Date: Saturday, 18 December 2010
Contact: Cliff4vets (at) aol (dot) com
Dear Fellow Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender & Heterosexual Veterans & Advocates:
On the morning of March 15, 1778, after having been court-martialed on charges of attempted sodomy, Lt. Gotthold Frederick Enslin, became the first known soldier in our Country's history to be “drummed out” of the Continental Army on grounds of homosexuality -- with orders of “Never to return!”
Well, today, 232 years later, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender servicemembers and veterans have RETURNED, with the repeal of the US Military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy by an affirmative vote of the US Senate. Yes, today, Lt. Gotthold Frederick Enslin finally rests in peace, as do ALL other GLB&T veterans who gave their lives in service to our Country.
Today, as the United States Military fights a "global war on terrorism," our country needs every patriotic American to defend our Democracy. This includes Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender people who have fought with great honor and distinction in ALL of America's wars, and have shed their blood and died on strange battlefields alongside their heterosexual servicemembers in defense of our great Nation.
Today, justice delayed and denied was served to secure human & civil rights -- not special rights -- for the 14,000 plus servicemen and women discharged under the US Military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. History will record that the sky did not fall down upon us, and the Earth did not quit spinning. This stated, on behalf of the membership and Board of Directors of the New England Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Veterans, I wish to thank all GLBT veterans and organizations --too numerous to credit --for your years of tireless advocacy and civil disobedience efforts, which shined the light upon the truth that we are not second class citizens, chained to the bondage that is "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
Unfortunately, the pain endured by the 14,000 servicemembers discharged under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" can never be undone. Nor can the two cowardly murders of US Navy Seaman Allen Schindler and US Army PFC. Barry Winchell (et. al.) --both murdered in cold blood by their fellow servicemembers due to their actual or perceived sexual orientations.Thus, we ask the United States Congress to grant all 14,000 servicemembers "Honorable Discharges" for their pain and suffering: as well as monetary compensation for careers lost and lives ruined!
Also, we thank President Barack Obama, whose long term vision did not deter him from accepting anything less than the repeal coming from the US Congress, as the stroke a pen from another President would undo any prior federal statutes.
And lastly, as a bisexual veteran, I do "identify" with all the 14,000 servicembers pain and sorrow, as during the Vietnam War, I was court-martialed and sentenced to a year at hard labor in a military prison--of which I served three and a half months in "segregated confinement", because (so I was told) the other prisoners had threatened to rape and kill me due to my sexual orientation.
Finally, on Wednesday, January 25, 1967, I was given an “Undesirable Discharge,” based on homosexuality -- which effectively precluded my receiving any and all future VA medical and educational benefits. Then, I was escorted outside the gates of Fort Dix by two armed military policemen. But in a final act of defiance against the pain and humiliation I suffered at the hands of the military, I took a lighter out of my pocket, set fire to the "Undesirable Discharge," and threw it on the ground. Then I hitched a ride back to Brooklyn with nothing but a subway token in my pocket. I was a man without a country!
Thereafter, fate, anger and traumatic emotional pain, led me to advocate for all of our Country's GLB&T Veterans; and in the years (1989 & 1990) I became the First "Openly Bisexual" Veteran In America to Testify on Behalf of GLBT Veterans Before The US Congress, via the US House Committee On Veterans Affairs: Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.
"As a bisexual in the military, there is no distinction in terms of punishment, no refuge in being bisexual. You get the same consequences; you don't get half a discharge." ~~ Cliff Arnesen, Bisexual Veteran and Current President of New England GLBT Veterans October 2001
Having spent a third of my life as a bisexual advocate and veteran, I, and other members of the Bisexual Community had to constantly hammer into the minds of many Gay & Lesbian individuals, organizations, Gay & Straight Media, and members of Congress, that the inhumane "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy included the discharge of "Bisexual" servicemembers, as well as Gay & Lesbian.
For many years the silence was deafening and people thought I was filled with ego and a pain in the ass. Then, slowly, a few Gay & Lesbian Veterans and Advocacy Organizations used the name Bisexual, but basically in the generic LGBT/GLBT.
Even as I watched the historic Senate vote unfold on CNN News, I was struck by the fact that not once did any reporter mention the word "Bisexual."
Thus, I say to all Gay & Lesbian advocates today, that the marginalization of bisexual servicemembers and veterans was a disgrace to me personally; and to all my bisexual brother and sister veterans, and the larger Bisexual Community. And, the intentional or unintentional lack of "visibility" for bisexual veterans and bisexual people divided all who were trying to obtain the same goal.
So, let this be a caveat to all, that to marginalize "any group" is unacceptable, immoral, and counter productive to securing human and civil rights for all.
Therefore, I ask all who read this press release, to please use the name and word "Bisexual" in your literature and press releases from this day forward, because now through "years of tears," we have by the grace of God, and men and women of good conscience who spoke up, achieved collective recognition as Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Veterans who have always served America with patriotic duty and honor. I have been blessed by fate, and am humble to have played a part in helping to secure human & civil rights for ALL my GLBT brothers and sisters.
May God bless America, Her servicemembers who fight the global war on terrorism; and all of God's Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender children.
Sincerely and bisexually yours,
Cliff Arnesen, President
New England Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Veterans
for press inquiries, please email Cliff4vets (at) aol (dot) com
Tags: Don't Ask Don't Tell (DADT), Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Veterans, LGBT Vets, Bisexual, Veterans Affairs