Two years out, LGBTQ Center holds event on repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Don't Ask, Don't TellTo celebrate the end of OUTober, the LGBTQ Resource Center and Georgetown’s Veterans Office teamed up to put together a Troops in the Open event on Nov. 5.

The discussion focused on issues surrounding the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy and the effects of its repeal for both veterans and members of the LGBTQ community.

“This is one of those topics that very few of us think through,” Shiva Subbaraman, director of the LGBTQ Resource Center, said. “We thought it would be really interesting to do something about this intersection, since we had really never done it before.”

The panel featured three speakers: Gautam Raghavan, Obama’s liaison to the LGBT and Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, Samantha Dugan, aviation lead at the Navy Office of Women’s Policy and a pilot at the time of DADT’s repeal, and Amanda Erdmann, assistant director of residential living and education at Georgetown, who was honorably discharged from the U.S. Army as a sergeant due to homosexual conduct under DADT.

These speakers were brought together because they illustrated how DADT is an important issue that affects almost everyone. “I think we all know someone,” Subbaraman said. “It affects everyone in different ways, but it’s an area we know little about.”

Dugan shared his experiences working for the Pentagon to prepare for what would happen if Don’t Ask Don’t Tell were repealed. Erdmann discussed what it was like to serve under the policy as a lesbian woman. Dugan talked about being a pilot on the day when the policy was repealed and how there were few ramifications afterwards.

“People expected the military to spontaneously combust, and absolutely nothing happened,” Dugan said.

The three were optimistic about the progress that has been made in the country in recognizing human rights. However, they all mentioned that even though there is now equality for gays and lesbians in the military, there are still other de facto sources of inequality.

Dugan mentioned how some individuals cannot be deployed to countries with a strong stigma against homosexuality because it is a threat to their safety. Erdmann also talked about gender issues, explaining how men are more likely to face backlash than women because of the different sense of what masculinity should be. On the other hand, women face limitations because they still aren’t allowed to do all of the same jobs as men in the armed forces.

“It’s every kind of a cultural shift,” Dugan said. She continued by discussing how the ways in which people are going to have to redefine how they look at issues about human rights in the military.

Georgetown students should especially be aware of these issues of equality in the military. “We have over five hundred veterans going to school here at Georgetown,” David Shearman, Georgetown’s Veterans Office Coordinator, said. “Some served under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell whether they were open or not open about being LGBTQ.”

Looking at how LGBTQ and veteran issues intersect through DADT helps Georgetown students better understand their classmates. “If somebody has these experiences, [we should] open that up to the rest of the campus community so that we can learn from it,” Shearman said.

Photo: Victoria Pickering via Flickr

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