in bars. Everyone can pretty much tell I’m gay, and there’s always those girls who think it’s all fun and games to flirt/experiment with the resident lesbians.

        Now I’d be lying if I said I didn’t uh…entertain them…on occasion. Totally investigation material if anyone cared what was going on, but drunk mistakes happen and it’s always a *facepalm* moment in the morning after sneaking out of bed.

        I feel you for trying to stick together with gay guys. One team one fight sorta thing. Then I’d see those kids (usually AF) out on the weekend, trying to “turn” the straight boys who are visibly uncomfortable (yet polite) with the conversation. You can only swat them on the nose so many times before giving up.

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          gah thank you. especially when i invite one of the gay boys to hang out with me and my “brother” (he might as well be, so we call each other brother and sister) and gay friend gets tipsy and decides to hit on my brother even though i told him my brother is really uncomfortable with the whole thing and is doing this as a favor to me because i’m trying to prove that every gay guy doesnt wanna hit on him. /facepalm

          and i never full on entertained straight girls, but a couple enjoyed “drunken cuddling” every weekend. like, she made it a thing and texted me all week saying she couldnt wait for our drunken cuddle time. but she mostly bragged about it in front of boys so i think she was trying to do the “bi for boys” thing which just annoyed me. but hey, i sleep better with a girl in my bed, i’m not gonna lie. i like cuddling.

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            Seriously, like parallel experiences. The few gay boys I did deem mature enough to bring into our circle would still whisper how they were going to try to get so-and-so drunk enough to try something with them. Which is no different than straight guys being creeps with chicks I suppose.

            Drunken cuddling…that happened a whole lot in our barracks after the earthquake hit Sendai. Power out, no heat, freezing at night, and the aftershocks kept you on edge. Mistakes a plenty. /facepalm

            The whole “bi for boys” shit is super annoying. I would pretty much judge a girl’s seriousness by how they acted when we were alone. Hopefully now that I’m back in the states I won’t be subject to as much of that crap.

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            exactly! creepin is creepin, seriously. they think its cute and funny but really it’s kinda scary that they think it’s ok to get people drunk. not ok.

            same, but winter, because we lived in barracks that were technically condemned. heat never worked, and san antonio gets surprisingly cold.

            hopefully. depends on where in the states though.

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            I’m in San Angelo for training. If it ever gets below 90 during the day here, I will cry tears of joy. My next base is in VA. I’ve never lived on the east coast so we’ll see how that goes.

            In reply to your other comment, you’ve got balls to wear that shirt to the brief, lol. I know aircrew kids who wear certain “themed” morale patches on their flight suits… I guess I’m just not the boundary pushing type, save for some accidental hair dye jobs.

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    I had a dream about DADT last night. Wow. But in it, I was in a super fab unit, and my commander was a gay man, and someone gave him shit, and the commander went on a tirade about bow sexuality has nothing to do with his competency as a soldier. This is my unconscious mind.

    And this is fucking relevant cause my life is going to shit and I just want to join the Marines, and become an MP.

    But there is no way my homo-ass is gonna go over in the Marines.

    I wanna join the MP to help deal with shit like Military Sexual Trauma,and stuff, plus the things I will learn. guh.

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    Ah, my sympathy to all you guys! Surely the example of the rest of the Western world would be good – our military’s allowed us types for something like 15 years, and the sky hasn’t fallen!

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