Even with the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell going into full effect, LGBT members of the military face continued pain and oppression. As the nation celebrates Veterans Day, it is worth noting the irony that one segment of the population that served to defend our nation is still subject to second class treatment. TSM questions the value of war and military intervention as the solution to problems. That being said, the military is a major employer and its treatment of its past and present employees has a long way to go.
The end of DADT changed the military’s policy, but much work is needed to change its culture. As Leonardo Lucio, a Navy reservist and NoH8 activist, recounts, even though he can serve openly, he is regularly subjected to gay taunts and slurs by his fellow service members. Veterans who were given dishonorable discharges in the days even before DADT are not eligible for benefits, regardless of how well they served their country, often solely because of who they are. (Kudos to Richard Pan of the California Assembly who is trying to ensure that this practice is overturned at least as far as state benefits!) Even when benefits are available, veterans can be subject to horrible abuse. Esther Garatie, 28, a former Marine lance corporal who lives in Dallas, sought treatment for depression at her local VA hospital; she was subjected to a tirade by the nurse, who told her she was depressed because of her “lifestyle of sin.” Sadly, thousands of stories like these exist.
LGBT service members and veterans are the employees and retirees of our government. They deserve freedom from discrimination as much as any of the rest of us. Lifting the irrational ban on service was a positive step. We won’t be able to truly acknowledge their service, however, until the climate in which they serve can be purged of antiquated, hateful attitudes and behaviors.