Tuesday 25 May 2010

Lesbians aboard in US navy. Secrecy is undermining, so repeal DADT

Former Lieutenant Junior Grade Jenny Kopfstein, a US Navy Surface Warfare Officer, has just written a public letter to President Obama as part of the current campaign to repeal the controversial law affecting LGBT people in the services. She was on the combatant cruiser USS SHILOH - and a lesbian.

She writes '“Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) made it difficult to have normal conversations with my shipmates. If I said I had a dog, someone might ask, “Who takes care of him when you’re at sea?” Answering the simplest questions can get you kicked out.

The crew of my ship was my extended family. Keeping parts of my life secret and separate from them is an unnecessary burden, and no American sailor or soldier should be forced to bear it.

Feeling deeply conflicted between the requirements of DADT and the Navy’s Core Values, I wrote my Captain and told him I was a lesbian. I was being forced to lie on a daily basis by DADT. I did not want to get out of the Navy, and I said so in my letter. I wanted to stay and serve honorably, and to maintain my integrity by not lying about who I was.'

Jenny continued not only to work, but to work very effectively. And she continued not only to be accepted, but popular, and even represent the ship. Her commanding officers did not want her to go to.

'I qualified as Officer of the Deck, and was chosen to be the Officer of the Deck during General Quarters — a great honor.
I also earned my Surface Warfare Officer pin. During my pinning ceremony, the Captain removed his own pin — off the chest of his uniform — and pinned it on mine. That was one of my proudest moments.

Mr. President, help Congress repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” now. We cannot afford any delay.'

With respect, Former Lieutenant Junior Grade Jenny Kopfstein, US Navy.

Her point is so important. On a ship you're in a team. Witholding a key thing about yourself undermines your happiness, and it undermines the trust that's so crucial aboard. Of course LGBT people should be able to tell - and continue to do their job.

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