DADT: Clinching the Ring Finger

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Honestly, I don’t think a lot more needs to be said about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell except “Get rid of it already.” Still, I had a small epiphany this morning that I thought I’d share.

On the shuttle to the airport, I was sitting next to an active servicemember. He was wearing that really ugly pixelated camouflage uniform they all wear when they travel. I think that alone would be reason for me not to join the military, but I don’t want to fulfill stereotypes about gay men, because I’m really not all that fashion-conscious. There are just two important things you need to know:

1) He was in uniform. 2) He was wearing a wedding band.

I don’t know the guy’s name, or what he does, or really anything about him except for two points: he’s in the military, and he’s married.

There is always the chance that he has a same-sex partner. In fact, after spending the week at Creating Change, I’m actually still a bit conditioned to assume that everyone I meet is a member of the queer community. But given the culture of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, it’s almost impossible that he’s in a same-sex marriage, because he would be constantly asked about his wife. He’d thus constantly have to lie.

I wanted to ask him about his wife. I wanted to ask him about the female troops he works with. Do they feel harassed knowing that he’s heterosexual? Are people concerned he might assault them? Does the fact that he has an ever-present symbol of his sexuality in clear view affect his unit’s cohesion?

As Sue Fulton of Knights Out told us at Creating Change, the policy is not enforced as it is described. It is simply “Don’t Tell.” As soon as an accusation is put forth, an investigation ensues, and then a whole lot of asking takes place, and as we know, a whole lot of discharges.

But the simple, recognizable symbol of a wedding band might be the key to pointing out to people that DADT has got to go. For all the stories we can relate about the consequences for gay and lesbian troops, perhaps this wedding band is the symbol that will help people see how simple and profound the discrimination is.

Later this week I’m going to do a post highlighting the photography of Jeff Sheng, and I think this context will be important to note. Despite the fact that many servicemembers have significant others in their life, they have to constantly hide their private lives. There are a lot of ringless fingers in his photographs.

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