Campus Reacts to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell
The repeal of the U.S. military’s long-standing “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy elicited mixed reactions across the country and at UCI, as seen in a survey held at the LGBT center.
The controversial policy was repealed on Dec. 18 after 17 years, a repeal that was lauded by gay rights activists as a milestone. Many, however, have kept in mind that there is still much more work to be done in the fight for gay rights. A survey held by the LGBT Center collected the opinions of at least 36 anonymous UCI LGBT students and allies about DADT’s repeal. While the results are not representative of the entire LGBT community, they offer some surprising sentiments within the community about gay rights. For example, a few students believe that while DADT was an unjust policy, gay soldiers were safer under it than without it.
Regarding the issue of DADT’s absence on the military’s ability to function efficiently, responses ranged from the belief that there will be no issue to it having a positive effect on soldiers to it being a detriment to the military.
“Who cares about a person’s sexual preferences when all the people of the military are risking their lives to fight for our country?” one student wrote. “DADT’s repeal rids the pressures of trying to hide one’s sexual preference and takes away the restraint to express themselves as they wish.”
“I think that the repeal of DADT removes a policy that has been abused to persecute many non-conforming service people,” another student commented. “However, as long as there is no supplemental orientation against discrimination on an individual level, I think that most service members who express even the slightest indicator of an alternative gender lifestyle will endure interpersonal harassment and discrimination. Problems do not just disappear because policies change.”
Opinion on how homophobia in the military would pan out alongside the repeal was also varied, but generally seemed to favor the idea that, while they expected confrontations to happen on an individual level, it would eventually come to pass, “just like segregation,” as one student put it.
Some bloggers and media figures have commented that the policy of DADT put America in the dubious company of characters such as Iran and North Korea, while most Western nations — such as the UK, Canada and Israel — and even some non-Western ones, like Slovenia and Poland, allow gays to serve openly in their armies. Asked what they think gays in oppressive countries should do for the right to fight for their nations, general opinion seemed to waver between the idea that they should keep their heads down until change comes and that it was impossible at this point.
“Many gay soldiers in other countries face cultural systems that differ vastly from our own,” one student commented. “For example, in Saudi Arabia, attitudes toward homosexuality are hypocritically negative to shocking degrees. It’s difficult to ponder how the gay servicepersons of such a country could challenge their massively oppressive culture. So, I’d say the answer is that it’s not impossible; it depends on the country and should be tackled thusly on a case-by-case basis.”
“In some countries, it is illegal to be [lesbian, bisexual or gay],” another student wrote, “so I think working on basic civil rights in those countries may take precedence over changing their military.”
Not all commentators have been pleased by the repeal of DADT. In a brief interview, Gabriella Hoffman, a columnist for the Washington Times, expressed that she felt DADT’s repeal to be rather unnecessary and a detriment to the military’s cohesion, especially in regards to ROTC programs on college campuses.
“The U.S. Armed Forces is too preoccupied with lining out strategy and preparations for combat and defense of our great nation to worry about whether or not an active serviceman is gay,” Hoffman said.
“The creation of separate accommodations and rights for gay servicemen is counterproductive to military standards, as it is insensitive to the men and women serving who don’t need special rights. Several of my friends in the Marine Corps serve with gay men and women, and are greatly accepting of them — even when “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was in place. The military cannot submit to political correctness from leftists eager to destroy it.”
Many students polled in the LGBT Center’s survey responded that they perceived the reaction to DADT’s repeal within the UCI LGBT community as overjoyed, while others were cautious about it. According to one student’s response, it appeared that some LGBT students have been responding to the repeal in yet another way.
“I find that those allied with the LGBT community … are incredibly happy at the repeal,” the student expressed. “Unfortunately, many [people] in the LGBT community are taking the emotion out of the repeal, acting disgusted that LGBT individuals are trying to serve in the military. It’s incredibly insulting to take such a huge milestone [for gay rights] and treat it as if it’s a disgrace.”
“It’s a good thing,” another student wrote. “But personally I’m slow to trust the government will protect us … It will take time to see how the government implements this new policy.”