Thursday, February 4, 2010

Why Repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Isn’t Good Enough

I usually only post my GCM pieces after they've been printed, but this time I'm jumping the gun a bit. [It's page 7 of this PDF of the Feb 18 issue]

Feminist Thoughts
By Erica Chu

Why Repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Isn’t Good Enough

If you’re gay and you’re interested in equal rights, you’re probably all about the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, something our community’s been trying to get rid of since it became official military policy. As a military brat who went to high school on military posts overseas and as someone who knows quite a few current and former soldiers, you’d think I’d be the first one in line to try to pass the Military Readiness and Enhancement Act (MREA), which would allow gays and lesbians to serve openly.

But I’m not. In fact, sometimes, I want to heckle all the folks in that line.

No, I’m not about to launch into some diatribe against the military or against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or against war in general. The fact is I support the military. Whether some of the actions taken by the military are just we’ll leave for another time. For now, I want to focus on the MREA, the act that we’ve been hearing so much about from (among others) the Human Rights Campaign and the Service Members Legal Defense Network.

The MREA would repeal the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy and replace it with provisions prohibiting the military from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. Sounds great, right? Yes, it does sound great for all the gays and lesbians who wish to serve openly.

But what about everyone else?

Who else you may ask? This is the precise problem. We in the LGBTQ community only recognize ourselves as being in the LG and sometimes B community. We fight tooth and nail to lift the oppression of gay men and lesbian women, but we often forget about those experiencing oppression for similar reasons.

Transgendered people, transsexuals, and the gender queer may not accept the gender roles and pronouns that society wants to impose on them, but shouldn’t they be able to work every day with the assurance that their employer will not discriminate against them unfairly?

The nondiscrimination policies of the federal government and the US military deserve our special attention because they often set the tone for what will become standard in each state. The MREA makes no provision to protect those with variant gender identification. Sexual orientation is its only priority, which is as tragic as it is ironic because gender is what defines lesbians as lesbians and gay men as gay men.

Oppression on the basis of sexual orientation rotates on the axis of gender. If we could break through that binary, we might actually do something lasting for our community.

Erica Chu is a student at Loyola University Chicago and is seeking a PhD in English with a concentration in Women Studies and Gender Studies. She manages the blog and can be reached at