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‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ repealed – Don’t enlist!

Published Oct 6, 2011 8:53 PM

After years of protest and struggle by the lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer communities and their allies, on Sept. 20 the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of legal discrimination against LGBTQ people in the military was repealed.

Yet just as when the policy was in effect, the struggle to defeat the military-industrial complex as a whole continues. LGBTQ people will continue to play a role in that struggle, from marching and speaking out at anti-war rallies to protesting when military recruiters show up at our campuses, shopping malls — and now, LGBTQ community centers. Now, as before, we have a huge role to play by refusing to enlist in the military.

The DADT policy, the result of Democratic President Bill Clinton’s backtracking on campaign promises to end discrimination against gays and lesbians in the military, actually led to an increase in repression against LGBTQ people in the armed forces. In the early years of DADT — before the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond required more bodies to be used as cannon fodder — gay and lesbian service members were discharged from the military in increasing numbers. These discharges would deny service members the pensions, scholarship entitlements and other benefits they had been promised at the time of enlistment.

When Army Pvt. Barry Winchell was barraged with anti-gay slurs for months in 1999, his superior officer launched an investigation into Winchell’s sexuality, rather than investigating the attacks against him. That July, Winchell was beaten to death by another soldier. (Workers World, Feb. 3, 2000)

Examples like this — and the thousands of told and untold stories about anti-LGBTQ bigotry in the U.S. armed forces — make the repeal of DADT a progressive act. However, the military is already attempting to turn the repeal to its advantage. On the very day of the repeal, recruiters for the Marines showed up at the gay community center in Tulsa, Okla. (New York Times, Sept. 20) Chief Anthony Briggs, public affairs officer for Navy recruiting in the District of Los Angeles, has said that the Navy will also consider recruiting in gay centers. (Pasadena City College Courier, Oct. 3)

Many soldiers enlist, especially in these devastating economic times, in order to make a decent living for themselves and their families. Once inside, they find that the military requires conformity to an agenda that creates “norms” and “others” along lines of gender, sexuality, nationality and rank. All ruling-class bosses do this in an attempt to have us fight each other, rather than fight them. However, this practice is exponentially exaggerated in the armed forces, where the goal is not only to prevent unity but also to get soldiers to kill people in other countries — and at home, when rebellions arise. At its very core, the U.S. military is anti-LGBTQ, anti-woman, racist and anti-worker — and the repeal of DADT won’t change that.

In the face of the repeal, young LGBTQ workers might be increasingly drawn to enlist in the search for a job. Rather than joining the military, these young workers would be better off joining the anti-war movement and other burgeoning movements for jobs and social justice.

We must continue to show our solidarity with the people of the world by refusing to participate in racist wars of conquest. We’ve been doing so since the beginning of the modern LGBTQ rights movement in the U.S., when activists formed the Gay Liberation Front within a week of the Stonewall rebellion. The GLF chose its name in honor of the National Liberation Fronts that were fighting against imperialist wars in Algeria and Vietnam. (Workers World, Sept. 12, 2006)

Rather than joining the military, join the growing movement that is occupying cities across the country to demand funding for real jobs, not war.