Latina Speaks Out on Serving Under “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Policy


by Melissa Jimenez soldiers who served in the early 90’s and onward, understood the closeted lifestyle that Bill Clinton’s “Don’t ask, don’t ask,” (DADT) policy enforced when it went into effect. Although some might think the policy gave the impression it would be a “safer” alternative to protect one’s lifestyle or orientation, it felt more that the policy hid a part of your life that seemed either shamed or unworthy of approval. 

I was one of these soldiers who loved someone that happened to be the same gender as myself. Being in this relationship was a kept secret to those who didn’t know me personally.  For those that knew, they either didn’t care, turned a blind eye, or would somehow question me inadvertently to find out the truth. 

Since the policy implemented that an individual wasn’t supposed to ask you directly about your sexual orientation, they could still hold you accountable with accusations supported by evidence. For example, if there were photographs of same-sex sexual acts or witnesses of you being affectionate with the same sex, you could definitely be more susceptible to being discharged out of the military with credible information if they wished. 

Accepting the choice to serve your country as an American is considered to be a loyal, honorable, and proud act of duty.  However, for someone who serving gay or bisexual, your sexuality as its own entity suggested a complete opposite to me. How could you be an American and not be proud of who you were as a whole?

I remember repeated moments in my military career where I consistently lied about my relationship to my superiors because they often caught rumors of my alleged “gay relationship.” It angered me to know that this particular freedom was not acceptable as I served.  My partner, as a lower enlisted soldier, would sometimes be discriminated against because of her shaved head and appearance, and felt constantly trapped because there was no one to turn to for help.  There were times when she was harassed by jealous male soldiers because of our relationship and realized it was easy to do without repercussions. 

I have been honorably discharged for a few years, and am living a new chapter in my life, but will never forget the policy that impacted my life in a profound way.  Still until this day, I have difficulty sharing my story with people in my life because of the military’s influence of disapproval and feel that there is judgment in all aspects that surround the issues of gay rights and equality.  But because of the restrictions and inability to love someone in the open at that time, I have grown to have a greater appreciation for the love I hold in my life.  As time progresses, I feel the freedom of how I am able to be open with whom I love and realize I am fortunate for every moment I live with them. 

I was extremely happy and felt a great sense of relief when I was told the policy had been repealed for the current soldiers who serve.  I also commend them on continuously remaining loyal and supportive of their country, despite the circumstances or situations that they might have faced.   Even though this is a small step towards equality, it has made a difference for every individual that this policy has affected directly.

At the end of the day, regardless of an individual’s gender, ethnicity, or background, we all should have the freedom to love who we want with no limitations.

Melissa Jimenez is a native of Monterey Bay, CA. She served in the United States military for six years and currently works for a non-profit organization. She has a deep love for baking, writing, music, and art. Melissa received her Bachelor’s degree from Saint Leo University of Florida in psychology.