April 8, 2011

A BDU Exclusive | Leaked Thoughts From a Sailor: Repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell

[Ed. Note: I know we tend to limit posts to people within the Duke community, but I thought that our Community was so invested in the fight to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell that the perspective of an active Navy Sailor might be really interesting and pertinent. Below are a few thoughts that a friend of mine put together first after DADT's repeal and then again after beginning training to teach service members how to accept LGB people. He actually wrote to me personally after reading the blog for a while (unbeknownst to me!). It was only then that I asked him if I could share what he'd written. He works with an out sailor in a very small team (which as you probably know was a focus of anti-repealers..."What if you're in a small team and someone is gay!? You couldn't work under those conditions!"). Please note that even though my friend is straight, he has to write anonymously because he is not permitted to discuss his views on the policy or his experiences.]
(Photo credit: Jeff Sheng; "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" Project")

“Today we recall that unity, not uniformity, is our goal, that we need not fear differences among those united to defend our nation's freedoms and its dreams. Today we honor ALL brave men and women, including those who served so long without the honor they deserved. O Lord our God, and God of generations past, help us move forward, toward a nation a little more united, more indivisible, a union a bit more perfect, founded on a great deal more respect.” -Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff, Captain, U.S. Navy (ret.)

I am a straight Sailor in the U.S. Navy, stationed at a seagoing command. I work on a ship of 4,000 people in a department of over 300 people, but in a workcenter of only 5. In our small, yet efficient workcenter, is an openly gay Sailor. He came out to most of the department on his own about two and a half years ago, much to everyone's surprise, honestly. In those two and a half years, there has not been a single incident of hazing or blatant homophobia, and he has not been withheld from gaining responsibility or advancing in paygrade.

We just came back from deployment to the news that Don't Ask, Don't Tell has been repealed. The concept was brought up in our workcenter in an informal matter to a group of about ten to twelve people about six months ago. The most compelling comment came when one of the other straight Sailors quipped that the only people making a big deal about it are those who don't wear the uniform. And it's true. I am not necessarily in a position of combat, but I, like pretty much all of my shipmates, know that I don't care if the person working next to me is male or female, straight or gay, Christian, Jewish, or Muslim--all I care is that they work hard and do their job with superior effort. And I don't see how someone's sexual orientation affects that.

The core values of the Navy are Honor, Courage, and Commitment. The program in which I specifically work demands integrity to the extreme. I don't see how you can tell a Sailor that he must exemplify integrity, yet he must hide who he is from everyone else. I'm glad that enough of Congress has finally opened their eyes to this hypocrisy, and I know that they will not regret their decision.
Those words were my first reaction to the abolition of the “closeting policy”. In the months after the new policy was announced, we were told that it would not go into place until we were all properly trained on it. Trained? What, people are aliens or lepers because they are attracted to the same sex?

The training itself incensed me even more. Not a lot of people know too much or understand the extent of the new policy. It sounds like all the problems are solved--not so fast. Sure, anyone is allowed to serve openly in the military. But as far as benefits go? Fat chance. If you have a same-sex partner, he or she is just plain ignored. Your partner is not eligible to receive the same health benefits that straight spouses receive, nor are you able to receive a housing allowance for married couples. That’s only the beginning--every benefit that a married man and woman could receive are off-limits for gay couples, even if you are legally married. The legislative and executive branch are patting their own backs over this idea that everything is fixed now. Whether they realize it or not, they are not done.

The Defense of Marriage Act is the next hurdle. DOMA narrows the definition of marriage to a legal bond between a man and a woman only. Not only do our representatives believe they can regulate the most fundamental aspects of life, but they think they can outdo Merriam-Webster? Fortunately, there is a current movement to overturn this reprehensible law as well, though we as the people they represent need to put more pressure on the legislators to progress. Otherwise, what’s the point in letting people serve openly when the policy of legal discrimination still stands?

Electronics Technician (Nuclear) First Class
United States Navy


  1. Thank you for this story. FYI – http://OutMilitary.com is providing a supportive place for gay servicemen and women to friend, share and network in a post DADT era.

  2. Yeah DOMA completely negates almost all of the benefits a gay service member should receive for any type of same-sex commitment.
    As a gay sailor myself, I was equally appalled by the roll-out presentation. Whatever, in the end the bureaucratic politics don't matter, DOMA will hopefully be ending soon with Obama's tacit blessing, and unlike the integration of minorities or women into the armed forces, we're already here...

    I really appreciate your insight. Thanks for standing up when you could just have easily stayed down.