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Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity in Military

Prior to 1993, by military regulation, homosexuality was incompatible with military service.  This was the policy despite the fact that thousands of gays and lesbians had served in the military since the inception of the United States.  In 1993, the Don't Ask, Don't Tell law was enacted with the proviso that homosexual service members could serve but they could not disclose their sexual orientation, at risk of discharge from the service.  .

Serving under such restrictions meant a continuous shadow hanging over your head wondering if someone would guess, spot you in a gay bar, assume that if you played softball (women) that you must be gay. Women would be threatened with providing sexual favors in lieu of being outed as being a lesbian even if they were not. 


Prior to DADT, witchhunts had taken place during WWII and after, to ferret out those who might be gay.  Over the years more than 100,000 gays and lesbians were booted out of the military, not for misconduct, but for being homosexual.  Even during the 17 years of DADT over 13,000 servicemembers were discharged for being homosexual.

DADT focused on homosexual service members and did not address transgender service members. Transgender service members served without restrain until 1960.  From 1960 to 2016 transgendered service members were prohibited from enlisting or serving.  In June 2016 Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, under the Obama administration, announced that the 15,000 transgender service members, could continue to serve without fear of discharge. The Trump administration reversed this policy and from  April 2019 through January 2021 transgendered individuals were barred from service and those serving could only do so in their biological sex.  


As of 30 April 2021, President Biden revised the policy and transgender personnel may enlist and serve in the military in their self-identified gender. 

Now Congress must enact a law to permit open service regardless of orientation or gender identity..

COL Margarethe Cammermeyer RN, PhD, USAR, ret


GAO Report to Congress 1992

According to DOD officials, U.S. forces have had policies prohibiting homosexuals from serving in the military since the beginning of World War II. DOD’S current policy on homosexuality was formalized in 1982 and specifically states that:

"Homosexuality is incompatible with military service. The presence in the military environment of persons who engage in homosexual conduct or who, by their statements, demonstrate a propensity to engage in homosexual conduct, seriously impairs the accomplishment of the military mission. The presence of such members adversely affects the ability of the Military Services to maintain discipline, good order, and morale; to foster mutual trust and confidence among service members; to ensure the integrity of the system of rank and command; to facilitate assignment and worldwide deployment of service members who frequently must live and work under close conditions affording minimal privacy; to recruit and retain members of the Military Services; to maintain public acceptability of military service; and to prevent breaches of security.

According to DOD, a homosexual is “a person, regardless of sex, who engages in, desires to engage in, or intends to engage in homosexual acts.” DOD defines a homosexual act as “bodily contact, actively undertaken or passively permitted, between members of the same sex for the purpose of satisfying sexual desires.”


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