19. December 2010 · Comments Off on DADT · Categories: Ain't That America?, General, Military

Moot point to me, actually – I retired from the Air Force in 1997, after DADT had been in place for about five years. The other female military NCOs and I actually rather welcomed it at the time as a solid compromise and a step up from the previous policy of discharging gay servicemen and women instanter. In actual practice this involved discharging the gay male service-member on an individual basis, but let a gay female service-member be discovered and all heck would break out – because all of her female co-workers, friends, roommates, associates and even casual acquaintances would also be suspected of being lesbians, and investigated so tirelessly and thoroughly by the CID/AFOSI/NCIS that many of them would indeed confess to being lesbians too, just to bring the inquisition to an end. This usually came as a great surprise to boyfriends and husbands.

Anyway, all it would take to kick off one of these witch-hunts would be a rumor or an accusation, no matter how unfounded . . . and there would go all of the women in some unit or base, kicked out of the service. It was as if there was something in the water. Really, it was healthier for your career to have a reputation as a slut. By the way, I didn’t think there were many lesbians among the military woman I knew in twenty years service in the Air Force; there are damn few secrets to be kept when living in a military dorm, and the object/intensity of sexual interest is one of them. I knew there were women who I thought might be lesbian; and ones that I found out afterwards were . . . but my semi-scientific wild-ass guess is maybe one or two in a hundred, or less. (That figure was probably much higher for career military women during the period from the end of World War II until the mid-1970s, once women were allowed to stay in service upon getting married and having children.) I actually am surprised that no one ever accused me of being one, being that I was unmarried, circumspect about my personal life and kept my hair cut very short. There were people who hated me enough to have done so. I suppose only my notorious lack of skill at and complete disinterest in women’s team sports saved me from a malicious accusation

Anyway, DADT was a ham-fisted and perhaps clumsy compromise; basically private life was off the table – as much as it could be, as long as long as the service-member kept his or her private live ..er .. private. Not much of a strain for the Air Force, actually – especially in peacetime – because of all of the services the chances for most AFSC’s (military code for ‘what do ya do for a living?’) to go on deployments for extensive periods of time and live in very, very close quarters were pretty small. And in my observation, the Air Force generally drew in more of a middle-class/skilled technician demographic anyway. The Navy does as well – but then they have sea duty; ships and submarines and all that, where a lack of personal privacy is epic. None the less, though – at the time that DADT was instituted, a lot of straight guys did have the heebie-jeebies about sharing close quarters with an un-straight guy. My female NCO friends all agreed, with a certain degree of gleeful humor that they were all apprehensive about being hit on, in the exact same way that a single unaccompanied woman would be hit on in the open NCO Club bar on ladies’ night . . . and that most guys were nervous about and lacked the skills to gracefully counter another guy pitching unwanted woo. Skills which we, as women had all acquired and polished since we were about 16 years old. Anyway, we were all universally relieved – no more witch-hunts.

But there is one element of dropping DADT which does worry me – because of the peculiar and authoritative nature of the military and the isolation that military members sometimes find themselves in – and that’s the matter of sexual predators. Generally, the rules about fraternization cover this: you may not socialize save in the most perfunctory way, with people in your chain of command. You certainly may not date them, drink with them, party with them, et cetera: enlisted, NCOs and officers must maintain a certain degree of separation. (In my own early career, some of this would be overlooked – I cheerfully dated officers – but outside my own assigned unit. The Air Force got much stricter about this in the 1990s and the Marines and Army always took a hard line about it.) One rationale for the rules about fraternization is that it’s unprofessional, leads to the perception of favoritism . . . and the unspoken other is because of the isolation, on deployment, in a remote location, or at sea, there has always been the potential for someone of a higher rank or in a command capacity to abuse that authority to gain access sexually to someone of a lower rank – and the rules about fraternization at least put some brakes on it. My take on the whole thing is that the military was just barely able to deal with the plain old-fashioned heterosexual predator – say, with a male officer or NCO using rank to force a sexual relationship with an unwilling lower-ranking female. Now . . . the military has potentially the other kind to deal with. Don’t tell me it won’t ever happen – it will, eventually if not sooner, and I hope the services are ready to enforce every jot and tittle of the fraternization statutes. Equally, I should add.

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