Just in time for Veterans Day comes the question, are today’s military rank and file personnel resistant to serving with openly gay and lesbian colleagues?
A new study about the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy questions the assumption that allowing openly gay and lesbian military personnel to serve in the U.S. armed forces could harm military readiness.
The study surveyed military personnel who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan and found that having a gay or lesbian colleagues in their unit had no significant impact on their unit’s cohesion or readiness. The study, by researchers from the RAND Corporation and the University of Florida, was published online by the journal Armed Forces and Society.
“Service members said the most important factors for unit cohesion and readiness were the quality of their officers, training and equipment,” said Laura Miller, study co-author and a sociologist at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. “Serving with another service member who was gay or lesbian was not a significant factor that affected unit cohesion or readiness to fight.”
Since the law prohibiting open service of gay and lesbian military personnel is based on the premise that open integration would harm cohesion and readiness, the findings suggest that the U.S. military should revisit the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” [DADT] policy, said Miller and study co-author Bonnie Moradi, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Florida.
The study found that just 40 percent of the military members surveyed expressed support for the policy, while 28 percent opposed it and 33 percent were neutral—less support than seen in previous surveys.
About 20 percent of those polled said they were aware of a gay or lesbian member in their unit, and about half of those said their presence was well known. In addition, three-quarters of those surveyed said they felt comfortable or very comfortable in the presence of gays or lesbians, according to the study.
The study, “Attitudes of Iraq and Afghanistan War Veterans Toward Gay and Lesbian Service Members,” will appear later in the print edition of Armed Forces and Society. The study was commissioned by the Palm Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Although RAND has done other research on this topic, this study was the product of a contract directly with the researchers and not through RAND…. [Source]
One caution I have, however: Data like this are important in showing the growing irrelevancy of DADT, and in chipping away at the reasons for it that are often given. But policy change of this nature should not be tied solely to popular opinion. Leadership must lead the way.
Which leads to my second question: did you know that women generally, and Black women in particular, are especially impacted by DADT?
African Americans are overrepresented in the U.S. military, especially in the Army. The percentage of African Americans in the military still exceeds that of the general population: around 17 percent in the military, versus 12.8 percent in the U.S. population.
We also know from the 2000 census data that an estimated 65,000 men and women in uniform are gay or lesbian and are serving on active duty and in the National Guard and Reserves, while there are at least one million gay veterans in the U.S.
Too often we think of these figures as mutually exclusive: to paraphrase Gloria Hull, “all the gays are white, all the blacks are straight, and where does that leave the brave?”
According to U.S. Census data, black women with same-sex partners serve in the military at 11 times the rate of women overall. And new pentagon data shows that while women make up approximately fifteen percent of the armed forces, they account for nearly half of all “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) discharges from the Army and Air Force. Pentagon data show that African American women are discharged under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” at three times the rate that they serve in the military….[Source]
The recent tragedy at Ft. Hood brings up another important question for me: If a soldier sees an Army psychologist or psychiatrist regarding mental health concerns related to her or him being lesbian or gay, or otherwise through treatment discloses this orientation, will the service member receive confidential treatment? A recent article in the American Psychological Association’s magazine for graduate students addresses this dilemma as part of a discussion on the pros and cons of a military career:
Another tension raised by students is potential conflicts between military orders and psychological ethics, says Lt. Nicholas Guzman, who is completing an internship at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. After a presentation he made to students, several wanted to know if, as an officer, he’d be required to report a disclosure of homosexuality made by a patient. Guzman says psychology’s ethical code compels him to keep such disclosures confidential. Yeaw emphasizes that military psychologists adhere to their state’s licensing regulations and regularly consult with APA’s Ethics Office on questions of confidentiality and privacy.
“As a psychologist, you’re not put in a position where you have to break someone’s confidentiality because of orientation,” he says.
Finally in an only marginally related matter, my daughter gave a phenomenal performance as the narrator in the elementary school’s Veterans’ Day play. Her main fear prior to her performance was that she would pronounce Corps like the rotting thing that rises from the dead on Halloween instead of like the group of Marine troops. She successfully did the latter. Could her mother be prouder?