September 22, 2004
Study challenges ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’
By Diane Scarponi
Brian Hughes, shown here at Yale University in New Haven, Conn. served four years in an. Army Ranger unit. He is one of 30 homosexual current and former servicemen and women in a study that criticized the way the "don't ask, don't tell" policy has worked in the first war since the policy was enacted 11 years ago. — Bob Child / AP
NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Brian Hughes served four years with an Army Ranger unit, including assignments in Afghanistan and Iraq, while keeping his homosexuality — a potentially career-ending sexual orientation — secret.
Hughes, 26, left the Army last month in part because of his frustration with the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, which allows homosexuals to serve so long as they do not disclose their sexual orientation and do not engage in homosexual acts.
Now enrolled at Yale University, Hughes said the policy forced him to lie to other members of his unit, who frequently bragged about their sexual exploits. Hughes said he found himself substituting “she” for “he” in stories so he could join in conversations.
“It hurt. I was lying to those people,” he said. “I eventually withdrew and became quite anti-social because I didn’t want to deal with it anymore.”
Hughes is one of 30 homosexual current and former servicemen and servicewomen profiled in an unscientific survey released earlier this month about the impact of “don’t ask, don’t tell” on gay soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Hughes and study author Nathaniel Frank traveled this week to Washington, D.C., to meet with congressional staffers to encourage an end to the 11-year-old policy.
The survey, conducted through the Center for the Study of Sexual Minorities in the Military at the University of California in Santa Barbara, does not question heterosexual service members about serving alongside gay and lesbian soldiers. It does, however, provide a snapshot of what it’s like to be gay and serving in a combat zone.
Some service members who were part of the survey said in interviews that they came out to their colleagues about their sexual orientation despite the policy. Some were discharged when their homosexuality became known; others continued to serve.
Derek Sparks, who now works in information technology in Seattle, was discharged in 2002 after the Navy learned he was gay. Some gay friends on his ship were investigated, and he acknowledged his homosexuality to his commanding officer during the probe.
“All the policy meant to me at the time was that I still had to hide,” said Sparks, who enlisted in 1987. “I think they should get rid of it. I think it’s ineffective. All it does it put more stress on people.”
Sparks and many of the service members interviewed in the survey said most of their younger colleagues accepted their homosexuality, but older military leaders did not.
Wendy Biehl, 28, who served eight years in the Army in Kuwait, Kosovo, Bosnia and Germany, came out to a few friends she trusted, but kept her homosexuality a secret from commanders.
Some colleagues suspected she was a lesbian, and they tried to find out for sure by skirting the “don’t ask” policy. They would ask whether she ever went to a local lesbian bar or would drive around to see if her truck was parked near the bar.
“Some guy friends would claim they were my boyfriend. That kind of helped out a little bit. It helped keep certain people off my back,” Biehl said.
Biehl now sells metal detectors in Florida. She said the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy was a big reason why she chose not to re-enlist. “I really wasn’t happy hiding who I really was, and it gets frustrating after a while,” she said.
The Department of Defense has heard of no such criticisms and believes the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy works as intended, said Army Lt. Col. Joe Richard, an agency spokesman.
The survey, he said, is based on anecdotal information from individuals and does not look at the effect on the military as a whole, which has determined that homosexuality is not compatible with good order and discipline.
“It is a policy that is generally in the best interests of the military services. You have to go beyond the individual. That’s our position,” he said.
great marine core times finds the one gay army ranger and writes a article about it
I really don't see how you could live with a bunch of guys and not get caught if your gay. After some drinking you know one of those fags is going to come on to his fellow soldiers.
i had two gay guys in my barracks, and it didn't bother me. what bothered me was the other stupid assholes who would fuck with their lockers/bunks and threaten them with physical harm.
god, it's not like you are going to be taking a shower than all of the sudden they start sucking you off. let's be real here.
AJNTSA! There's been homos in the military since the first cavemen got together for an organized raid. As long as they don't hit on me more than once, I don't care what their orientation is. (I'll take ONE approach as a compliment, anything after that becomes sexual harassment and grounds for a beating...I'm tolerant, but you can only expect so much tolerance from a redneck)
It's never been an issue with over 16 yrs active duty and I know for a fact that I've served with several 'confused' individuals.
even if a gay person hits on a straight person there are still sexual harrassment policies in place to deal with shit like this. if someone wants to pick up a weapon and go out there, more power to them.
i would rather have someone like that than someone who sings crappy 'patriotic' music like that lee greenwood hack. atleast the gay person is putting their money where their mouth is, and actually signing up and going out there rather than just singing corny songs and making millions off of tradgedy.
"i'll proudly stand up! next to you! and defend her...well, not me, personally, but my neighbors kid"
god, shit like that pisses me off. real patriotism is about having respect for the constitution (and actually knowing/understanding it) and the institutions that made this country great.
The best gunner I ever served with wasn't just "Gay", he was a freakin' QUEEN! We (Everyone in the Troop) knew it and it wasn't an issue.
Dude could battle-sight kill a threat on TT-8 faster than anyone else and that's what we "Graded" him on. If you're not gay (And pretty GD SURE of it!) these dudes ain't no threat to you.
The whole "Don't ask-don't-tell" policy is "Gay" as far as I'm concerned. A "Queer" that wants to serve My Army ranks higher than some needle-dick wanna-be that talks shit about gays but never gets around to ponying-up.
Sorry if I sound like a jerk but, Gay's in the military are a fact and I see the uniform first. When I'M "Perfect" I'll start kickin' people out.
not to mention, it leaves more pussy for the rest of us.
LOL! Too true.
I DO understand that some folks are threatened by queers in their AO's and to some extent I understand that but, if YOU don't lean that way you've got nothin' to fear from them and some of these folks are teriffic troops and should be given the respect they've earned for wanting to serve.
In a country where most DON'T serve I find it hard to condemn youngsters (No matter WHAT their orientation) who see the service as a home as I have these last couple of decades.