“It’s been a year since the DADT repeal. I know you’ve touched on it and how important that repeal was to you. Does it still linger? Do you find that there are people who refuse to agree it’s over? Do others still hide their selves for fear the DADT repeal was paper-only and offered no real protection?”
So I’ve decided to cover that. I have spoken about it briefly before, so check here to see that initial post.
Alright. I was underway throughout the whole time that DADT was becoming a news item. To my detriment, I was also not every interested in politics at the time so the first inkling I had about the whole situation was when there was a command-wide training about it. They broke it up by rank. Officers firsts, Senior Enlisted (E7-E9) then E6, E5, E4, and E3 and below. I was somewhere in between the E6-E4 briefs.
At this point I was married and everyone assumed I was straight. I was known to be gay friendly, as I was close friends with many of the out gay people on board, but otherwise no sideways glances were tossed my way.
The meeting was very straight forward. They told us what had changed (Gays were allowed to be out and open about their sexuality). Saying words like dyke, faggot, queer, etc, were disallowed and were just as bad as racial slurs. Anyone acting out against anyone who was open about their other than hetero-normative sexuality would be prosecuted. The hour long briefing came to a close with the person giving it asking “Any questions?”
And that’s when it began. Now to be fair, it was a single sailor who asked all of the following questions, but the amount of people saying “Yeah!”, nodding vigorously, or even pumping their fists… it was saddening.
Instructor: Alright, let’s open the floor now for questions.
Sailor Homophobe, standing up: I have a question!
Instructor: Go ahead.
SH: So… Like… are there going to be separate gay berthings now?
Instructor: I’m sorry?
SH: Well these guys can just sleep in our berthings, so if there are not any separate gay only berthings, that should mean I can go live in a female berthing right?
Instructor: I’m not following.
SH: They can just be in our berthing have sex all over the place, so I can just go down to the female berthing and do the same right?
Instructor: No. Sit down.
I remember talking to my fellow gays at the time and saying “This is going to end in tears. When the first guy [I definitely meant guy, not girl] on our ship comes out they’re going to beat the shit out of him. There are going to be deaths over this.”
The antigay sentiment on our ship ran so strong and hateful. I noticed that it was only mean who said hateful things. All the girls were totally ok with it. There were several out girls on the ship already. Many guys were fine too… but there were so many men gunning for blood everywhere. “If a single fucking faggot even looks at me…” “I swear to god if he touches me I’ll break his dick off” “So now they’re just going to be fucking nonstop everywhere…” the list went on and on.
But nothing ever happened. The Huffington post recently released a story about how the DADT repeal had pretty much no detrimental effect.
And for that I am so glad.
I still correct people from time to time. The word faggot is still heavily in use. Recently a junior enlisted sailor said “Stop running like a faggot” to another sailor during our PT session. After the run had finished I took him to the side and calmly explained why it was wrong. I also warned him that it was just as bad as using a racial slur, and that it could put him out of the military. I was extremely surprised when he responded “I am sorry [my rank and name], thank you.” It wasn’t the typical snotty “Hey thanks for correcting me, not” I was expecting. He sounded legit and a little abashed.
As for myself, it took me a while, I think around 6 months, to be fully out with myself. I was still working a little under the impression that it was bad to be perceived as gay. Now I am in a different rating, and things are different than in the engineering world… but I haven’t heard anything bad about my sexuality (at least to my face). The people who still hide themselves seem to be the younger generation who have been hiding themselves since they were young, but I have seen more than one in the closet gay come out since DADT has been repealed.
Small steps, but we’re getting there.
(FYI, today marks the 1 year anniversary of the DADT repeal 🙂