This morning, I received a breaking press release from JD Smith, the co-director of OutServe, the network for LGBT active duty military service members. Last week, their new website went live, and JD has been really eager to get the word out. OutServe is one of several amazing organizations pushing hard against the forces that want to preserve employment discrimination in the military--most notably my heroes at Servicemembers United and the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. OutServe's constituency is very specific, however--active duty service members and only active duty service members.
Today, OutServe announced, however, they are building a network of base and regional chapters that will spring up--one by one--to help local LGBT military personnel connect to the larger national network and help create more visibility and a stronger presence in the military, while still maintaining anonymity while "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is still enforced.
For two years, the movement has been talking about developing a nation-wide network of grassroots in-district teams in every Congressional district in the nation. The problem is that most of the discussion implies a top-down activation of such a model, and grass roots is simply never ever ever top-down. Besides being a much smaller model, something that can be overcome; the difference between this plans and the wheel spinning of the larger movement is that OutServe has leveraged and is leveraging online social networks to develop this structure. It's not top-down or bottom-up--its simultaneous. What can we learn from this?
Full release after the jump.
OutServe is rolling out on a very small, limited scale, what our movement needs to mirror on a larger, national scale. What can we learn from this?
SAN FRANCISCO, CA - August 30,2010 -- OutServe, an organization of gay and lesbian military personnel, announced Monday the creation of several base and regional chapters around the globe. At least ten will be organized by OutServe this week on military bases and regions where the organization has significant presence, including Afghanistan and Iraq. For safety reasons the exact location of the chapters will not be known, except for inside the exclusive network, but 5 chapters will be located overseas and 5 chapters will be located stateside. Although the demand to establish additional chapters is high, OutServe will start with ten this week and expand in the near future. For information on the group go to www.outserve.org
The goal of each base and regional chapter will be to provide information, resources and social support to actively serving military personnel. "Don't Ask Don't Tell" places an immense burden upon individuals who think they are alone at their base and these networks will seek to fix that. Each chapter will be charged with growing and expanding their networks and offering support in their specific areas. OutServe Headquarters will be tasked with supporting those networks and serving as the voice of the national organization.
"We need to start to empower local military networks to expand and unite them under one banner," said JD Smith, OutServe's co-director and active duty officer in the U.S. Armed Forces. He continued, "Informal networks of gay and lesbian military members have existed well before World War I and it's time to take those networks and start connecting them and giving them more resources."
Under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" it can be difficult for LGBT military personnel to network with one another. "Our goal is to create an OutServe-based information superhighway where we can help LGBT military personnel connect with one another both locally and globally more efficiently," stated Ty Walrod, OutServe's co-director. "We want military personnel to know commands that are friendly, commanders which should be addressed with caution, and where to turn for both friendship and support."
"Our Commander-in-Chief directed us that this law is changing soon and we need to prepare ourselves to offer one other support in this time of transition," stated JD Smith. "Regardless when DADT is repealed, our goal is to continue to lay the foundation for a strong network of support." As the policy changes to allow open service in the future, these chapters will serve as hubs of social and professional support for OutServe's members in the future.
I have it on very good authority that we'll be hearing a lot more from OutServe in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.