Outed gay soldier leaving Army after assaults
“I can’t keep living a lie. It’s not safe for me here…I can’t deny who I am anymore. I thought I could do it, but I can’t.”— Pvt. Kyle Lawson, asking for discharge after being harassed and attacked by fellow soldiers
Sick. A 19-year-old soldier fears for his safety — the threat is not from an enemy, but from his fellow homophobic soldiers.
For weeks, the 19-year-old Tucson native has been sleeping on a cot in his drill sergeant’s office to protect him from further attacks because he is gay.
He’s already had his nose broken — and says he also was threatened with a knife — after a friend let Lawson’s secret slip at a party attended by members of the 309th Military Intelligence Battalion, a training unit at Fort Huachuca 75 miles southeast of Tucson.
…Critics of the Pentagon’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy say Lawson is one of hundreds of homosexuals harassed or assaulted each year, and say his story is a telling example of what’s wrong with the ban on openly gay troops.
To add insult to injury (and it’s no surprise), in the case of physical assaults, the Army has either not prosecuted the charges or meted out insufficient punishment.
Lawson was punched in the face by a fellow 309th soldier at the off-post party on Oct. 29, according to a police report of the incident.
The soldier told police Lawson made sexually suggestive remarks. Sierra Vista police Officer Darryl Scott, who investigated and laid a charge of felony aggravated assault, said in an interview that “there was no provocation.”
The Army chose not to prosecute the charge, for reasons fort officials say they are not at liberty to explain.
A week after the first attack, Lawson said a second soldier threatened him with a knife outside a barracks as word spread about his sexual orientation. Lawson said the soldiers who accosted him received little punishment from the Army. Fort Huachuca officials say neither case was mishandled.
…Despite a Pentagon push in 2000 to prevent gay-bashing — spurred by the slaying of a gay soldier at Fort Campbell, Ky. — more than 900 homosexual troops were verbally or physically harassed last year, according to the Service Members’ Legal Defense Network in Washington, D.C.
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell promotes ill will by stigmatizing homosexuality, said Steve Ralls, spokesman for the group.
“When the military as an institution can discriminate against you, what message does that send to your co-workers about how they can treat you?” he asked.
As in most of these stories, reporters go to ace wingnut and opponent of gays in the military and women in combat, Retro-female Elaine Donnelly of the Michigan-based Center for Military Readiness for a choice quote.
“The military is not like any other employer, troops often live in close quarters with little privacy, creating “forced intimacy…This is not a question of bigotry, it’s about “respect for personal modesty.”
Hat tip, PageOneQ