Thursday, December 30, 2010

Idaho Soldier Serving from the Closet. DADT Repeal Doesn't Lift All Burdens

Posted By on Thu, Dec 30, 2010 at 11:09 AM

Despite the recent repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the policy remains in effect for several more months at least, leaving an estimated 65,000 active duty military service members still vulnerable for discharge for being gay, lesbian or bisexual.

One Idaho soldier now serving in Afghanistan as a combat medic is risking more than her life for her country. She is risking discharge because she is also a lesbian.

To protect her identity Citydesk will refer to her only as “Savanna," which is not her real name.

"My time in service has been rough," said Savanna. “I was aware of the DADT policy, but I don’t believe now that any soldier who DADT directly affects really understands how difficult, mentally and emotionally, hiding their true identity will be until it’s too late to turn back.”

“During basic training,” Savanna recounted, “a small group of lesbians were unfairly blamed for being 'too close’ to who was obviously a lesbian drill sergeant. I am thankful to have had a First Sergeant who stood for what he believed was right. He pulled each of the trainees facing the indiscretion aside and helped us to send home anything that could be perceived to be against the DADT policy (letters, pictures etc.) before the investigation began."

“I am willing to die for my country. Who I go home to at night and who I love should hold no substance,” she said.

Savanna said she refuses to let the Army make her uncomfortable with who she is, but still worries that there are still people “out to get gay and lesbian soldiers,” even though she said most people don’t care.

The chatter in her unit is about how the repeal will be implemented particularly if, and how, facilities like showers or living quarters might change.

“The way I see it,' said Savanna, "If we can afford the conflicts and wars our Commander-in-Chief signs us up for, we [would] have no problem investing in some shower curtains to further privacy.”

Savanna pointed out that all DADT does for her is allow her to be open about her sexual orientation.

“What I would give to marry the woman I’m with and move her to my duty station as my spouse,” she said.

After a short leave in Idaho Savanna prepares to go back to Afghanistan posing in one last picture with her Fiancé “Monica” (not her real name).
  • After a short leave in Idaho Savanna prepares to go back to Afghanistan posing in one last picture with her fiancee “Monica” (not her real name).

One issue not resolved by the repeal of DADT—in addition to not protecting service members based on gender identity—is that gay service members, even those who are legally married, cannot live together on base like heterosexual couples can.

“We have to spend all four years of service apart, this is the hardest part of all," said Savanna. "There is a reason soldiers get free paid-time-off while deployed, because the time apart from family has proven its negative toll. However, the Army expects me to be away from who I would consider my spouse for my entire time in service. This is absurd.”

Overall, Savanna said she is happy about the repeal and will be relieved when she no longer has to hide in fear of being outed.

“I have been blessed to share this struggle with other soldiers who face the same injustice.”

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