Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"Don't Ask, Don't Tell," Race, Gender, and Invisibility

Did you know that the enforcement of the U.S. military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy disproportionately affects people of color?

Servicemembers United, the nation’s first organization devoted to gay and lesbian troops, had pored over years of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” discharge data and issued a press release indicating the startling facts: minority gay and lesbian service members were being discharged at a rate disproportionately higher than their white counterparts. According to the data, in 2008 45 percent of troops discharged under DADT were minorities, while they made up 30 percent of the service overall.

How, exactly, was this finding overlooked by our movement's leadership? How did we miss this opportunity to create a more inclusive queer movement and at the same time to form potential alliances across the social justice spectrum? In our discussions of the filibuster, how did we lose sight of its effect on the DREAM Act? How did we miss this opportunity to build partnerships between groups driven by varying identity politics around issues we should all care about?

To quote former Marine Corps officer Julianne Sohn, who is Korean-American and was discharged under DADT:
"The military still has issues with rage and gender among the ranks, and DADT highlights these problems,” says Sohn. “Often times people just try to frame DADT as a gay issue when in reality it is also about race and gender."

The article I've cited here has some great analysis on our movement, its problems dealing with race, and DADT generally: Black and Brown and Discharged All Over (Metro Weekly)

We need to say something to our leadership about this issue. We need to get refocused. No matter how we feel about the military, we cannot ignore the bigotry that DADT represents. We also cannot neglect the LGBT community's own faults and flaws.


On the topic of visibility within our movement: I'd also like to see some discussion of DADT somewhere in the media (or just somewhere) that mentions bisexuals or other queer people at least one time. Whenever the people who DADT affects are discussed, it's always "gays and lesbians" or just "gays." This linguistic flaw is symptomatic of the invisibility of bisexuals and queers in the larger LGBT movement. For that matter, who is even talking about the difficulties that trans people face in the military?

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