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The GEM Debate: Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Is History. Is That A Good Idea?


Now everyone can fight for their country. Last night, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, the law that allowed gays and lesbians to serve in the military as long as they didn’t disclose their sexual orientation, was repealed. And it’s about damn time.

Now before I tell you why, a little background. I come from a military family. My father spent 22 years in the Air Force before retiring; my mother put in more than two decades as well. Both of them served overseas before finally settling down in Sacramento, where my sister and I grew up. We were steeped in the lifestyle, food shopping at the commissary, clothes shopping at the Base Exchange. The military was good to us, good to my family.

One day my dad was showing me photos of one of the places he served overseas when I asked him why he didn’t have any white friends. That’s when he explained something I couldn’t wrap my 7 or 8-year-old head around; the military was segregated at that time. It’s not that he didn’t HAVE any white friends, he just wasn’t allowed to work next to them, fight with them, die with them. The idea that my father, smart, competent, qualified and one of the best airmen I knew could protect his country but only within certain parameters, made no sense to me.

Maybe that’s why I always thought DADT was DUMB. My position on gay and lesbian issues is clear and well-documented; those of you who frequent this site know that. And I’m sure I’ll get angry mail or lose Facebook friends as a result. But I said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s about time. The most important question for new military recruits ought not be, “Who do you sleep with?” rather, “Are you willing to fight for your country?”

Okay that’s my take, what’s yours? Do you think the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is a good idea? Do you think gays openly serving in the military will create problems and if so, what? Do you think it will have any effect at all? Let’s debate!






  1. Doyle

    September 20, 2011 at 9:39 am

    I come from a military family too. My Father was in the Air Force over over 21 years, my brother was in the Army for over 10. Both have repeatedly said Gays in the militiary wasnt an issue. I personally think it is about time the US lead on equality rather than follow behind other countries.

    I am sure this will change nothing is the readiness of the military.

  2. Christina Gleason @ Cutest Kid Ever

    September 20, 2011 at 9:41 am

    I’ve always thought it was awfully arrogant of straight people to assume that GLBT people would even be attracted to them simply by being there.

    It’s about time for this. With these wars raging on in the Middle East, it’s been ludicrous that the U.S. military has discharged some of our few Arab linguists simply because they were not heterosexual. Glad we can get back to utilizing the talents of ALL men and women who want to serve our country.

  3. Be On It

    September 20, 2011 at 9:44 am

    I’m so glad this ridiculous law has ended. People are not incompetent for jobs because of small aspects of their makeup (ie race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, etc) and should not be excluded because of those aspects.

  4. Nana

    September 20, 2011 at 9:47 am

    Rene,”openly serve” what is that? I’ve known gays practically all my life and that phrase still sounds stupid to me. It’s a loaded phrase as if you don’t ask whether they’re gay then they’re not (so if they are, it’s a bad thing?). Gays and lesbians have been “openly serving” for ages: they knew they were gay (except for a few cowering in the closet) and those who knew them knew they were gay. The military fights the enemy for freedom but sought to restrict the freedom of their fellow soldiers. The whole DADT was stupid and I’m glad it’s gone.

  5. TechyDad

    September 20, 2011 at 9:49 am

    I think DADT was always more for the politicians than for the military. The politicians (particularly the ones who think being gay is somehow a moral failing) thought having gay serving in the military would be disruptive. (Never mind that the troops/generals didn’t seem to think so.)

    As you pointed out, we’ve been through this before. Having blacks serve next to whites is disruptive. (Oh wait, no it isn’t.) Women serving in the military will just distract male troops. (Oh wait, no they don’t. I don’t get distracted at my office because there are women here.) Troops will be uncomfortable with gays oggling them in the showers. (Not an issue, except for a handful of politicians who don’t like homosexuality in general.)

    In 10 or 20 years, we’ll look back at DADT and say “did people *really* think that? How stupid were they?

  6. Rene Syler

    September 20, 2011 at 9:50 am

    @Nana: Yes, we have all known gays in he military. But we also know there was a “code”, words they couldn’t say, couldn’t talk about partners and significant others, that sort of thing. Now that DADT is history, they can do that now without fear of being kicked out.

  7. Dennis

    September 20, 2011 at 10:35 am

    It may or may not be the best thing for the country, but it’s the right thing to do.. Being gay lesbian or transgendered is no different than being green eyed or blue.. We all have our emotional attachments, our propensities to want to achieve to attain goals to do the best we can do at any endeavor that we choose.. We really haven’t changed anything we’ve just allowed those people who have done this, and done it with the ultimate sacrifice at times, to step out of the shadows and be recognized for the people that they are..

  8. DonnaG

    September 20, 2011 at 10:40 am

    Rene, we differ on this subject. Though I also grew up a military dependent, traveled the world with my dad who retired from the Air Force , settled in Northern California and who father was a product of segregation, the similarities end there. I enlisted into the Air Force Reserves and served nearly 30 years alongside people from all nationalities, races, religious groups and gays. The fact that no one felt compelled to discuss any of their backgrounds, sexual preferences or political persuasions made working together very easy. Everyone is fully aware homosexuals have served since the beginning of military defenses as they do and will continue from now on end, but it is “my opinion” as a retired CMSgt/1stSgt that with the repeal of DADT it will promote tension in work places by the simple fact that the topic will be up for open discussion. Now that may seem like nothing to individuals who have open discussion on taboo subject matter, but in military environments that encourage and promote teamwork as a survival mechanism it will very likely create an undercurrent of dissent and affect esprit de corps which is the glue that has allowed the ranks to work lock-step and in the United States create the greatest military force in the world.

    As a reservist I’ve had the fortune of also being a professional working in the Insurance industry. Where some principles are similar having derived from military concepts. There is where i gained first hand knowledge that the military is not like Corporate America where people are basically working for themselves and the company is a means by which to satisfy personal gratification. Instead the mindset of “one for all” is inbred into the military. The idea of ensuring no one being left behind is second nature to the Soldier, Sailor, Marine and Airman .There must be complete confidence that your (Wingman) has your back. (Unlike in the Corporate arena where one is more likely to find a knife in your back). If confidences are broken during a military operation , like a chain link, it can create a weakness in the integrity. of the entire chain.

    I say all of that to simply say, by all means “Serve” but to authorize indescretion is a mistake.

  9. Will Jones

    September 20, 2011 at 10:58 am

    I served with plenty of gay women and men and DADT was as big a joke to them as it was to their friends. If they wanted to tell you they were gay, they told you. If they didn’t want to tell you, they didn’t… and it didn’t make a damn bit of difference either way; they did the jobs they were trained to do. When bullets are flying and folks are dying, who another person is wishing they were home with is the last thing I have time to think about. I don’t give a damn if you’re straight… as long as your aim is.

  10. Rene Syler

    September 20, 2011 at 11:34 am

    @DonnaG: I’m always surprised when people have to preface a disagreement with me. I don’t mind, that’s your opinion and at the end of the post, I asked for it. But I don’t think being gay or lesbian qualifies as an indiscretion. And I for one, thank you for your service.

  11. Will Jones

    September 20, 2011 at 2:17 pm


    Not being compelled to discuss your background does not change the fact that who you are is who you are and you should be accepted as such; nothing more and nothing less. I’m sure you never had to tell someone that you were a woman, just as I never felt compelled to tell someone that I was black and my friend Martinez never had to explain to anyone that he was Latino; I think people knew. But it’s by open conversations that we dispel stereotypes and build true esprit de corps. If you had had to pretend to be a man, or if I’d had to “pass” as a white person.

    I served with individuals who’d never had an actual conversation with an African American; all they knew of me and my background is what they’d heard from others or maybe seen on television. Some thought I’d be violent or steal from them. A guy that ended up being a good friend of mine told me that he was surprised at how smart black people really were! I’m not making this stuff up! It wasn’t his fault… he just really didn’t know any better.

    No doubt there may be a problem or two in the future, just as there were when blacks and women were first allowed to serve openly, but we’ll get past them.

    Until a person can admit openly who is and where he’s from, you can’t truly know him well enough to call him your brother… and ALL Marines are brothers (and sisters!)

  12. kim

    September 20, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    i’m glad DADT is a thing of the past. i hope i live long enough to see the day when all discrimination is.

  13. Smarty P. Jones

    September 20, 2011 at 9:55 pm

    As a frequent commenter here, we all know how I feel about the rainbow hued brethren. I am happy about it. I had this discussion with my brother and step-brother who are/were both soldiers in the U.S. Army.

    Their argument was it would be uncomfortable to be in close quarters with gay men. They didn’t like the idea of being in the shower with gay men or having to sleep near them or having their lives in their hands in combat situations. I let them finish, then I pointed out that they have been around gay men doing all of that their entire career, the only thing that changes now is the fact that they’ll know it.

    DADT was a bad idea when it was voted in, it’s a bad idea now. Your sexual orientation is such a minute part of who you are and therefore shouldn’t matter when it comes to your patriotism, your competence or your ability to do your job.

    I’m so happy for all the LGBT folks who no longer forced to “cower in the closet” as someone said earlier. Thank God and forward thinking politicians that these folks can finally be who they were born to be. If anything it enriches their lives and the lives of the people around them to be their true selves.

    My father, step-father, both my brothers and one of my stepbrothers are all military men. They all have said that the best part about their experiences were all the different people they met. Their fellow service men and women who feel safe enough to out themselves can only add to those experiences.

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Combing the aisles at Target in search of the best deal on Cheerios, it hit Rene Syler like the stench of a dirty diaper on a hot summer’s day. Not only is perfection overrated its utterly impossible! Suddenly empowered, she figuratively donned her cape, scooped up another taco kit for dinner and Good Enough Mother was born.

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