The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy is policy that began under Bill Clinton in 1993 as an effort to ensure gay people the right to serve in the military, while keeping their presence under lock and key. Until then, homosexuality was considered, “unacceptable” and incompatible with military service.
Minority issues are usually non-issues for those in the majority, because the ramifications and subtleties of the issues do not seem to affect them. The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy may seem plausible and even ideal to the majority population because it does not deny military service to homosexual people, but it does not allow for the overt nature of their orientation to expose itself to those who deem such behavior as immoral or taboo.
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell does affect the rest of the population. While military officials cannot ask its members about their sexual orientation, it will seek to resolve instances where a member may have “openly” involved himself in homosexual activity. That means that if a service member comes home to a long term relationship and is found by another service member to be holding hands or kissing his true love in a public park, the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell contract can be broken. He’s now become open, which signifies the “Tell” part of the policy, leaving him open for scrutiny and possible knee-jerk reactions from military colleagues. When that happens, good service members may face dismissal, leaving open ranks where there once were great, loyal service members.
Not all gay service members have ramifications from “outing” themselves among friends. Eric Alva, a military member who’s Marine-inspired middle name had been passed down three generations, was the first American to be injured in the Iraq war. He relayed his experiences of telling a select few military friends that he was gay, and getting the quiet response of, “So, what?” He was loyal, honorable, and gay.
While his story, as displayed through the Huffington Post could beg the position that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell worked in his favor, Alva makes a most salient point when he asserts, “As a former Marine and patriotic American, I am deeply disturbed that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is discouraging young patriots from joining the Military at a time when our country needs their service.” Further, Alva says, “I am horrified that “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” forces trained and ready troops to choose between serving their country and living openly — a choice I myself would have been faced with, had a landmine not made it for me.” Whether we understand the issues affecting homosexuality or not, we cannot move ourselves away from the fact that it must be extremely difficult for someone to have to keep such a secret. I want loyal people such as Alva serving in our military, and I am most disturbed by the idea that so many people who want to serve, opt not to due to the fear that serving in secrecy seems too daunting a task.