Don't ask, don't tell" is the military's real anti-gay bomb
December 4, 2001
It is a tradition for service members to write messages on bombs before they drop them on enemy targets. Typically, messages in the current war effort have honored the victims of the terrorist attacks in America. But one did not.
Soldiers loading a bomb on the U.S.S. Enterprise inscribed it with the words "High Jack This Fags."
The consequences of such anti-gay bias are staggering.
Today, gays in the military still suffer gross discrimination, harassment and violence.
In 1999, photographs of anti-gay graffiti, including a crude drawing of a baseball bat inscribed with the words "Fag Whacker," appeared on bathroom walls at Fort Campbell, Ky. Weeks earlier, Pfc. Barry Winchell had been fatally beaten with a bat by fellow soldiers because he was perceived to be gay.
In August, one month after Winchell's murder, Pvt. Javier Torres was forced to sing "Faggot, faggot, down the street. Shot him, shot him, till he retreats" during a routine cadence run at Fort Campbell.
In June 2000, Senior Airman 1st Class Lauren Brown found a note on her car windshield at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.: "Gun, knife, bat. I can't decide which. It's not over, dyke."
In September 2000, Army Pfc. Ronald Chapman was viciously beaten in a "blanket party" by fellow service members at Fort Jackson, S.C., who wrapped a bar of soap in a towel and hurled it against his head.
Anti-gay harassment is only part of the problem. The Pentagon fired Javier, Ronald and Lauren for being gay. In fact, the Pentagon fires three to four people every day for being gay, according to the Department of Defense. "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is the only law that mandates an employer -- in this case, the nation's largest -- to fire someone for being gay.
It is hard to find the "dignity" in firing someone for being gay, or to find the "respect" in forcing someone to live his or her life in secret. Under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," a service member cannot tell anyone that he or she is lesbian, gay or bisexual without risk of being discharged -- whether the conversation is in private or to your family, friend or even your physician. In short, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" makes it impossible to adhere to the principles of dignity and respect.
As Americans, we all pay a price for bigotry.
Our military readiness suffers as we force commanders to pry into people's private lives and discharge service members who are needed to accomplish the mission. Fueling jets. Forecasting weather. Flying helicopters. Gathering intelligence.
Adding insult to injury, American taxpayers have paid a half billion dollars since World War II to train replacements for gay service members who have been discharged, according to figures from the General Accounting Office.
The Pentagon has repeatedly promised to curb harassment and hold those who harass accountable. Rear Adm. S.R. Pietropaoli conceded that the "High Jack This Fags" bomb was inappropriate. But no one has been held accountable for those actions.
Those who say our military is meant to fight wars are correct. Lesbian, gay and bisexual Americans are fighting and winning wars. We have done so since the inception of our nation's military. Our time should not be spent excluding Americans who want to serve, but on protecting our nation's interests. History has shown that discrimination is never in our best interest.
The men and women serving on the front lines in Afghanistan deserve nothing short of our nation's respect and admiration.
We have better things to do than hound gay troops. Fighting terrorism is one example that comes to mind. Upholding the "dignity and respect" of every service member is another.
C. Dixon Osburn, Esq., is executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (www.sldn.org), a national nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. that provides assistance to service members harmed by "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Osburn can be reached at email@example.com.