The Ridiculously Comprehensive Guide to The Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy

Most of us know part and parcel about the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) policy. But how much do we really know about them? There have been leaps and bounds regarding the queer rights movement in the US and the Global North in general in the past few decades. However, most people don’t know much about the gay rights movement and queer history in the land of the free and the brave? Most people know or are at least aware that pride month is in June.

So, schools only started to teach about the gay and civil rights moment in the past few years. Of course, these are mostly part of extracurricular activities and are only done during pride month or other specific days, and kids are told the bare minimum. Essential things like the AIDs epidemic are usually glossed over and treated like footnotes of queer history. This is ridiculous because the AIDS epidemic wiped out more people than the war of Vietnam.

We must tell the history of our elders else it will be erased from history. This shows that even I, an older Gen Z, I’ve barely learnt about the painful history of our people, and I can guess that people older than me didn’t even learn this much at school. Let’s decolonize our minds and learn about some of the most important events that impacted queer and trans history.

What is Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?


During his political and presidential campaign in 1992, Bill Clinton announced that he would end the ban of queer people in the military if he were elected as the President of the US. Upon hearing this new, queer people and queer rights supporters and after he was elected as the 42nd president of the United States of America, he passed the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy in July 1993. The DADT policy permitted gay and lesbian American citizens to serve in the military, but there was a slight caveat to it.

Queer people were allowed to serve in the military as long as they stayed closeted. The policy went into congress in 1993 and was set into motion in February 1994. Under the DADT policy, it was illegal to harass or discriminate against military personnel who were closeted, even if they were suspected that they were queer. So, this is the one good thing about this act, but on the darker side of the coin, queer military personnel weren’t able to disclose their sexuality if they weren’t straight or if they were in same-sex relationships.

If they were found engaging in homosexual conduct or if they disclosed their sexuality or violated this policy in any way, shape or form then, they would be subject to being discharged. Bill Clinton himself admitted that this policy was not the perfect solution that would end homophobia, but he presented it as a significant step forward for queer people. However, many queer people and activists alike disavowed this policy and criticized it as falling short. The latter claimed that the DADT act did little to nothing to promote queer rights or issues and for sure didn’t encourage the acceptance of gay and lesbian people in the military. The DADT policy states that:

“[queerness] would create an unacceptable risk to the high standards of morale, good order and discipline, and unit cohesion that is the essence of military capability.”


According to the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, by 2009, even with the DADT policy, the military had discharged more than 13 000 people on the basis of their sexuality.

Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.


During his 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama made the promise to overturn the DADT policy. But he didn’t get back to this until 2010. the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy was officially repealed on September 20, 2011. On top of that, 4 years later, in 2015, the Pentagon added sexual orientation to the Military Equal Opportunity Policy, which meant that gay and lesbian serviceperson would be protected from discrimination. Queer people in the military have come a long way, but there are still things that we can still better the treatment of queer people in the military.

Final Thoughts


We can hope as queer people and people who are part of the minority that the journey of those after us is more straightforward than ours and that queerness will no longer be seen and thought of as something which people frown upon. Remember, unlike other communities and groups, we aren’t born with our own or surrounded by openly out queer family members (unless you were born after 2010 or have a liberal family). This means it is so much harder for us to learn about queer history and the history of those who came before us, especially because most of our queer elders passed during the AIDs epidemic.

Some of us are at times disowned by our blood relatives, and this is why we create and choose our own chosen family from which most of us learn about the queer history of those who came and fought for our rights. As a queer person, this is why you should tell the history of our people. As a writer, I’ve and will always write about queer issues and history because if you don’t remember and tell the history of those before us, it will be lost, and we will be repeating history all over again.

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