I had an aunt, or a great-aunt who served in the Women’s Army Corp during World War II. After she returned from the war, she and her best friend from the service lived together for the rest of their lives.
Now, if you’re LGBT or have been around the LGBT community for any length of time, that short story sent a flag up. And if I told you that these two women even shared a bed, you would nod knowingly and assume they were lesbians. But I didn’t come to that realization until they were both long gone.
I will never have proof that my great-aunt was a lesbian, but I can make the assumption that if she was, she kept the fact hidden in the closet during World War II. And that would not be surprising since the military never looked fondly at same-sex relationships back then.
Today, one year after the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” took effect, it is a whole different story. First, LGBT service members don’t have to hide their sexual orientation or relationships. Moreover, the Armed Forces are celebrating their relationships — as this year the Pentagon formally recognized June as Pride Month.
More importantly, though, a study was released almost a year to the day that DADT was repealed, and it showed that contrary to the predictions of the right wing, the repeal had no negative impact on military readiness, morale or unit cohesion. None!
This is a study by the Palm Center and its co-authors include professors at the U.S. Marine Corps War College, U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Naval Academy and U.S. Air Force Academy. So this is not some biased think-tank piece.
The study found the following:
• The openness and honesty post-repeal may have increased understanding, respect and acceptance.
• Contrary to predictions, recruitment has remained robust.
• Retention was unaffected by repeal.
• There’s been no increase in violence within units.
• Unit morale was not impacted, except on the individual level depending on a servicemember’s personal position on the issue of DADT.
• LGBT servicemembers did not come out en masse.
Essentially, things in the military have gone on as usual — if not a little bit better.
And for the LGBT servicemembers? Well, things have improved a lot. They now can live and serve without having to walk the delicate line of deception. Returning LGBT troops can be openly embraced by their loved ones in public just like their straight counterparts. Partners visiting wounded servicemembers can freely admit their relationship to the service member and be treated with the respect they deserve.
Most interesting is that there have not been mass resignations of straight servicemembers, as many pundits on the right predicted.
If only this kind of openness had been around years ago, I might have had the role models of my great-aunt and her “friend” as a loving open couple. Though I will never know the truth, I can hope they would both be smiling today, arm in arm in their uniforms.
My great-aunt was part of The Greatest Generation.
Wouldn’t it have been even greater if the real story could be known?
Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist and board member for the Woodhull Freedom Alliance. His blog is at DungeonDiary.blogspot.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 14, 2012.