On September 20, 2011, the 18-year old United States military official “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy came to an end. Six months later, a new book by J. Ford Huffman and Tammy S. Schultz was published by the Marine Corps University Press entitled, The End of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell: The Impact in Studies and Personal Essays by Service Members and Veterans.
This is a collection of four scholarly studies and 25 essays about the impact of living under this policy from a diverse group of gay and straight, current and former military members from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.
Rise of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
In the early 1990’s in the United States, a push for more rights for non-heterosexuals in both civilian and military life was rising. Eventually, on June 2, 2000, President Bill Clinton declared June 2000 the first official “Gay & Lesbian Pride Month” in the United States. (This was later renamed by President Barack Obama in 2009 who declared June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Pride Month which it is called today).
However, lawmakers and the military establishment in 1993 were not ready to allow openly gay, lesbian or bisexual individuals to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces. As a compromise, United States federal law Pub.L. 103-160 (10 U.S.C. § 654 called the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Policy, nicknamed DADT, was passed and went into effect on December 21, 1993. It “prohibited military personnel from discriminating against or harassing closeted homosexual or bisexual service members or applicants, while barring openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual persons from military service” (Wikipedia).
The first part of The End of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell book contains academic reports and research that “shed light on the way forward for the services and policy makers.” This includes a report by Dr. Nora Bensahel who conducted extensive research with RAND Corporation on experiences of the other 26 countries who allow homosexuals to openly serve in their militaries. Other reports by military officers include one discussing the importance of considering service members’ “family readiness,” as well as the prevailing views and culture in the military in 2010 toward “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”
The second part of the book includes personal essays from both gay and straight members of the military who served under DADT, emphasizing their personal experience of living under this policy. In them, the authors either provided details or “assurances that they were willing to testify under oath regarding their experiences.” As described by editors Schultz and Huffman in their introduction: “These personal essays peel back the curtain of the shame, uncertainty, homophobia, anger, fear, and other emotions of living under DADT. These are the views, recollections and words of the authors alone.”