04 January 2013

What The Repeal Of DADT Won't Change

When "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was repealed, I pointed out--on this blog and to people I know--that it wasn't an unmitigated victory for LGBT who are in, or want to join, the military.

For one thing,  I expressed concerns that DADT's repeal could actually make LGBT people in the military more vulnerable to sexual, and other kinds of, harassment than they were when DADT was the official policy.  Under DADT, some gay servicemembers were "flying under the radar," so to speak, and other servicemembers could only make assumptions about the sexual orientation (or, in some cases, gender identity) of other servicemembers.  No one wants to go through the embarrassment and humiliation, not to mention the legal problems, that could stem from assuming that someone was gay and harassing him or her.  With DADT gone, gay servicemembers can be more easily identified--and harassed or worse.

Also, the repeal of DADT did not clear the way for transgender people to serve in the Armed Forces.   One who identifies as such cannot join; anyone who comes to identify as such, and begins a gender transition, after enlisting is not allowed to remain in uniform.

There is still another problem that the repeal of DADT didn't, and couldn't, address:  The culture of the armed forces is not, and probably never will be, tolerant, much less accepting, of people who are not identifiably heterosexual and cisgender.  The very sorts of traits and values valued and promoted by and in the military are not exactly hospitable to diversity in gender expression and sexuality.  Plus, the emphasis on creating "traditional" families (ironic, when you consider that military families have some of the highest rates of divorce) will probably ensure that the military brass won't be welcoming toward LGBT people.  That Pentagon computers block any website they deem to be LGBT-friendly, while allowing unfettered access to such as Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, ought to tell you something about the military commanders' real attitudes toward LGBTs.

Plus, I'm not optimistic about the outlook for LGBT people in the military now that almost everyone expects Senator Chuck Hagel to be nominated as Secretary of Defense. While he says he is "committed to LGBT military families", his track record suggests otherwise.  In 1998, he opposed then-President Bill Clinton's nomination of James Hormel as Ambassador to Luxembourg on the grounds that Hormel was "aggressively gay"--which, according to Hagel, would prove an impediment to doing the job.  He finally apologized for his slur two weeks ago.  But he still hasn't apologized for derogatory comments he made about Congressional Representative Barney Frank.  

I'm waiting to see just how "committed" Sen. Hagel will be to LGBT military families.