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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 26, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 34
What comes after 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'?
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What comes after 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell'?

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

The repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' (DADT) is a big step forward for Gay rights. But an Israeli researcher warns that repeal alone won't lead to a more tolerant environment for Gay and Bisexual men and women in the military.

As the U.S. military prepares for the repeal of DADT (scheduled for September 20), policymakers are looking to other military bodies around the world that have successfully integrated LGB (but not T) soldiers into military service. Now a new study from Tel Aviv University suggests that an integrated support and education dimension is essential to the successful assimilation of these soldiers into the U.S. armed forces.

Dr. Guy Shilo of TAU's Bob Shapell School of Social Work has completed a quantitative study detailing the LGB experience in the military. While the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) technically maintain an open-door policy to service by LGB soldiers, those soldiers continue to experience anxiety and harassment surrounding their sexual orientation, Shilo found. The best solution is an educational system for all service people across the military spectrum, he concluded.

Shilo's original research was contained in a report to the Pentagon about the repeal of DADT. This year's study, a follow-up to Shilo's 2006 report on the situation of LGB soldiers in the IDF, was commissioned by and presented to the Israeli Gay Youth Organization.

In the quest to repeal DADT, the American military has much to learn from the IDF's experiences, said Shilo. The successful repeal of DADT depends not only on a change of policy, but a correction of perception, attitude, and behavior toward openly Gay service people.

'Most debate on repealing DADT revolves around its predicted impact on military performance and the cohesion of individual units,' he said. 'But it is imperative to think about the impact on LGB soldiers themselves, and to ensure that they have equal opportunities.'

Moving forward, American officials should never underestimate the power of education, he counseled.

The IDF offers optional sensitivity training geared toward sexual orientation, but this has had little effect. The training should be mandatory, much like sensitivity training toward religious or racial minorities and female soldiers, Shilo suggested. And if commanders are going to ask soldiers about their sexual orientation, the soldiers must feel confident that the information will be used to ensure their safety rather than expose them to harm and harassment.

'In Europe,' said Shilo, 'some militaries actively recruit for new soldiers among the LGB community. The Netherlands, for example, runs an advertising campaign dedicated to attracting LGB youth by highlighting their equal capabilities in a military setting.'

This kind of campaign forces an about-face in terms of the message it sends to potential LGB recruits, he explained. The message is not 'You can serve in our army.' Instead, it should be translated into the more positive 'It's your army, too.'

American Friends of Tel Aviv University (www.aftau.org) supports Israel's leading, most comprehensive, and most sought-after center of higher learning. Independently ranked 94th among the world's top universities for the impact of its research, TAU's innovations and discoveries are cited more often by the global scientific community than all but 10 other universities. Internationally recognized for the scope and groundbreaking nature of its research and scholarship, Tel Aviv University consistently produces work with profound implications for the future.

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