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WITNESS - PERSONAL REFLECTIONS
ON THE REPEAL OF DADT

by

Pepe Johnson
former US Army Sergeant

 

Was that it? We looked at one another in disbelief. Where were the fireworks? The marching bands? Or, in the worst nightmares of our opponents, the immediate and complete collapse of the United States? It didn’t seem real. After eight years of fighting, it couldn’t be over just like that. 

 

On Saturday, 18 December 2010, the United States Senate voted 65 - 31 to repeal the law banning gay, lesbian and bisexual men and women from serving honestly and openly in the US Armed Services. 
 

Anticlimactic. I knew the meaning of the word, but until that moment I had never felt it. For the rest of my life when I hear that word I will think back on that moment when I was seated in the Senate Gallery and listened to Senator Evan Bayh’s plain words and moderate tone announce the death sentence for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.


I remained in Washington, DC, over the weekend and was privileged to be part of the audience for the Speaker of the House of Representatives enrollment ceremony and later the Presidential signing ceremony where the bill finally became law. I came out in 2002 and have fought to repeal the law for eight years. So many others have fought much longer - easier to count in decades than years - to end DADT and its ancestors. After all that time it just didn’t seem right to end it so quietly.

 

Satisfied. That’s the word I use now to describe my feelings about repealing DADT. Like the end of a delicious meal, I feel full, but I know hunger will return. I’ll need to eat again. The legislation passed and signed into law does not repeal DADT outright, instead it begins a process of repeal that President Obama has said will be “swift” and “efficient.”

 

We can take this holiday season to catch our breath, but we must prepare ourselves for coming challenges. There remain enemies who oppose us. I harbor no doubts they are looking at every possible tactic to slow and stop the process. 

 

When the regulatory repeal process is complete I will have the chance to eat again as I plan to reenter the military. Still the process will not be done. Even now the eyes of critics are watching our brothers- and sisters-in-arms to see how they handle the news of repeal. As we reenter the services and our fellow gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans already living outside the closet volunteer to serve for the first time, only more attention will be directed our way.
 

As members of a minority each of us is an ambassador to the majority and our individual actions will be interpreted to represent every gay, lesbian and bisexual service member. This isn’t new, but the end of DADT has disrupted the status quo and the way we are seen by some. We should recognize and remember this, but ultimately, we should continue serving as we already have: honorably and heroically.


When the process is complete our military will not be better for ending Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. It will be better for reinforcing and expanding integrity and dignity in service to America - the nation, the people, the idea. 

 

Confident. That’s how I feel about the future after repeal is complete - the not-too-distant future. 

2010-2011 Gay Military Signal