With President Barack Obama set to sign legislation repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” today, University of Colorado graduate Mara Boyd — twice arrested this year for protesting the Clinton-era policy — is ready to re-enlist in the military, seven years after being discharged from the Air Force for being gay.
“I have every intention of going back,” Boyd said. “I would love to be able to serve openly. I would love to help facilitate the transition, to be part of the change. I want to finish something I started.”
Boyd was discharged in 2003 after telling her commander that she was gay. Since then, she has been advocating for the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and was arrested during protests outside the White House in April and November.
With the Senate having voted Saturday to repeal the policy — which allowed gays to serve in military, as long as nobody knew they were gay — Boyd, 29, said she now plans to re-enlist, if she can “negotiate some hurdles,” such as getting an age waiver to rejoin the Air Force, which cuts off enlistment at age 28.
While Boyd said she will be working hard to re-enlist after the policy is repealed, military veteran Michael Holiday said he doesn’t expect to see a significant increase in overall enlistment once “don’t ask, don’t tell” is history.
“If you want to go in, you’re going to go in,” Holiday said. “I don’t think the repeal is going to cause any repercussions for recruitment.”
Holiday, who was in the Army for 22 years before working with veterans services, said gays and lesbians who truly wanted to serve did so under the constraints of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. He said he does not expect the number of gay military members to drastically increase.
And while it is unknown how the repeal will affect military recruitment, some believe there will be significant impacts for young members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.
Anne Guilfoile, chairwoman for the Boulder Valley School District’s Safe Schools Coalition, said the repeal provides an opportunity for students to join Reserve Officers’ Training Corps — or ROTC programs — without being forced to hide or lie about who they are.
“Lack of inclusion is a form of discrimination, which can cause gay, lesbian or transgender people to feel like they don’t fit into society,” Guilfoile said. “I think an important consequence of the repeal is that it says, ‘Yes, the world does include me’ to those students.”
During a time when a young GLBT community is struggling with increased bullying and suicides, Guilfoile said there is no better time to pass a repeal and give hope to students who may have little left.
CU senior Kyle Inselman, a member of the GLBT campus community, said the repeal is a big step in the right direction.
“I know quite a few people who had to give up their dreams of being in the military because of the stress of lying to their fellow cadets or service members,” Inselman said. “So for people to have the freedom to follow the path that they wish, this is great.”
But Inselman said the repeal is not a victory for the transgender community, since “don’t ask, don’t tell” is only one of the reasons keeping them out of the military.
Being transgender is often considered a medical concern or a mental health condition in the military, according to the Service Members Legal Defense Network website.
“I think that to frame this as a victory for the GLBT community is wrong, because transgender people still cannot serve in the military,” Inselman said. “We need to not forget about fighting for (transgender) inclusion in our military as well as gay, lesbian and bisexual people.”