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Soldier made to perform sexual favors to keep her sexuality a secret

Soldier made to perform sexual favors to keep her sexuality a secret

Today I came across the The Service Members Legal Defense Network’s (SLDN) website its recently launched media campaign urging Congress and the President to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT).  With the upcoming Defense Authorization bill working its way through the Senate and House Armed Services Committees SLDN is doing its best urge the President to include a repeal of DADT in the defense budget recommendations by posting an open letter to the President each weekday morning.  Per SDLN, “The Defense Authorization bill represents the best legislative vehicle to bring repeal to the President’s desk.  It also was the same vehicle used to pass DADT in 1993.”
Below is a letter from yesterday that deeply moved me:

My name is Tracey Cooper-Harris. I served in the Army for 12 years, reaching the rank of Sergeant. As a soldier and a non-commissioned officer (NCO), I performed my duties with honor and distinction. I was lauded by my peers and superiors for going above and beyond the status quo to complete the mission.

And, I am gay.

I lived in constant fear serving under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” I was always looking over my shoulder, censoring what I said and keeping as much physical distance as possible between my military life and my personal life.

Even with this vigilance, I was found out by some male “friends” at my first duty assignment. I was just 19 years old. The deal was simple: Perform sexual favors and my secret was safe.

I had a choice: report these men for “sexual harassment/cohesion” and end my military career or submit to their demands.

Despite the military’s “zero tolerance” policy on sexual harassment, it doesn’t apply to those forced in the closet under DADT. I was sexually blackmailed and just a teenager.

At that time, as well as other times during my military service, I had seen friends discharged under DADT who were in similar situations. My friends were discharged, while their perpetrators were given a slap on the wrist.

The signal from command was clear: being gay was a far more serious offense in the military than sexually harassing a fellow service member. I ultimately chose what I believed was the best decision for me at the time. I let these men have their way with me in exchange for their silence.

I am not proud of what I did, but I loved my job too much to let it destroy my career before it had even started.

My decision didn’t come without consequences. I was eventually diagnosed with an STD which could potentially lead to cervical cancer later in life.

I, frankly, am still ashamed of what I had to do to stay in the Army. I wasn’t discharged under DADT, but left because of it. I continue to attend counseling sessions provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs for what I went through. The memories still come back to haunt me some 16 years later.

I don’t want to see other service members go through what I went through. And unfortunately, this will continue to happen as long as DADT is law.

As long as a recruit or military member meets or exceeds the criteria for military service, let them serve. A bullet doesn’t discriminate because of a person’s race, gender identity, sex, religion, or sexual orientation, so why does the U.S. military continue to do so?

The time to repeal DADT is long overdue. Please, Mr. President, do the right thing.

Respectfully yours,
Former Sgt. Tracey L. Cooper-Harris
United States Army

Currently, at least 65,000 lesbian, gay, and bisexual Americans serve in the US armed forces. How many of them have suffered or are suffering the same treatment as Tracey Cooper? As Memorial Day draws near how does DADT affect the honor of those gay service members who have died fighting for this country or the 1 million gay veterans who fought alongside those that have fallen?

Passed in 1993, DADT mandates that all openly gay services members must be discharged regardless of the quality of their work or years of service.  To date, more than 13, 500 service members have been forced out of the military.  This has deprived our Armed forces of the skills, talent, experience and commitment of thousands of loyal hardworking service members including dozens of Arabic linguists and hundreds of people with skills for which the military is experiencing critical shortages.

President Obama promised throughout his campaign to repeal DADT, now is his chance to act.  Not only does he have a chance via the approaching Defense Authorization bill he could also throw his support behind the Military Readiness Enhancement Act which has 28 sponsors in the Senate and 192 in the House.  This act would lift DADT ban on open service for gay Americans, would establish a policy banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, it would allow the 13,500 wrongly discharged Americans to rejoin the armed forces, if they wished to do so.  And for you fiscal conservatives out there it would save $25 million tax dollars—the cost currently spent forcing out gay service members.

According to SLDN, “a 2006 Blue Ribbon Commission report found that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” caused the Pentagon to waste over $360 million in tax payer funds between 1994 and 2003.”

The time has come to repeal this law.  Over 100 retired admirals and generals support the repeal, including Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General John Shalikashvilil.  Additionally, 73 percent of military are comfortable allowing gays to openly serve in the military.  It is estimated that that one fourth of U.S. troops serving in the Afghanistan or Iraq serves alongside a gay service member in their unit.  The numbers not only show how willing most troops are to serve with gay service members, but it also highlight the hypocrisy of our current military climate.  Consistent with trends from past conflicts, discharges have dropped 50% since 9/11 thus allowing more gay service members to risk life and limb for a country that otherwise fails to honor them as equal citizens.

Public sentiment also supports repeal.  Even majorities of weekly churchgoers, conservatives and Republicans favor repeal according to a 2009 Gallup Poll.  Overall, seventy-five percent of Americans support repeal, a dramatic increase over forty-four percent in 1993.
 
DADT has been proven to be a policy that weakens our nation and sets us apart from the twenty-five other nations that allow gays to openly serve:

  1. Australia
  2. Britain
  3. Denmark
  4. France
  5. Italy
  6. Austria
  7. Canada
  8. Estonia
  9. Belgium
  10. Czech Republic
  11. Italy
  12. Netherlands
  13. Slovenia
  14. Switzerland
  15. Germany
  16. Lithuania
  17. New Zealand
  18. Spain
  19. Finland
  20. Ireland
  21. Luxemburg
  22. Norway
  23. Sweden
  24. Israel
  25. South Africa

Studies of integration in Australia, Canada, Britain and Israel have shown it to be a “non-event”.

It is time to remove one of the last great obstacles to full equality for gay Americans.  This extra step will go a long way to bring an end to the discrimination and bigotry our nation still clings to.  Allowing African-Americans to serve in integrated units after World War II did not end discrimination but it did improve our military, restore our honor and provide needed support for the fight for racial equality.  Ninety percent of African Americans served in integrated units in the Korean War.  In this instance, the armed forces surged ahead of civilian institutions; with regards to gays, the armed forces are woefully falling behind.

My daughter is only nineteen months old and I can only hope that they only way she hears about “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is from a history book that discusses it as a failed policy that Americans managed to correct as we continue to strive towards living up the principles of equality we hold so dear.

Howard Dean and Democracy For America have a petition you can sign pushing for a repeal of DADT in 2010.

Contact your Senators

Contact your House Representatives

Contact Senate Armed Services Committee Chairmain Carl Levin (D-MI) and tell him Military Budget Attachment is the way to go. His office in Washington can be reached at: (202) 224-6221

Sen. Mark Udall told the Denver Post the committee was “within a vote or two” of including repeal in the Defense Authorization bill.  Udall is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.  Become a citizen co-sponsor of repeal at Senator Udall’s site.

And of course, call the White House

Read more:

Jeff Sheng - Jeffsheng.com

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74 comments

+ add your own
1:34PM PDT on Jul 20, 2010

.....how can people DO that to each other? Repealing don't ask don't tell unfortunately won't eradicate basic human cruelty, but at least its one less measure of protection for it.

5:47PM PDT on Jul 15, 2010

Thank you for this. People need to know.

7:03AM PDT on Jul 13, 2010

Hey Alle
You are a very strong principled woman but you are not gay. You have no idea what it was like for gay people so many years ago. And maybe Tracy was not LUCKY to have a father as yours.
I am not gay but I have many friends - some for over 25 years -and I know what they went through when they finally began to tell friends and family. The denial, crying and carrying on by some of the family members, was pure torture to them.
So do not judge Tracy as being weak when you do not know her at all. She made a decision and she is paying for it now. And for her to defend other gay people, who have been dismissed by the army, I believe that she felt that her experiences could help to change the DADT. It also draws attention to the abuse of straight women who are taken advantage of by these males who believe they have the power to whatever they wish with a woman. There are many, many coverups in the army and it is time to change this.
Maybe you should contact Tracy and actually get her side of the story. Maybe then you will not be so quick to judge her

3:46AM PDT on Jun 30, 2010

repeal DADT

10:16PM PDT on Jun 21, 2010

I finally have the words to express what I meant all along.

When failure feels fatal, a person does things like this.

When you had wonderful dreams for yourself and they're in danger of being burned to ash because of this one thing, that is sometimes enough motivation to drive a person to great lengths to save them.

I once read that some loves have to be forgotten and others given up but the courage to let go of cherished dreams is often in short supply.

6:01PM PDT on May 23, 2010

This is an outrageous, heart-breaking story. It never should have happened. It must not happen to another service person. As Americans, we must DEMAND better than this from our government.

8:42AM PDT on May 14, 2010

DADT is wrong, *wrong*, and WRONG!!!

Please Mr. President, listen to the majority of military leaders, of soldiers and of the American people and change this law that hurts us all.

11:44PM PDT on May 13, 2010

sory typo
@ Alle E. I did *not* mean my message to be a personal attack (although it does sound very much like one) and for that I apologise.

10:57PM PDT on May 13, 2010

@ Alle E. I did mean my message to be a personal attack and for that I apologise.

It is a shame that you had no one to turn to in your times of hardship to listen to your tears (and if I was there, I would have listened, just as I listened to my two aunts as they lived through their domestic violence which eventually killed one of them). It is a shame that those same circumstances have robbed you of compassion and left you as you put it with "no mercy". You are certainly are an extraordinary woman, to overcome so much adversity. I wish every women on this planet had that same inner strength but unfortunately they don’t. Perhaps one day, you will find that compassion and then understand why every woman deserves sympathy and understanding from other women. Women lead more difficult lives then men, there's no question about it and if we don't support each other in our time of need who will?

1:22PM PDT on May 13, 2010

Sorry, Alle E.... I hate it when someone misspells my name & I don't like to do it to anyone else.

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