The acceptance of LGBTQ+ people in the military has grown over the past few decades. Lesbian, gay, and bisexual people couldn't serve in the military until 2011. It was at this time that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was repealed. Ten years later, the decision was made to give transgender individuals the choice to serve too. At this time, in 2021, it was decided that no one could be denied based on their gender identity.
While many LGBTQ+ people have found a family within the military in recent years, there is still plenty of room for change. Some LGTBQ+ service members do not feel safe enough to come out, and instead, decide to hide this part of themselves throughout their time in the military. This is because LGBTQ+ people still face stigma and discrimination before and after enlisting, even though the military is supposed to be fairly inclusive.
How the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell impacted some groups within the LGTBQ+ community
Before 2011, those who participated in same-sex relations were not just looked down upon within the military, but they could be kicked out for it. These acts were criminalized among military members. In 1982, this went even further with a complete ban of gay and lesbian individuals from the military.
The repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was a welcome change. It impacted future generations who might be recruited into the military, but also those who previously served. Any LGBTQ+ military members who had been discharged based on their identity were able to re-enroll.
Not all LGBTQ+ service members found these changes to be enough to open up about their sexuality. Quite a few held this part of themselves back out of fear, and many still do. There are risks of coming out in many workplaces, and the military is no exception.
Even though not all LGBTQ+ individuals feel safe in the military, this repeal was a vital step toward encouraging future change. In 2013, spouses of gay and lesbian military members were given the same access to benefits as other military spouses. Additional progress has followed.
The acceptance of transgender people in the military opened more doors for the LGBTQ+ community
In 2017, Trump tweeted that transgender people would no longer be allowed to serve in the military. This would mean that those who were already enlisted would not be able to stay, and any transgender individuals who may want to enter the military would be denied. An official memorandum shortly followed, going into effect in 2019.
As of 2021, Transgender military members were cleared to serve under the gender they identify as. Discrimination based on gender identity or on the fact that an individual identifies as transgender is prohibited. The military now works to meet necessary standards for these individuals, including access to medical treatment and gender transition.
LGBTQ+ community military members still face discrimination
Even though the LGBTQ+ community is now allowed in the military, that doesn't mean things are perfect. They don't always feel accepted and safe. It is estimated that there are 1 million gay and lesbian veterans in the United States. Since 1993, around 14,000 gay and lesbian service members have been discharged. LGBTQ+ service members that are still enlisted have a difficult time making their way through the ranks.
According to American Progress, both active LGBTQ+ military members and veterans deal with social, health, housing, and economic insecurities. Through the surveys explored by American Progress, it is clear there is still a lot of room for improvement.
LGBTQ+ service members were not as likely as non-LGBT service members to own the home they live in. They have a more difficult time getting by financially and keeping food on the table. The list goes on and on.
Although the military preaches inclusivity some areas need improvement. Only time will tell what being LGBTQ+ in the military will be like in the future. All we can hope for is growth.