Former Army Captain Jonathan Hopkins wrote an op-ed in last week's NY Times to stress how "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" negatively impacts gay members of the armed forces, even as the same policy deprives the military of valuable expertise that it needs to perform. He was interviewed on the Rachel Maddow Show back in August.
There is no way that a gay service member can navigate this policy with honor, integrity, or self-respect intact. Soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen traditionally know virtually everything about one another. The military is inherently a personal affair. Thus, if you are gay and choose to have a relationship, you must isolate yourself from your otherwise inclusive and close-knit organization, then lie about your “housemate” and cover up where you socialized. There go the Army values of “honor” and “integrity” — values we all believe very deeply in.
If you attempt to comply, somehow, with the policy, you dedicate yourself to the most epic and despicably unnecessary sense of loneliness one can imagine, while working in a profession in which you desperately need the nurturing support of others. I know; I’ve been there. You are forced to lie when soldiers, peers or superiors ask you why you’re not married, or anything else about your personal life.
Many service members end up in a no-man’s-land: they break the rules (i.e. have relationships), but can never maintain something meaningful and long-lasting because of the pervasive environment of fear and deception that they have to maintain. Any route you take, you may be able to maintain your career, but you are destroyed bit by bit on the inside each step of the way. Part of you always feels stigmatized or ashamed for something you cannot change, no matter how badly you might want to.
And no matter what you do, you are somehow failing to live up to the military’s highest stated values, because you are an outlaw as a gay soldier from the day you step into the military. When told to “do the right thing” you are left with no feasible option meet that demand.
Hopkins spent ten years in the Army, graduated near the top of his class at West Point, commanded two companies, served three combat tours, and earned three Bronze Stars (one for valor) before being expelled by the Army for being a homosexual. Of interest, his infantry brigade kept him on duty for more than a year after discovering that he was gay because they respected his skill and dedication. As he states, nothing collapsed, no one stopped working with him, the Earth kept on spinning.