A Daily Dish reader’s first hand experience:
before DADT the policy was more about conduct at least in the minds of the commanding officers, not the mere mention of the fact that one was gay or had those inclinations.
I joined the Army National Guard in 1988 and was called up for a time in Korea, Desert Storm and Bosnia. When I was called up for Desert Storm in 1991, I went overseas with my local unit. Several men there were my best friends (straight), including my commanding officer. There was something about going off to war that made my life clear. I had come out only months before being called up. I felt it was necessary to tell my commanding officer and I did. His response was, paraphrased, “well, just conduct yourself like you always do.”
DADT ruined that detente.
Years later, I moved to New York and joined an Army Reserve unit. My commanding officer in my previous unit told me not to mention anything to anyone. I didn’t. Even the mention of my sexuality to anyone would lead to my discharge. No proven conduct, no proven anything. Just a mention. Whereas before DADT, I was circumspect about mentioning anything about my sexuality because of personal reasons, DADT codified that silence with serious consequences.
I wonder also if part of the shift was also an unintended consequence of the shift from viewing sexuality as behavior to viewing it as deep identity. To this day, many conservatives insist on classifying homosexuality like it’s just another sexual fetish, no more integral to someone’s core personality and identity than any other particular thing they like or don’t like to do in bed. This of course allows them to judge it as something malleable, even “fixable”, or, at least, “manageable”. And it was certainly not the sort of thing to found a marriage on! I mean, what next? Marriages built on shared proclivities for S&M? Those aren’t the kinds of bonds that marriage is about endorsing!
This new way of thinking about what homosexuality signified probably played no insignificant role in the minds of these military commanders. The shift went from a behavior that a soldier could abstain from to a kind of person certain soldiers could not help but be. When you cannot help but be gay and being gay is now what is against the rules, you must go, regardless of what you do or do not do. While it was already invidious enough to discriminate against gays for what the homosexual things they did, it strikes me as even more unfairly perverse to simply be discriminating against them just for who and what they are.
What a relief this injustice is coming to its overdue end.