March 24, 2005
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
“When I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a
discharge for loving one.” This epitaph of Leonard P. Matlovich states clearly how the
military stands on homosexuality. As a society, we seem to be gradually more accepting
towards homosexuality; however, when it comes to the protection of our freedoms as
Americans, and the overall protection of our lives and our country, we are still standing
firm with closed minds. Our country was founded on natural rights and liberties; yet, the
question still causes heated debates, should we allow homosexuals to openly join our
American military forces? When our own government, the empowering body that was
created to protect those precious freedoms does not condone homosexuality, are we truly
expected to believe that they will effectively manage the armed forces? Wouldn’t we, or
shouldn’t we expect our government to act with the same open-mind as the growing
majority of the citizens in our society?
By 1994, due to the amount of military personnel discharged due to the discovery
of their sexual preference, it cost an astonishing $17.5 million to replace those
discharged. (Rimmerman 249) This amount included money that the government
invested to train, feed, clothe, and make the military their new home. When the military
removed them, we, the taxpaying public, were forced to bear the costs of doing the exact
same things for their replacements. With the national debt such that it is, does it make
sense to you to waste millions of dollars and to force able bodied, willing people to
abandon their chosen careers, just to keep homosexuality out of our military?
There are examples within our armed forces that homosexuals, if left undetected,
can effectively and efficiently operate within the guidelines prescribed by military life.
A very modern day example is that of a young man who did not reveal his sexuality to
anyone until after his tour of duty was up. He was on the reality TV show Real World.
He was dating one of the members of the house and while he was enlisted he appeared on
the show. He asked to have his face blurred out until after his tour of service was done.
During an MTV special he told the viewing public how a homosexual can cope within
the military regime as well as a straight man. He went on to tell how he chose to hide his
identity, because he did not want his squad to find out, because he had heard and seen the
unfair treatment, and he did not want to suffer the same persecution. Funny how it is that
as long as no one “knows” the person is an equal, or valued member of the group, but
once the “news” is out, they are no longer able to perform the same tasks carried out
completely just days before. This young man’s successful tour in the military is proof
positive that forcing people out of the military because of their sexual preference is just a
“comedy of errors” yet as a taxpayer who has to bear the cost to train, feed, and clothe his
replacement, I’m not laughing! When you get down to it, no American able to serve
should be allowed, much less given an excuse, not to serve his or her country. We need
all our talent.
Another example is the movie Soldier’s Girl, which showcases hateful acts
towards homosexuals in the military. This movie, based on the true story of an Army
soldier, Barry Winchell, who fell in love with Calpernia Addams, a transgender nightclub
performer is a sad yet poignant story. Their love affair created jealousy,
misunderstanding and mistrust among Winchell’s fellow soldiers. As rumors spread that
Winchell was gay, his friend Justin Fisher picks up the baseball bat, and responding to
urging from Winchell’s own roommate, bludgeons Winchell to death in his sleep.
(Soldiers Girl) This scenario has been played out on more than one occasion not only in
the military but on college campuses as well. Death most certainly should not be a
consequence for who you fall in love OR for the career you choose. A solider should not
have to defend himself or his sexual preference, when he has been employed to defend
our country and our freedoms, which ironically enough we hold so dear. You know,
“freedom of speech” “freedom of religion” “freedom to bear arms” “freedom to bear
witness”, let freedom ring… how can we profess all these so-called freedoms yet forbid
someone to serve their country if they don’t “love” who we think they should? There are
people in every walk of society, doctors, lawyers, teachers and even political figures that
are “homosexuals”, yet our government does not want to allow homosexuals to become
generals, sergeants, or privates in our armed forces? Barry Goldwater once stated, “You
don't have to be straight to be in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight.”
In other nations they allow homosexuals to fight side by side with straight men and
women. The military is soldiers, able to work together and that division of armed forces
works efficiently. The four countries that stand out with regards to their policy of
accepting homosexuals in the armed forces are Canada, Germany, Israel, and Sweden
(United States 1). “Military officials in all four countries said that the presence of
homosexuals in the military is not an issue and has not created problems in the
functioning of military units.” (United States 3)
Since 9/11, we have had a dramatic increase in our military technology and
presence and the number of soldiers needed to operate and man these changes. There are
already many limitations regarding people who are allowed in the military. These
restrictions may be caused by their health, or a family situation, and in some instances
even education. After you eliminate those people there are a select few who are able to
enlist in the military and if we continue to reduce this select few based on their sexual
preference, we will soon be out of viable candidates, and desperate for soldiers.
In an ironic catch twenty-two, what happens if one day, soon, the government
feels the need to reinstate the draft? Is this question still going to be at the top of the list?
Are you going to draft a homosexual if you won’t let him enlist? Is it every “man” must
fight for the country, and if so, why should a group of individuals who were shunned,
persecuted and even forced to leave a chosen profession, take up arms to defend a
country who would not defend them?
In 1943 during WWII, the U.S. military decided to ban and regulate
lesbians and gays from all parts of the military (Shawver 111). Before the plan first took
effect, “psychiatrists came up with a list of five categories of mental illness that soldiers
should be screened for.” A few years later, homosexuality was the newest addition to the
list (Shawver 3). It was not until the mid 70’s when a different group of psychiatrists
worked on that list and determined homosexuality should no longer be considered a
mental illness, did the military loose their original grounds for banning homosexuals.
(Shawver 3). The military was now forced to look for another good reason to justify a
ban, and they used the excuse of “close quarters” in which soldiers lived. For example, if
it is the general belief that it is wrong for men to watch women change, then they can
believe the same thing with homosexuals. (Shawver 4). What they were trying to portray
was that these “men” would derive pleasure from watching the other men in the barracks
change clothes, and might possibly even “hit” on them, causing undue stress on the
heterosexuals. I find this laughable! Does this government want us to believe that
people, homosexual or heterosexual, have absolutely no self control or restraint? Does
this mean that every heterosexual man “hits” on every woman? Is it not safe for a
woman to work with a man for fear that she will be accosted? Of course not, likewise it
is not believable that a homosexual man can not function in the company of other men
without getting sexually aroused all the time, to the detriment of him and everyone
For nearly 50 years, it has be the military’s official policy to exclude homosexuals
from service. In 1992, President elect Clinton, a Democrat, told Americans that he
planned to lift the ban and that homosexual men and women should be allowed to serve.
After taking office, Clinton faced powerful military and congressional opposition. For
about 6 months the debate raged about what to do. Conservatives said homosexuals
would destroy the overall morale, discipline and order of the military. People for the ban
said that gay people were just as capable and should be allowed to serve. (Issues and
In July 1993, a compromise, known as "don't ask, don't tell," allowed gays and
lesbians to serve in the military as long as they did not tell anyone they were homosexual
or engage in homosexual conduct. Under this policy, commanders would not try to find
out the sexual orientation of personnel, and personnel would not disclose their sexual
orientation. Conservatives saw the policy and any related change as a gross relaxation of
the absolute ban on gay people. Liberals were not satisfied with the ban either because
homosexuals were still dismissed from military service if they told anyone about their
orientation. So basically is still needed to be hush hush!
Contrary to its supposed purpose, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” resulted in a drastic
increase in discharges. Since the first full year the policy was in effect, more than 8700
service members have been discharged under the policy. In 2001, 1250 men and women
were fired from their jobs in the Armed Forces; that is 3-4 individuals per day (“Don’t
Some of the more amazing “dismissals” to me include:
Army Col. Margarethe Cammermeyer, a 26-year service member and decorated
Vietnam veteran, is discharged from the Washington State Army National Guard for
being a lesbian. The U.S. District Court ruled her dismissal violated the constitutional
guarantee of equal protection under the laws and ordered reinstatement.
Senior Chief Petty Officer Meinhold, who was honorably discharged after
announcing that he was gay. U.S. District Court ruled that there was no rational basis for
the military’s policy excluding gays, declared the ban unconstitutional and ordered the
Navy to reinstate Meinhold. (Issues and Controversies)
The United States surpasses every other military in the world with regards to
technology and money. Are we not fighting in Iraq to establish a democratic government
for a society we felt was oppressed? Are we going to implement the same closed minded
views on the people of that society? How are you going to hold yourself out be a model
to the world when you can’t even stand on the values of equality and justice for all that
people come to this country seeking? When it comes to morals the United States military
is not as superior as others. In order for our military to be superior in all aspects, we need
to become more open minded and one way to begin this process is to not let someone’s
sexual preference play a part in determining their ability to serve their nation. People
need to be accepted and valued based on their talent and intelligence, not on sexuality.
Women have long fought this battle for equality and it saddens me to think that in
a world that will finally allow a woman to fight for her country, the target for persecution
has turned to homosexuals. What is next - the persecution of left handed, red heads? The
point is that decisions are always a lot easier to make in hindsight. But we seldom have
that luxury. That's why the future of our country depends on leadership, and that's what
we need now.
Work Cited Page
About Gay Movies. www.aboutgaymovies.info. YaBB 1 Gold. 2001.
“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue, Don’t Harass”. The Problem Behind the Solomon
Amendment: Discrimination Against Gay Men, Lesbians, and Bisexuals in the U.S.
Military. 2005. 24 Feb.
Nyswaner, Ron. Soldier’s Girl. USA. 2003.
Quote Garden. http://www.quotegarden.com/homosexuality.html. 2005.
Rimmerman, Craig A., ed. Gay Rights, Military Wrongs. New York: London: Garland
Publishing, Inc., 1996.
Shawver, Lois. And the Flag Was Still There: Straight People, Gay People and Sexuality
in the U.S. Military. Binghamton: Harrington Park Press, 1995.
United States. General Accounting Office. Homosexuality in the Military: Policies and
Practices of Foreign Countries. Washington: GAO 1993.
Issues and Controversies, Gays in the Military, Facts on File, March 6,1998,
Barry M. Goldwater, Ban on Gays is Senseless Attempt to Stall the Inevitable.