I’m kind of sick of hearing about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Every time the mainstream media reminds us about the March/HRC dinner, the one issue they specify is Obama pledged to overturn Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. They don’t talk about the full equality we were marching for. They highlight this one tiny little issue.
Here’s why I’m sick of it: it affects so few of us. I am grateful to all of those who serve our country, especially those who have sacrificed their identities to do so. But most of the community isn’t chomping at the bit to join the military. I’m pissed that I couldn’t serve in the military if I wanted to, but I don’t want to, so the issue has no effect on me. The problem with DADT is not what it actually does but what precedent it sets.
On its own, DADT does not represent a full issue; it represents an exception. It creates an exception for the military to discriminate based on sexual orientation. The issue isn’t “gays in the military;” it’s “employing gays.”
See, there’s this other issue out there that mainstream media is so much happier to ignore: the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. This bill I think we all need to care a whole lot more about. ENDA protects any member of our community from being not hired/fired from any job because of our identities. There are countless heartbreaking stories of trans folks being dismissed from their jobs just for how they dress, and that’s much more disturbing. I doubt it would happen in my field, but I would never want to be in a situation where I could be fired just for having a picture of my partner on my desk.
Now, the military is an employer too, right? Yes, but you see, the only reason repealing DADT is a separate issue is because ENDA features an exception for the federal government specifically to accommodate DADT. ENDA and DADT are same issue; it’s just that one is for everybody except the military and one is just for the military. Why the exception and why the redundancy? The result is that the more important legislation—the one that protects people in all professions—does not get the attention it deserves.
I think we need to do more to remind our leaders that this piecemeal approach to equality is tripping us up. If we’re going to talk about employment non-discrimination, then let’s talk about employment non-discrimination. The time for exceptions is over.
Full equality now.