Posted by: joshjasper | December 19, 2010

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

I was stationed in the middle of the Mojave desert in 29 Palms, California at the time.  We had been out in the field for a few weeks sleeping on the desert floor and it was beginning to get ugly.   Hot meals and showers were becoming a distant memory and arguments amongst team members were becoming the norm.  It was time to get back to the barracks before someone got really hurt.

Jones had been on the receiving end of harassment since he joined our unit.  I remember him being soft-spoken and of a small stature.  A lot of guys thought he was gay and they were not silent about letting Jones know their distaste for his sexual orientation.  The homophobic words used to try to destroy his ego were reprehensible and relentless.

I failed Jones.  There were times that I intervened as a non-commissioned officer to stop and redirect the harassing behavior, but there were other times that I did nothing.  Although I knew I should have done more, it would have made it easier for me to do more had others helped counter this inappropriate behavior.

The recent repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy by the US Senate is incredible.  Critics for years have said that this policy amounted to government-sanctioned discrimination that treated gay and lesbian troops as second-class citizens.  This transition although monumental should also be considered as an opportunity to further educate our troops throughout every branch of the military.  Trainings like the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) program that has been sporadically used in the military in the past should be implemented throughout.  This educational opportunity allows men and women to openly discuss issues such as homophobia, sexism, and harassment.

We cannot assume that in an environment that has historically oppressed gay men and women that people will change overnight.  Let us provide them with every opportunity to create a safe and inclusive atmosphere for all through ongoing support and education.

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Responses

  1. Thanks for posting this, Josh. I’d heard that a sizable percentage of Marines were against the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Good for everyone to hear this from a Marine.

  2. Thanks Mike. The Marine Corps, much like any other branch of the military, often reinforces hyper-masculine behavior that often leads to oppressing others. There is so much fear and ignorance out there. (military and civilian) I remain hopeful though. There are some incredible people out there that have the opportunity to set the example for others.


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