John Shields

"Voices of Honor" Tour Comes to New Jersey

Filed By John Shields | July 29, 2009 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Don't Ask Don't Tell, HRC, repeal, Servicemembers United

The "Voices of Honor: A Generation Under Don't Ask, Don't Tell" national tour hits Trenton, New Jersey and the immediate metropolitan New York City area today and tomorrow (Wednesday and Thursday). There are two events, so try to make at least one - if not both of them.

The tour is a partnership between the Human Rights Campaign and Servicemembers United, and is one part of a nationwide effort in the ongoing efforts to repeal DADT.

The tour is intended to highlight the discriminatory Don't Ask, Don't Tell law that hurts military readiness and national security by requiring the dismissal of openly gay and lesbian service members wanting to proudly serve their country. Meanwhile, the U.S. military is enlisting gang members and white supremacists into its ranks to reach its recruiting goals.

The policy is clearly flawed, and puts all American military personnel fighting for our country in danger, and the entire country at risk.

That said, there are two big events you don't want to miss if you are in the area:

On Wednesday, July 29th, at 7pm in Boonton, N.J., there will be a documentary screening of Ask Not, a PBS documentary on Don't Ask, Don't Tell. It's going to be held at the Switch Nightclub, Bar, and Restaurant.
Following the screening, there will be a Question & Answer session featuring two of the principals, Alex Nicholson and Jarrod Chlapowski, in the film.

If you can't make the screening of the film - which I would highly recommend, as there's nothing like watching a movie about queers with a whole bunch of queers - there will be a Public Town Hall Discussion on DADT Thursday.

The Thursday event will be held at 5 p.m. at the Mill Hill Playhouse of the Passage Theater Company, at 205 East Front St. in Trenton.

During this discussion, you'll be able to talk with gay, lesbian and straight individuals about the damaging effects of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

My stance on DADT is clear. It shouldn't have been enacted in the first place, and it only serves to weaken our armed forces and the brave men and women fighting alongside each other for our country.

Here's what the Human Rights Campaign says about the "Voices of Honor" national tour:

  After more than 15 years, many former congressional and senior military leaders who were involved in the construction and implementation of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" have recently called for the law to be reviewed or repealed, including former Joint Chiefs Chairmen Gen. John Shalikashvili and Gen. Colin Powell, and former Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Sam Nunn (D-GA). 

The Military Readiness Enhancement Act (H.R. 1283), which would repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," was introduced in the U.S. House earlier this year.
Passed in 1993, the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law allows gay, lesbian and bisexual service personnel to serve in the armed forces as long as their sexual orientation is not publicly disclosed or discovered. 

As of 2008, more than 13,000 men and women have been fired from the military because of their sexual orientation, including more than 60 Arabic linguists and nearly 800 other service members in critical occupational fields.

  For more information, visit HRC's website or Servicemembers United.

As I have written before, and it is well past time for this anachronistic and discriminatory legislation to be soundly rejected by the Obama administration and a Democratically-controlled U.S. Congress. Nearly 70% of Americans believe the legislation is flawed, and should be repealed. What are we waiting for?

Go to one of the events on the tour if you are able. Our brave gay and lesbian servicemembers are fighting alongside their straight counterparts for every American's freedom.

It's ridiculous that every American is not appalled by Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Call your representatives and senators - NOW.

Americans of all stripes and colors will thank you, as will all the gay and lesbian servicemembers - serving in silence.

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When you go to one of these events, please notice that there are no transgender people on the panel, they don't mention transgender people in their talk and they don't seem to care that transgender people have been kicked out of the military and harassed under DADT.

If they brush the subject aside or don't believe we have also suffered under DADT, you can show them a copy of the survey done by the Transgender American Veterans Association and compiled by the Palm Center last year at this time. You can find it at:

So instead of just talking about the lack of transgender people and being negative, offer a suggestion to improve things or start such an effort yourself. It gets tiring to hear constant complaints but no offer to do anything about it. These people are not doing a bad thing. It is a good thing trying to get something done with DADT. But you feel the need to complain. Why not talk to such organizations and try to make a change? Maybe you have and if so then say that with your criticisms which you have every right to offer.

Angela Brightfeather | July 29, 2009 4:44 PM


Monica's comments or "complaints" are 100% valid.
As the co-founder of TAVA (Transgender American Veterans Association), that was founded over 6 years ago to address the problems of exclusionary attitudes concerning Transgender Veterans in everything from the VA policies to this particular tour, Monica and TAVA have done more for the visibility of Trans Veterans than you could imagine.

That being said, The Voices of Honor Tour was appraoched and questioned directly about the lack of Transgender Veterans on their panel discussions to address DADT voer two years ago when they bagan the tour. We were told directly that we were not welcomed because DADT does not affect Transgender servicemenbers. It was a stupid thing to say at that time and it was proven a stupid thing to say after TAVA conducted the survey Monica mentioned and it was analyised by the Palm Center. In fact, Trnsgender service members have been discharged from active service under DADT and they will continue to be discriminated against on that basis. It falls into the same catagory as people who think that if you are Transgender, then you must in turn be gay. One might think that you would have to expect that the military would be years behind the GLBT community in understanding the falacy of that thinking, but none the less, that is what we have to deal with and what is affecting people as we speak.

Transgender Veterans are in every branch of the service and have fought in every major military action since the Revolutionary War. Thats a fact Jack!!!!

The obstinence of this tour to not include a Transgender Veteran on their panel discussion and presentation is no more or less than outright exclusion and transphobia, period. And the attitude displayed by their ignoring and excluding a Transgender person on their panel is shameful. If you consider that complaining, then you are underestimating my feelings about the matter, because I consider their exclusion insulting.

I especially wish to state that I very much do honor the service of the Veterans on this tour and on the panel and I thank them for their service to our country and to our community. Their being exclusionary today out of ignorance and/or bias, does nothing to take away from their service and heroism in the past.

The Service Women's Action Network (SWAN) has taken part in some of the stops of this tour. Our LGBT project, About Face, works to change the conversation around DADT to include all the faces of those who are effected by the policy as well as advocate for repeal.