Story by Elisse Miller and Alejandra Paz
Finding Leadership Under Identity is a public lecture series at San Diego State with a mission to continually promote togetherness in the community. On Monday, its inaugural lecture “Identity in the Military: Exploring the Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” took place at the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center.
Melissa Perez, FLUID project coordinator at SDSU, said the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” happened last September, and it is imperative to understand how the community can progress from this success.
“(FLUID is) designed to bring together students faculty and community to draw attention to these issues and get people to discuss in depth the diversity, struggles, and triumphs of the LGBTQIA community,” Perez said.
One of the guest speakers, Capt. Matthew Phelps, shared his life story about serving in the Marine Corps under DADT as a homosexual.
“Under ‘don’t ask don’t tell,’ you live in constant fear that people will find out,” Phelps said.
While enlisting, he was told that it meant “no one’s going to ask you about your sexuality, and you’re not going to tell anyone,” but he found that to be wrong. He was asked several times about his orientation and said he was put in an uncomfortable situation.
Even though DADT seemed liked a two-part agreement, only the “teller,” not the “asker” would be chastised if someone was found to be gay. DADT forced LGBT service members to either admit their sexuality or lie.
“Being gay in the military is not about sex, it’s not even about sexuality. It’s an element of my identity, just like anything else,” Phelps said.
Currently, transsexual citizens are still not allowed to serve. Spousal benefits are rewarded only to heterosexual, married couples, and sodomy is illegal according to the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
“Scholarly dialogue around the diversity of the LGBTQIA community provides valuable learning opportunities for our campus visiting guests,” Chief Diversity Officer at SDSU Dr. Aaron Bruce said.
For more information about FLUID, visit newscenter.sdsu.edu/lead/fluid.