The official end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

At 12:01 am this morning, the horrible policy that was Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell ended. The U.S. Department of Defense will formally repeal the inequitable policy that has been law since 1993. The repeal which was voted on by Congress during the lame duck session will now officially take effect.

Approximately 14,000 gay service members have been discharged under the policy including those who never “told” any colleagues about their sexual orientation. Our brave men and women would live in fear of being outed under the policy with email hacking being a common occurrence to find out information about a soldier’s personal life.

The repeal isn’t a one size fits all solution. As we’ve discussed previously on Feministing, the issue of discrimination against trans service members is still very much a problem. The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has no effect on the prohibition against trans individuals signing up for military service to fight and die for their country.

So while this is a huge historic victory for gay rights advocates, the work continues. In civil rights, one victory is never the end.

That said, today we say goodbye to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell a horrible, ineffective, homophobic, unjust, ridiculously inane policy. Good riddance!

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  • boxoatoc

    “Our brave men and women” who “fight and die for their country”

    Really, feminism is pro-military now? Wars are about defending the U.S. — or U.S. corporate interests? Is it not understood by now that civilians (in our case, usually in other countries) ALWAYS die as the result of war? Do these civilians not include brave men, women, and children who unluckily happen to live in a war zone, the poor, people of color, the poor? — the very people feminism claims to care about most?

    Goodbye to discrimination wherever it lies, but I will never accept the U.S. military as an institution worthy of praise, nor will I glorify those who choose to join knowing that they will aid and abet, if not commit, acts of murder all over the world (no matter what reasons, i.e. poverty, college, etc. they have for joining).

    • Emmy

      Diversifying the US Military and allowing gay servicemembers to serve openly is the next step into making it a better tool for the government. I don’t know what you mean “by now”, since every government ever has always known that civilians die in war. That’s an unavoidable fact. So is war, as long as human beings are selfish. As for what feminism “is” when it comes to what it stands for, being pro-military is neither here nor there as feminism is about an equal status under the law and in society between men and women and the fight to get there. Anything else is subjective and theoretical–and opinion.

      It takes a brave person to fight for their imperfect country. It takes a far braver person to fight in silence about their identity, for a country that doesn’t really accept their existence. I am a bisexual female Soldier. I am asked by other feminists all the time why I joined. The answer is simple: because there is something far greater than me or my feelings. I heard the call to service and answered it, orientation be damned.

      And by the way, the policy was never up to the US Military, since all administrative policies like that are written in civilian committees, passed by the civilian Congress, and signed into law by the civilian president.

    • Kristen

      i totally agree. homonormativity at it’s finest. of course, DADT was a discriminatory policy, however, allowing LGBTQI folks to participate in an institution founded on violence and exclusion only serves to perpetuate the “us vs. them” mentality, the very same ideology which is the basis for bigotry. i wouldn’t quite call it a “huge, historic victory.”

      • Kristen

        on a different note, zerlina, i think you are a feminist superhero and i really appreciate the work you and the other badass feministers do!

    • emmie

      You do realize that does not speak for all feminists. This is just ONE website, and there are TONS more of different feminists sites. There you will probably find more “anti-war” feminists. Most feminists do share many views on life, however we are not all *exactly* the same.

      • boxoatoc

        I realize we are not exactly the same — Zerlina and I, for example, have widely divergent ideas about the value of the U.S. military.

        However, as a huge feminist website — perhaps the largest, especially for youth — Feministing does set the tone and has done a great deal in expanding and restricting what are and aren’t feminist issues and stances.

    • Angel H.

      (no matter what reasons, i.e. poverty, college, etc. they have for joining).

      That’s really closeminded, ignorant, and privileged of you. Who are you to judge somebody for taking what could be their only way out of life of poverty?

      • boxoatoc

        Actually, it’s not.

        Hypothetical (which is not hypothetical for many):

        There are many reasons that people commit violent crime. Sometimes, it is to steal money. If I steal money and murder American citizens so that I can use the money to attend college, is that justified?

        So why is it justified that aiding and abetting murder in another country is okay provided that military personnel are using their pay and benefits to do things that we here in the U.S. privilege (i.e. college)?

        What is REALLY ignorant and privileged is that you think that getting U.S. civilians out of poverty is more important than the life and death of civilians in other countries. That goal is and necessarily should be worked for without having to murder other people.

        • Angel H.

          First of all, I’ve worked with offenders who have commited violent crimes such as aggravated robbery. Their reasons and motivations are not as cut and dry as you want to believe, and many are not the irredeemable monsters you want them to be. And if you want to get real, then know that college isn’t one many of their minds; surviving the night without your child starving, however, is. Secondly, I grew up with my father in the military and have lived on military bases my entire life. My father’s reason for joining was that he was just laid off of his third job and it was his only way of assuring he had a paycheck for his growing family. Either that or fall into the same trap as many people do in poverty – start committing crimes. Also, he and many other military members do not see active combat. So, sorry to burst your bubble, but they aren’t out there killing babies and murdering people like you want to believe.

          You want to talk about privilege? Privilege is making judgements about how people should and shouldn’t behave when they’re living hand to mouth. Ignorance is proclaiming that you know anything about being in the military and what military families have to go through.

          And let’s make something clear: I’m not pro-war. I do, however, support the men and women who choose to serve in the military for whatever reason. Why? Because, unlike you, I’ve gotten to know some of them, I’ve lived with them, and grown up with them, so I understand why they choose to do what they do. You should try that before you’re so quick to judge someone.

          • boxoatoc

            Those are a lot of rude assumptions about a stranger, all of which are wrong btw, but I’ll engage anyway.

            It’s great that you’ve worked with violent offenders (as have I, although I also worked with non-violent offenders who committed, among others, property crimes). I didn’t say anything about people who commit violent crimes or robbery — I extended a simple hypothetical that illustrates the cognitive dissonance between how people think about military personnel and how they think about people who commit crimes. It’s okay to kill people in other countries to go to college, but it’s not okay to kill people in the U.S. to go to college.

            It’s hard to argue that killing to achieve upward social mobility is morally defensible. Of course it doesn’t mean that these people are monsters; however, it does mean that they are doing something wrong.

            My hypothetical has not been answered: If I was a hit man, or the person who drives the car for the hit man, or someone who does the hit man’s mafia accounting books, then I am either committing murder or intentionally enabling it. People who choose to join the military, for whatever reason, have actively supported an institution that was founded to coerce and kill, if ‘need’ be, people who are mostly civilians in other countries. Of course, we can pretend that people join for reasons of duty, honor, etc., but then why don’t wealthy or middle class kids join at the same rate as the poor?

            Feminist leaders used to have a lot of ideas about why war and the ‘conquest’ mentality were acceptable against women in the U.S. and citizens of others countries — however, I see very few feminist analyses of the institution of the military and how the violence that the military is predicated upon bleeds over into the rest of life and culture. We rarely talk about predatory recruitment. Instead, we are too often the cheerleaders for military personnel and the ideals that the military upholds.

            Until you can reconcile this moral quandary in demanding equity for all people yet supporting the U.S. military in killing them, which is in fact life or death for millions of civilians who were unlucky enough to be born in a country that we decided to seige and don’t have the money to get out, I fail to see how poverty in the U.S. can excuse the actions of the institution that people join. The military might not decide its own course, but it does violently carry out the decisions of those that it chooses to follow. The U.S. military is the most powerful in the world and has the most sophisticated killing equipment of any country or ‘terrorist’ cell. Yet we play victims and pretend that our ‘brave’ soldiers are protecting us when we know in fact that the reality is much, much more complicated, and there is no honor or justice about it.

            Those who join the military may not have an abundance of choices, yet there is a moral decision that is made in joining, which is that lives in other countries are expendable and war is necessary, regardless of the fact that many countries in the world have not engaged in war since WWII, and in a war of aggression perhaps ever. Feminists don’t seem to care about the deaths of hundreds of thousands in Iraq alone — or, we do care! but also those Americans who agreed to kill those people are so brave!

          • boxoatoc

            Now I’d better go meet a good friend of mine for lunch — she’s in the Army and is moving to a base in California this weekend, so I do need to say goodbye.

          • Angel H.

            I’m not a feminist; I’m a Womanist. So all your talk about “Feminist leaders this” and “feminists need to do that” has nothing to do with me. Nice try.

            It’s clear from your response that you didn’t read a single word I wrote. You go on and on about how people who support the military are supporting murder, but you conveniently ignored the part where I said I was anti-war.

            Also, you go on talking about “predatory recruiters” and the disproportionate number of the poor being enlisted. Did you miss the part in my last post where I said that the reason my father joined was to get us out of poverty? Did you not think I would know about that? Or maybe you think that the poor just don’t know any better. The elitism in your posts seem to affirm this.

            I don’t know why I should think you would take what I posted into account, when you can’t even pay attention to what you wrote yourself. You say, “I didn’t say anything about people who commit violent crimes”. Except you did:

            There are many reasons that people commit violent crime.

            Also, you say that people in the military “violently carry out the decisions of those that it chooses to follow”. Tell me…

            Does your “good friend” know that you think she’s a murderer?

  • nazza

    In a positive step, many of the truly bigoted perspectives that were swirling around when DODT was established were nowhere to be found recently. So progress is possible, though it rarely proceeds as quickly as we’d like.

  • AMM

    the horrible policy that was Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell ended.

    Actually, I think that DADT was an excellent policy. I was going to say “…for its time,” but any policy has to be judged in light of its time. A policy may be noble as all get-out, but if it doesn’t work in the political environment it has to live in, it is useless. (Cf. the Clinton administration’s attempt to get universal health care enacted.)

    At the time the Clinton administration introduced DADT, a complete and formal repeal of the prohibition against homosexuality in the military had a snowball’s chance in Hell of succeeding. DADT allowed those in the military who saw which way society was going to gradually phase out its anti-gay practices, without provoking a bloody battle with those who could never accept gays in the military.

    I think it’s a measure both of the success of DADT and of how times have changed that its repeal was basically a formality. Not even those to whom gays and lesbians are anathema, especially in the military, have bothered to make a fuss.

  • Rebekah Havrilla

    While repealing DADT is definitely a good step, there is still much that needs to be accomplished. LGB identified people are still not protected under EO regs and the exclusion of transfolk is still a huge form of discrimination. If you want to learn more about the issues, check out SWAN’s new fact sheet After Repeal: LGBT Service Members and Veterans at

  • Sophie Andersen


    That is all.