Sean Kosofsky

Are We Ready to Help Gay Soldiers?

Filed By Sean Kosofsky | February 07, 2010 11:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Don't Ask Don't Tell, military, SLDN, violence

All signs point to the eventual demise of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy, opening up the possibility for gay and lesbian servicemembers to serve openly.

Remember the US Military is likely the largest single employer of LGBT people in America. If the ban does come down, who is really prepared to handle the likely deluge of discrimination allegations? With such a hyper macho institution and decades of homophobia and the stress of constant deployments and lack of support for military operations at home, stress in the armed forces is incredibly high.

Once the ban falls, and it will fall, who will take the calls, letters, emails and other reports of discrimination, sexual harassment, intimidation, vandalism and violence? The military? The EEOC? State LGBT groups? National groups?

The point is that our movement has been so focused on HIV/AIDS, policy change and support for youth, that we don't have the proper infrastructure for client advocacy. Sure SLDN has done amazing work and the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs exists, but military abuse problems need unique solutions if DADT falls.

Our movement must start thinking now about how to best serve people and plug them into existing resources that are culturally competent and understand that many LGBT services members are not partnered or "out" to their families. It is unsafe to be LGBT in the military and likely less safe than any other workplace (other than law enforcement).

If anyone has a suggested plan for this, please weigh in.

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The military is a reflection of society not the "hyper macho" institution that you describe. Sure there are those type but they are no more prevalent there than anywhere else. I'm sure that there are some units where that kind of thing is present, even encouraged but by and large you are operating from a stereotype. Just like the myth that service people are overwhelmingly conservative. It's just not true though like in society they are the loudest and most consistent voters.
When I was outed as trans in 1990, almost nobody cared, except for the person who had just taken over command of my squadron and he cared because A) he was a bigot and B) he didn't know me. I know he learned to regret his decision to put me out though I won't go into that whole story.
There are going to be issues. There will be bashing. There will be discrimination but I am as confident as I can be when I say that the incidence will be less than in society at large. You are buying into those same baseless arguments that have been used to justify discrimination all along. The same arguments were made when African Americans were integrated into the armed forces and those concerns didn't materialize either. While I have enjoyed your posts, it's apparent that you have never served or you would know better than to publish such discredited tripe. You should stick with writing what you know because there are LGBT people who have served long and honorably, as you well know and without any sort of problems, though they were out among their fellow service members. What apparently you don't know is that the services aren't how you describe them.
Don;t mean to sound down on you, as I said, I've enjoyed your posts but you are out of your ken here. You are describing the entire military in terms of a Navy Seals or Rambo movie. It just isn't the case.

The issue you raise is important- will the LGBT infrastructure be capable of handling the fallout and client advocacy from the collapse of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"?

I wonder. Should it be? Maybe, as with HIV and other LGBT issues a partnership with local, state and federal agencies is called for. How are we building bridges with them? Do we even know who they are?

Just questions. Thanks for making me think.

Start by reaching out to the G.I. Rights Hotline, a nonprofit coalition that has long run a toll-free counseling/information and referral line (877-447-4487). They've handled many such cases for years, often in collaboration with SLDN; I remember working for months with several attorneys on a particularly gnarly hardship discharge case back when I helped coordinate the hotline in the late 1990's.

Since then, of course, both the hotline's volume and the network that runs it have grown substantially, and holds special training sessions on issues around gay troops and abuse cases.

Just as with women's inclusion, it could easily be a whole new world of pain is in store from others fearful for their own masculinity. I hope that it will not be.

As a retired member of the US Navy I can safely say, those various safe-guards already exsist with in the US Military. There is training on Sexual Harassment, Harassment, Hazing and more that addresses all the issues of man/woman, woman/man, man/man, woman/woman. There are all ready regulations that address the treatment of DoD civilian workers/contractors in the military who are GLBT.

The only major issues that I see is one Article in the UCMJ that addresses Sodomy. It is a Article that is quite frankly very intrenched in 1950’s conservative/ultra relgious mindthink. It actually out laws in the DoD all forms of sex with the exception of concentual sex between a man and woman married to each other for the express reason of conciving a child. See? Very 1950’s. That Article needs to be removed to prevent its continued misuse in the military (yes, I have written up guys for masturbating… of all things *sigh*).

Also, as a retired member of the US Military and one that is Intersexed and Transgendered…well, I still get a paycheck ya know? There is a need for the GLBT troops out there. They do need support and mentoring by those who do know how to navigate the systems. I know how to do that, so I do reach out to those that I find out about. I give them the inforation that they either want or need.

My friends say I’ve been giving too much, and they’re right. For 2009 I helped 18 Transgendered people in the military. (1 was CAF, 1 JROTC, 1 civilian contractor) and that’s a lot of people to keep track of and to help. It’s a lot of people to care about…. I don’t think I can assist that many this year. I hope I just don’t have too.

But as far as ‘What happens if DADT is repealed’ goes… well, the only thing that has to really change is that DADT be removed and that it be acknowalged that Gay and Lesbian military members are given the same and equal rights and privleges as their stright counter parts.

Unfortunatly, Transgender and Intersex miliary members fall under different regulations. (only medical ones, not actual ‘laws’ so that the PotUS could smack the JcoS to change them now… *sigh*)

Thank you, Gina, for all the personal guidance you give so many, as well as money where needed!

"UCMJ Article 125: Sodomy" absolutely needs attacked at some point but not so prematurely that it helps arm opposition to DADT repeal. Remarkably, given its "ick" factors, Obama actually called for its elimination during the primaries.

The good news is that, somewhat like other insane civilian laws still on the proverbial book in various places like requiring someone to walk in front of a car at night carrying a lantern, 125, with very rare exception, is virtually never the central charge in military indictments anymore.

If too many in the Pentagon are still not just homo/transphobic but also erotiphobic Troglodytes, it seems most working for JAG see 125's absurdity, EVEN for gays, particularly after the "Lawrence" decision.

Thus, something called "prejudicial sodomy" has evolved. That is, when impelled to prosecute the kinds of offenses they do still genuninely care about such as an officer caught having sex with someone enlisted or in the barracks, "sodomy" becomes a kind of legal stocking stuffer, but the other charges make up the Christmas Tree. [Was that a tortured metaphor or what?]

Even then, the average sentence, along with dishonorable discharge, of course [something never done for gay "status" discharges alone since '81 as I recall], the average sentence over the past few years has been 6 months when the draconian potential penalty is 5 yrs.

See links below for my further explanation and some case citations and the Army lawyers journal article upon which its based. For instance, in "United States v. Marcum," even the twisted, rabidly homophobic Charles Moskos—the chief civilian member of the team of architects behind DADT—told the court that, while he still supported DADT itself, "as long as prohibitions against sexual conduct on base as well as fraternization remain in effect, decriminalizing sodomy would not harm the military." [About half way down, under, "NOT as big an issue as many assume..."]

With respect, your questions, while obviously well-intended and heartfelt, are built upon a false assumption bordering on myth: that repeal of DADT will simultaneously open countless gay servicemember closet doors, neither on base ror back home. Forget Louis XV, "Apres DADT, ce n'est-pas le Deluge."

Considering persistent realities as well as research says just the opposite.

Gays and lesbians, as well as Bs and Ts, learn on Day 1 how homophobic the American military, just like most militaries around the world to one degree or another. For that reason an estimated 66,000 are succeeding at hiding their orientation/identities even as I write, while less than 500 last year were identified and discharged. [How they were identified, and more importantly, how many were dicharged vs. ignored, has varied remarkably over the years. In short, the more cannon fodder the military needs, the fewer will be discharged, though there is reason to believe that improving positive attitudes have caused figures to go down, too.]

Those 66,000 know that there will be, for the most part, just as much hostility the day after DADT is repealed as the day before [though the amount that exists is GROSSLY overstated]. So why would any significant number risk harassment they've successfully avoided for "X" number of years?

One of the many forgotten discoveries of the 1993 RAND Corporation study, commissioned by the Defense Department at the request of Pres. Clinton...and then ignored when the Antigay Industry nuked the idea of lifting the ban....was that in countries and American police and fire departments where the ban on gays had been lifted, very few then chose to come out to their "work" peers.

Why? For the exact reason stated above: they had the common sense to know, just as gays in such countries and domestic police/fire departments still do, that, to use a cliché, one doesn't go around dressed in red in the middle of a heard of bulls.

The vast majority of anecdotes of gay servicemember in the US military today or in the last few years who have been out in their units carefully gauged the likely reaction of the group before outing themselves.

There is absolutely no reason to believe that will significantly change post DADT.

Further, the military has an extremely organized process for discouraging and punishing racial and sexual harassment, led by DOD departments created solely for that purpose. Of course, in such a large institution spread all around the world, there continue to be random violations, the most common possibly being a man sexually exploiting a woman with the threat of accusing her of being a lesbian whether or not she actually is.

THAT would not go away entirely from the standpoint of not wanting to risk peer harassment, but anyone, female or male, who knows they can no longer lose their career simply for being gay is no longer going to be vulnerable to coercion from that threat.

In fact, there is already a written ban on harassment of gays in the military. That's why the full acronym is now DADTDPDH, the last being "don't harass." Yes, there have been many problems with lack of enforcement, but with the eyes of at least our world, POTUS, Congress, the SECDEF, and the CJCS on them with repeal, there is no reason to believe it will not be enforced with the ferocity that rules against racial, sexual, et al., harassment are now, nor that educational programs to inform everyone they really mean it this time won't be promulgated.

Similarly, few remember that Pres. Clinton used an Executive Order to increase penalties for gay hate crimes in the Uniform Code of Military Justice ten years before the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd, Jr. Act was passed.

Thank you.

Actually, thinking back on it... They formed a Pentagon level Womans Panel to address all of the issues as they brought women in place in the military in the 80's. I expect to see some form of that for Gay & Lesbian inclusion.
The Womans Panel was 30% prior military, 10% active military, 40% civilian, 10% military over sight and 10% congressional over sight. Expect to see that as well. Most likely HRC will have the lions share of representation in it on the civilian side as well.

All comments are good. And the obvious answer is that we must educate the military as we have educated, slowly, everyone, so that it will be easier in the future to be open. I think most people, even black Americans, know that just changing a law it self is great but doesn't change people at first, but at least the law is not against us.

It makes a difference when bigots can say, well, it's against the law. Well, no, now homosexuality isn't, so find another excuse for your bigory-and sadly they will quote the Bible, including black preachers who don't quote the Bible when it supports slavery, etc. And how do we deal with black male preachers who say women should not be heard when some black churches, including one near me, are led by women???

These are some interesting questions you raised, Sean. Maybe some time soon we'll see how this plays out.