The Road Through DADT
The Road Through Don't Ask Don't Tell is a documentary series that includes photography and interviews that offers insight into the lives of LGBTQIA+ military service members that served before and during the Don't Ask Don't Tell policy.
As a Marine veteran who served from 1999-to 2004, I know what it was like for me to have to use them/ they pronouns when speaking of my partner—feeling the lack of camaraderie from the others I served with because I had to hide a side of myself for fear of being kicked out. Now that time has passed, I realize how much this affected my development as a person and how I felt my service was tainted in some way for some time. Now I find myself in a particular role that will allow me to tell our stories and share them for others to know what our struggles were/are.
It is estimated that 114,000 service members have been discharged for homosexual conduct or sexual orientation between 1940 and 2011. This number is not inclusive as there is no data for service members discharged before this period which fell under the previous regulations that began in 1916 when sodomy became a punishable offense in the military.
It is estimated that more than 14,000 service members were under the don't ask, don't tell policy. The Government Accountability Office found that the cost of discharging and replacing service members because of their sexual orientation totaled almost $200 million during the policy's first ten years. Another study showed that the previous accounts were inaccurate due to the lack of accounting for the experience of the personnel that had been discharged; this raised the cost to $364 million. Again, this was the first ten years in total, with it costing around $40,000 per discharge, which comes to $574 million. These numbers do not include what it is now costing to upgrade discharges under these policies. Many service members who had their contracts terminated for their sexual orientation received less than honorable discharges. This has led to service members being denied benefits. It is time to tell our stories to let others know of the sacrifices and struggles we endured and still endure.