It seems odd that women, who comprise a smallish percentage of the armed forces, would suffer more under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the military’s policy on closeted gay, lesbian or bisexual service members, but Janice Formichella, writing for Jezebel, has some alarming statistics to prove it. Formichella explains,
“Although women made up only 15% of the armed forces in 2008, 34% of service members discharged under were women. This dynamic varies greatly between the various branches of service. For instance, women make up only 20% of members in the air force, yet made up 62% of Air Force discharges under DADT (2008).”
Formichella continues, saying that although gay servicewomen are clearly more negatively impacted by the policy, the effects extend to all servicewomen, regardless of their sexual orientation. Women are subjected to harassment based on speculation about their sexual orientation, known as “lesbian baiting”; this is also used as a form of intimidation.
According to a Service Women’s Action Network (SWAN) factsheet, racial minorities are also disproportionately affected by DADT. Their statistics report that “non-white active duty service members represent 29.4% of the total military population, but comprise 45% of all DADT discharges in 2008.”
President Obama was recently part of a push to repeal DADT, which passed the House of Representatives and the Senate Armed Services Committee in May but has yet to pass the Senate. If this repeal passes, however, it is unlikely to be implemented before 2011. Clearly, these statistics illustrate the desperate need to end a policy that does not allow LGBT servicepeople to list their partner as their next of kin, and denies many benefits to LGBT couples. A federal judge struck down DADT on Thursday, so we could be on the right track.
The work of organizations like SWAN proves a disturbing point: that although a majority of Americans think that gay people should be able to openly serve in the army, the military is still deeply uncomfortable with anyone serving within its ranks who is not a heterosexual white man.
Photo from the U.S. Marines' website.
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