Standards, Still Holding Onto DADT
Not only does our country's don't ask,
don't tell policy force many service members
out of the U.S. military, but it discourages
thousands of qualified potential applicants
from enlisting. According to Soulforce (an
activist organization dedicated to ending
religious and political discrimination against
the GLBT community), 41,000 citizens would
serve in the American Armed Forces if they did
not have to lie in order to do so.
"Susan Brown" (not her real name) is just one of those
citizens. Susan is
an athletic honor-roll student from Long
Island New York, active in her church and
community; she has no criminal record; she
doesnít drink, doesnít smoke, never has
used drugs; she is in perfect health; sheís
on her school debate team; sheís fluent in
two languages and plays a musical instrument.
This intelligent, motivated high school senior
seems like the perfect candidate for the U.S.
Armed Forces. Thereís only one thing
"wrong" with her in the militaryís
eye Ö Susan Brown is a lesbian, a lesbian
unwilling to trade in her honesty and
integrity for anything in this world, even the
Army uniform she would someday like to wear.
But the Army doesnít want or need Susan
Brown. According to USA Today, the Army
exceeded its recruiting goals for the month of
June by 2% above their target goal, staying on
track to meet their goal of 80,000 new
soldiers this year. They did this by relaxing their standards.
Tattoos: Those on the neck and hands no
longer disqualify a potential recruit.
Older recruits: The Army raised the
maximum enlistment age from 35 to 42 years
Lower educational requirements: In
2005, the Army began accepting up to 4% of
those who score in the bottom third on the
Armed Forces Qualification Test.
Previously, it had a limit of 2% from
that category. The Army has also relaxed its
restriction against high school dropouts.
For potential future recruits like Susan
Brown (who comes from a long line of military
family members), the DADT policy is enough to
say "no way" to recruiters who
frequently visit her school with free keyrings
and promises of great travel and a better
"Iíve come too far," she says,
"I just canít go back into the closet.
I used to hate myself; I even wanted to kill
myself because I thought I was a bad person,
some kind of freak. Then I got involved in
some gay activist organizations, met other
kids like myself, and Iím pretty confident
now. I canít go back to hiding, lying, and
feeling bad about myself again. I don't even
understand why I would have to. I mean, I can
understand kids teasing me at school, but I
expect more from adults -- especially the ones
we trust to defend our country. How could
people talk about freedom, then treat gay
people like we don't deserve any rights at
all? It's very sad."
The folks involved in Soulforce are
fighting DADT so that young people like Susan
will someday have the right to serve. Their
Right to Serve Campaign is taking place in 30
cities around the country. Potential
enlistees, who are openly homosexual, enter
military recruiting offices and attempt to
sign up, then are turned away by the
recruiters and told that if they're serious about enlisting they must
lie about and hide their sexual orientation.
Susan Brown is not willing to lie about who she
is. In fact, she says sheís ready to uphold the
higher standard the military imposes, but not
willing to abide by the double standard it imposes
on gays and lesbians.
"I have a girlfriend," she proudly
boasts, "and I just canít imagine having to
keep her a secret and worry all that time that
someone will find out about us. My parents know, my
friends now, everyone knows about me. I could never
survive under donít ask, donít tell. I would get
kicked out the first week."
Currently, Ezekiel Montgomery, Jacob Reitan, Haven
Herrin, and Briget Schwarting of The Right to Serve
Campaign are conducting sit-ins in the Minneapolis,
Minnesota area to protest being denied the right to
enlist in the U.S. military. Among the other cities
involved in the campaign are Tampa, Spokane, New York
City, Tacoma, Greensboro, and Richmond, just to name a
Rhonda K. Davis