June 23, 2008

New Data On Lesbian Discharges Has Historical Precedent

Palm Center Says More Research Would Be Beneficial

SANTA BARBARA, CA, – The new Pentagon data showing that gay discharges climbed last year to 627 revealed that the ouster of women was far out of proportion to their numbers in the military.  Nearly half of Army and Air Force expulsions were of women, according to the data, even though they make up only 14 and 20 percent of those branches respectively. The data were compiled by the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network using a Freedom of Information Act request.

Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, a think tank that studies gay service at the University of California, Santa Barbara, said there are several reasons for the high proportion of female discharges.  “Research has long shown that women are disproportionately affected by the ban on open gays,” Belkin said.  “One reason for this is that the policy is frequently abused by men to express anger or resentment toward women.  In a phenomenon known as ‘lesbian-baiting,’ men have been known to accuse women of being lesbian simply because they refuse their advances.”  Another explanation of the data is that statistics show that a larger percentage of military women than men are gay or bisexual.  Belkin added that the Pentagon’s refusal to conduct or allow meaningful research into the experiences of gays and lesbians in the military makes it impossible to explain what accounts for the sharp increase in female discharges in 2007 under “don’t ask, don’t tell.”  “At a time when our forces are stretched thin and senior military and political leaders are calling for a new look at the current policy,” said Belkin, “banning research is hurting, not helping, military readiness.”