Current Affairs

Lesbian soldier: ‘Military gay ban same as ban on blacks and women’

Jessica Geen September 7, 2009
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A lesbian servicewoman fired under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ has said that the argument behind the law is the same one used to keep women and African-Americans from serving in the military.

Lissa Young, who was fired in 2002 after 16 years of service, joined the West Point Academy as a teenager. She graduated in 1986, going on to be promoted to lieutenant colonel, and was later given a permanent assignment as an academy professor directing leadership education at West Point, with a personal dream of becoming the first female dean. However, she was subsequently asked to resign her position under DADT.

DADT bans gays from serving openly in the US military. Thousands of servicemembers have been dismissed under it since its inception in 1993.

In an interview with lesbian and bisexual website Autostraddle, she described life as lesbian soldier and her thoughts on repealing the Clinton-era law.

She said: “In the military, it takes a lot of bandwidth/mind strength to be all that you can be. Being a lesbian under DADT, you are forced to use additional bandwidth – already at its capacity – in order to maintain a particular persona. You have to be cautious and careful about how and with whom you communicate.”

On the issue of discrimination, Young said: “I believe that the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network [an advocacy group for gay military personnel] has a superimposed image of the rationale used to prevent African-Americans from serving in the military and the rationale used to prevent gays to serve and, now, to serve openly. And it reads practically the same.

“I think it is about discrimination obviously, but also it’s about a level of denial, sustained denial. It has been shown time and again that knowing someone is gay does not cause the military to collapse, to lose cohesion.”

However, unlike many other critics of the ban, she supports President Barack Obama’s actions to date, describing him as “smart”. Others have said he is dragging his feet but Young argued: “I think he is being smart and learning from the mistakes of President Clinton .. . . Democracy is a slow process… but the result will be better. Also, Obama has other things to think about and has put this issue rightfully in perspective. DADT is a small aspect of the entire world.”

Young is now studying for a Ph.D in intellectual history at Harvard, having just finished a master’s degree. She hopes to return to West Point to teach as a civilian, so her sexuality will not be an issue.

More: Americas

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