Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Still Stands – at 4th of July Family Reunions Across the Nation!
Today we celebrate the official end of “Don’t ask Don’t tell” in the US military. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was an erroneous policy created for gay and straight people to be able to work along side of each other without strife. The message was “if you are gay – please be very quiet about it as it may make heterosexual people uncomfortable” Another message was “if you are gay, we really, really don’t want to know about it, consequently if you do let us know who you are you may be disciplined or kicked out”. Today the US military officially stated that this policy should no longer exist. This is wonderful. This policy harmed many in the military and now the wounds it caused may begin to heal.
Many families also practice a version of the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy. This policy serves to harm relationships, prevent people from being open about their lives and hinders closeness with one another. I would like to encourage families to end the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy with their loved ones. Strides in acceptance for gay and lesbian people are large, but being fully out may still pose risks for many. It may feel especially daunting to speak openly with family as they mean so much and the risk of losing family support can be so hurtful. This year, I would like to encourage families, especially members who are heterosexual to ASK with an open heart and hopefully their gay relatives will TELL without fearing rejection. Here are three questions you may want to use with everyone at your family reunion this summer:
1. Are you seeing anyone special?
2. If so, how is ___(insert partner’s name here)____ ?
3. Did you see that NY is finally offering same sex couples marriage equality?
This one can easily be followed by “Isn’t that great?!” (If you are in an area that offers some degree of marriage equality for same sex couples you might want to pressure your gay relatives to get married whether they want to or not – why should heterosexuals be the only ones feeling this uncomfortable pressure from well meaning relatives?)
It is difficult to maintain family closeness when some members feel that they need to censor a part of themselves or their relationships. Families can play an important and supportive role in encouraging healthy relationships and gay family members should also be able to benefit from this support. If you are supportive of your gay and lesbian family members they may not know it if you haven’t said anything out loud. You can help to end the cycle of “don’t ask don’t tell” with your family members this year by ASKING and, if they feel comfortable TELLING, then show them your support. Happy Fourth of July!