Q: In a couple of months, I will be tasked with managing outreach for the Department of Veterans Affairs on an international military base. My duties are fairly well defined (i.e. explain how education, healthcare, and home loans work), but I believe that I have a responsibility to ensure that the LGBT members of the military are equally cared for with their unique (and unfortunate) legal status explained and defined in terms of VA benefits.
I guess I don’t know how to phrase this, but I have this gut feeling that even after the repeal of DADT, things aren’t exactly peachy. I want my service members to know that they can talk to me and ask me real questions about their situations. I don’t want to put them in an awkward position, but at the same time, I don’t want to ignore their unique position.
So here’s my question: If you were given the opportunity to speak in front of 200 active-duty service members, how would you tactfully raise the issue of LGBT rights within the military without singling out anyone? Is there an easy way to do this? And most importantly, how can I ensure that even the most secluded LGBT members feel comfortable with talking to me one-on-one during my office hours?
A: What a great opportunity, and how awesome that you want to make the most of it for LGBT service members! With regard to your first question, I think that intentionally mentioning the appeal of DADT and framing it as a positive and progressive move for all service members will convey a clear message of support.
As for the second, having visible LGBT-positive posters, stickers, and literature in your office will serve as strong cues that you are a safe ally. A little rainbow flag goes a long way.
Lisa Griffin, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the State of North Carolina. With nearly 30 years of clinical experience, Dr. Griffin specializes in gender identity and sexual orientation issues, working primarily with gender-variant, transgender, and queer people (children, adolescents, and adults) and their families.
Update: August, 22nd 2013 Earlier this week Pfc. Bradley Manning was sentenced to a 35-year sentence after a long and controversial trial regarding leaked classified information. Manning has now come out in a personal statement, given to The Today Show, saying she wishes to be referred to as Chelsea Manning and with feminine pronouns. “As [...]