Share Your Story
If you are a GLBT individual who has served in the military, either in the United States or another country, please share your experiences for possible inclusion in an upcoming book about the effects of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell law.
My Military History
I loved the military. Starting out as a recruit and over the
course of 31 years working my way to being a Colonel was the
most important professional career I could ever have undertaken.
I served 7 years on active duty, in the US, Germany, and Vietnam.
I then served 24 years in the Army Reserves and National Guard
with opportunities to "Be All That I Could Be."
Unfairness of the Military
Preceding the problems for women in the military were racism and
segregation that persisted for several hundred years. It wasn't
until 1948, when integration was mandated by President Truman's
Executive Order, that the military began to change. Just changing the policy did not change internalized prejudice but it was the start.
It was not always easy as a woman in the military. Early
in my career, when women officers were uncommon, men would
cross the street rather than render a hand salute to a woman.
During during those days, women could not be married and serve
in the military. As society changed, as women worked both
within the family structure and outside the home, military
regulations adapted to those changes. The reality was also
that some of the roles in the military commonly filled by
women necessitated the change in policy.
Back then married women could not have dependents, children,
and be in the military. I was forced to resign in 1968, when
my husband and I were expecting our first child. When that
policy was changed in 1972 I returned to the military in the
reserves. Combining civilian and personal life with the military
reserve, on call in an emergency status, was for me the best
of both worlds.
Historically, the military treatment of gays and lesbians
has been abhorrent. During WWII gay and lesbian service members
were branded as unfit for duty, with a dishonorable conduct,
and their civilian earning capacity ruined by the ignorance
and their unmerited dishonorable discharges. Books by Alan
Berube and Randy Shilts are testimonials as to the inhumane
treatment these people received. In the 1980's numerous lawsuits
were filed on behalf of superb service members who were losing
their careers, as they were determined to be gay and therefore
somehow unfit for service. In 1993 the Congressional passage
of Don't Ask Don't Tell led to further witch hunts,
murder and abuse of perceived and self-identified gays and
lesbians. Over 1000 service members are discharged annually
for homosexuality, many because they wanted to be truthful
and told their commanders.
Service to Country
During these days of renewed patriotism, former service members
and dedicated Americans want to join the military, defend democracy,
and fight terrorism throughout the world. The military seduces
one to believe that with the right mental and physical effort
everyone has the potential to serve in the military. I can vouch
for the wonderment of that seduction. I joined as an immigrant
wanting to give something back to my adopted country; to be
where the action was as an Army Nurse. I was seduced, and I
believed. I believed the military would take care of its own,
and that as defenders of democracy we would also experience
that democracy. I have seen time and again how that is not the
way the military operates. It happened with the sexual harassment
scandals of women in the military, it happened with the subservient
demeaning treatment of American female servicemembers in Saudi
Arabia, it happens continuously in the treatment of gay and
lesbian servicemembers .
Truth or Consequences
From birth most of us are taught not to lie. From induction
into the service you are taught that honesty and truth shall
prevail. Putting on the uniform, you represent America at
home and throughout the world, you are a symbol of democracy
for all to see. But - if you state your own truth, if you
so much as utter the words, "I am gay" or "I am a lesbian,"
you are in defiance of existing policy and subject to discharge
from the military. This happens to an average of four service
To Serve or Not to Serve
Your Options Once In
Over the past decade I have talked and written to hundreds of
service members struggling with decisions about remaining in
the military or leaving. As an officer, life is much more protected
than for the enlisted person. There is personal privacy, opportunities
to live off base, travel and socialize further from the base
than for the enlisted person. Enlisted personnel live in close
proximity to one another 24 hours a day during those first few
years. There is no privacy, not only during the workday, but
in the evening, or on weekends - every moment you are under
scrutiny. Your buddies want you with them, doing what they do,
and the expectation is that you disclose your activities upon
return from leave. Harassment for being different in any way
may bring ridicule, scrutiny, investigation into the question
of whether you're gay or lesbian. "Big brother" is always watching
enlisted men and women. Gay and lesbian enlisted men and women
have to live their lives as a lie, or not have a personal life.
Your Option to Join
The military offers many wonderful things, especially to the
young and those wanting to: have an education paid for, opportunities
for travel, a higher education upon completion of service,
and retirement benefits.
With today's emphasis on fighting terrorism, patriotism
calls. Gay men and lesbian women who wish to serve their country
must ask themselves hard questions: Can you live a lie? Can
you tolerate the confinement of presumed heterosexuality?
Can you accept sexual innuendos and harassment? Can you accept
having to deny your sexual orientation, including denial while
being investigated or otherwise intimidated?
These problems are realities to newly inducted service members who struggle, after the fact, with their decision to join. They are also questions being asked by service members who wonder if they should remain in the military and live the lie and double life.
My Thoughts as a Veteran
Gay and lesbian service members must decide for themselves if they can live and serve in silence. There is no protection for anyone who comes out in the military. They may escape because of their SEAL status or some extraordinary circumstance but the law, Don't Ask, Don't Tell, is grounds for your separation and loss of career benefits if prosecuted. Don't believe you can change the system because you are a good soldier, sailor or service member. You can't, others have tried, it is the law. If you are contemplating joining the military, think very carefully before you do. You will be living a lie, forced to lie, forced to lead a sham life, forced to give up who you are. If despite all that you have to join, contact the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network at www.sldn.org. This is the only civilian organization with knowledge about your legal rights as a service member and how to protect yourself from the military witch-hunt.
Think of Yourself
When repeal of DADT is finalized you may once again choose to join the military where your talents will be appreciated and all of you accepted (but be careful for a while)..
Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer USA (ret)
21 July 2002
REPEAL of DADT FINALIZED 12/22/2010
Military Issues Resources
Killing of a soldier
Parents tell the story of their son murdered in the military. The military cover up is a "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".
Military Education Initiative
New Gays in the military project reaches out to hundreds of Veterans Service Organizations and Military Associations to enhance their understanding of the gays in the military issue. There is a special Resource Guide with response to 64 most frequently asked questions.
Director: Jeff Cleghorn, 1570 Monroe Drive, Suite F, Box #615, Atlanta, GA 30324-5022; tel 404 815 1363
Out of Step autobiography by Lee Watton
Pre DADT story of young navy women coming to terms with themselves, being hounded by the Navy, and ultimately discharged because they were lesbians. Charming.
American Veterans for Equal Rights
A national, chapter-based volunteer organization comprised largely of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender veterans representing each of the military services
Human rights Campaign's Documenting Courage Project
HRC joins SLDN and AVER to recognize the ctributions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender veterans through this project through which GLBT Veterans share their personal stories
Library of Congress's Veterans History Project
History Project collects and preserves audio-and video-taped oral histories, along with documentary materials such as letters, diaries, maps, photographs, and home movies, of America's war veterans and those who served in support of them. This project includes stories of gay and lesbian Veterrans from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the first Gulf War.
Vietnam book reflects lives of women
The Healing Power of Truth
Veterans United for Truth
Transgender American Veterans Association
Military Community Services Network
Firsty social support structure for gay troops and their families.
Tony Smith, Director MCSN
Arlington, VA 22202-0605