As lesbian and gay servicemembers and military veterans are celebrating the repeal of the military’s anti-gay “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy — despite delays in implementing the repeal — transgender servicemembers and veterans once again find themselves left behind in the battle for equality.
Because repealing DADT did not end the ban on service by trans people.
“The military still puts trans people in the same medical category as pedophilia. They consider it [transgenderism] to be a medical disorder,” said Monica Helms, president and co-founder of Transgender American Veterans Association.
“Trans people still have to be deep in the closet. They can’t talk to anyone about their lives, or they risk being discharged and getting something other than an honorable discharge,” Helms added. “Because the kind of discharge you get can make a huge difference in what kind of benefits you can get.”
First Lady Michelle Obama “looks forward to including” openly gay service members in her national military families initiative with the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy set to expire in less than 24 hours.
The campaign, Joining Forces, is a multi-prong national program launched in April by the First Lady and Dr. Jill Biden to support military families through public service outreach and partnerships with some of the nation’s largest corporations, among other efforts.
“The First Lady and Dr. Biden will continue to recognize and honor the families of all service members, as they have been doing since the beginning of Joining Forces,” Kristina Schake, Mrs. Obama’s communications director, said in a statement to The Advocate.
“After the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell takes effect, Mrs. Obama and Dr. Biden look forward to including openly gay and lesbian service members in events to recognize their service to the nation, as well as the service of their families,” Schake said.
The statement is similar to one made just prior to the White House launch event for Joining Forces in April. At that time, the White House had cited that DADT remained in effect and precluded participation by gay service members or their representative advocacy groups at the East Room unveiling of the initiative.
That decision drew criticism from some gay service member advocacy groups who said that inclusion would have been a symbolic opportunity to recognize families of gay troops — families who likely would not have been able to participate in on-base Joining Forces events prior to DADT repeal. “At the moment, I can’t even buy a stamp on base,” one partner of a gay service member said in April. “That’s pretty sad. Our primary interest is just being treated the same as other military families. We’re not looking for anything novel beyond that.”
As well as a general awareness campaign focused on the challenges that military families face, Joining Forces works with private employers such as Wal-Mart to secure military spouse job transfers resulting from new duty assignments. It also promotes greater inclusion of military families in entertainment programming via partnerships with Hollywood guilds including the Writers Guild of America and Directors Guild of America.
“[T]he truth is that as a country, we don’t always see their families, our heroes on the home front,” Mrs. Obama said at the April launch event. “These families have appealed to us, like a military mom who wrote to me and said, ‘Please don’t let Americans forget or ignore what we live with.’”
In January, the administration called on government agencies to better address issues in employment, housing, and education affecting the nation’s 2.2 million service members and their families.
Not a story, but I figured you would appreciate it. Power point distributed by the Air Force for repeal of DADT training:
You don’t have to post it like this, ask wouldn’t let me send links, you know.
Thank you! - Kris
House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Bud McKeon and Rep. Joe Wilson have asked for a delay in “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal, set for September 20, because the committee has not received a summary of policy changes on benefits and other matters, they write.
“The Department is not ready to implement the repeal because all the policies and regulations necessary for the transition are not yet final,” the two Republican congressmen wrote in a letter dated September 12. “We would ask that the senior military leaders’ memoranda immediately be made public and transmitted to the Committee on Armed Services.” (Fox News has a report and link to the letter here.)
A Pentagon spokesman confirmed that the repeal date will stand, however.
“The repeal of ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ will occur, in accordance with the law and after a rigorous certification process, on September 20,” the Pentagon spokesman said. “Senior Department of Defense officials have advised Congress of changes to regulations and policies associated with repeal. We take that obligation seriously.”
Update: Servicemembers Legal Defense Network executive director Aubrey Sarvis issued the following statement on the letter from McKeon and Wilson:
“This is another example of the hardcore opposition attempting to delay or undo ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ repeal. I expect they will continue to look for openings to deny gay and lesbian service members the same rights and dignity as their straight counterparts. On the substance, Mr. McKeon and Mr. Wilson are simply wrong. The statute only requires that the new regulations be prepared — not issued — before certification.”
Last week, as I watched the presidential debate in Iowa, I listened closely for a question or an answer that referenced the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” (DADT) signed into law by President Obama last December and now scheduled to be final on September 20, 2011. After all, it was just a few weeks ago in New Hampshire that every candidate participating in the previous debate — with the notable exception of Congressman Ron Paul, who voted for repeal — voiced support for the discredited and discriminatory law and left the door wide open for reinstating it should they be elected president.
So, I was heartened as the debate came to a close and the issue had not been raised. I thought, “Finally. These candidates realize that this debate is over. Our nation’s military leaders, Congress, and the president have spoken. They, like most Americans, believe that all qualified Americans should be able to serve the country they love. We’ve moved on.”
Then on Saturday, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, in an interview with CNN, reiterated her opposition to repeal and went farther than she previously had, stating she “probably would”reinstate DADT if elected. Immediately, I began receiving emails asking the question, “Could she do such a thing?” Indeed, the answer is yes, and today, the New York Times explained exactly how she — or any would-be president who opposes LGB service in our military — could.
But the better and more important question is, why would she? Is it because she wants to appeal to a small base of supporters who do not represent the vast majority of the American people? Is it because she does not respect the recommendations of our nation’s senior military leaders, including two Secretaries of Defense, one of whom is the recently retired Republican-appointed Robert Gates who served under a number of presidents? Is it because she doesn’t understand that this is not the way we conduct military policymaking in the United States?
Here are the facts.
In virtually any poll, the American people overwhelmingly support the open and honest service of qualified gay and lesbian patriots in our military. They know, as conservative Republican Barry Goldwater so eloquently said, that you don’t have to be straight to shoot straight.
Indeed, in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee earlier this year, our nation’s service chiefs reflected this view as they testified to Congress that there were no significant challenges during the ongoing training and preparation for implementation. The president, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, further reinforced this finding when they issued their certification to Congress last month, sending a clear and final message that our military is ready for repeal. And in this country, we don’t revisit major personnel policy decisions for our military based on which party wins an election every four years.
In a few weeks, DADT will be history. Now is not the time for Congresswoman Bachmann or other candidates to be second-guessing our military leaders, attempting to create uncertainty or unrest in the ranks, and shamelessly using our troops in order to score a few political points.
This is the time to rally around our troops, support the sacrifice and service of all Americans, regardless of sexual orientation, and move on. Certainly, we have more real and relevant battles to fight than to revisit one that has already been settled.
chroniclesofamarine-deactivated asked: Hi. Just stumbled upon your blog and I'd like to say I admire your page. As a gay Marine I know what's it like, and I'm looking forward to Sept. 20. Until then, stay frosty and stay strong.