No Longer Serving in Silence
“I’ve got to go back in the service so I can leave in my own way.”
These were the words of pediatrician and Air Force veteran Beth Schissel at the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell reprieve party on Sept. 20 at Bistro 303. Schissel voluntarily left the Air Force in 2001, 14 years away from full military retirement, because it was clear to her that she would soon be outed and forced out. Whether Schissel chooses to re-enlist is her own decision, but she has that option now since the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy became history last month.
The celebration was organized by local political consultant Doug Gray, PROMO and Four Freedoms Democratic Club. A great crowd of people attended and listened to Gray and Schissel speak about the fight to end this military policy of discrimination toward LGB people. Missouri State Sen. Jolie Justus was scheduled to speak, but she was called back to Jefferson City that afternoon. Servicemembers Legal Defense Fund (SLDN) provided part of the video prepared by Terry Newell for the event.
On the SLDN website, executive director and Army veteran Aubrey Sarvis said, “Today marks the official end of ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ and is an historic milestone along the journey to achieving LGBT equality in America’s military. Thanks to veterans, active duty, leaders, allies and supporters everywhere, this is a monumental day for our service members and our nation. Indeed, we have taken a tremendous leap forward for LGBT equality in the military.”
SLDN reports the details on 100 DADT repeal celebrations in 50 states, including Manhattan, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo., on their website: http://www.sldn.org/news/archives/americans-celebrate-repeal-day/
The policy change still doesn’t do enough, however, to address discrimination toward the transgender community. SLDN has specific recommended guidelines for transgender individuals and states, “Existing military medical regulations, unrelated to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” classify transgender people as unfit to serve.”
As we celebrate the themes of National Coming Out Day on Oct. 11 and Gay History Month in October, how ironic and appropriate that we also can celebrate an end to a policy that forced brave men and women in the military to serve in silence.
If you’re now serving in the U.S. military or thinking about enlisting, share your stories with us. We’d love to print your letters to the editor. Send your comments to email@example.com.