Read the military’s comic book on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Liz Goodwin
comic book
comic book

Evidently, enforcing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy forbidding openly gay soldiers from serving in the military got so complicated that military officials needed to paint a picture. Such, at any rate, is one lesson among many in a very earnest 2001 Army comic book that recently surfaced on a comic-book blog. (Link received via boing boing.)

The comic book tells the story of a soldier who is caught in a "homosexual act" and eventually decides to inform his commanding officer that he is gay. The panels follow the army officials' phone calls through multiple layers of bureaucracy. After a great deal of policy-themed exposition, the soldier is discharged under the ban. But he leaves behind an instructive legacy of tolerance: The book's closing panels depict a sergeant berating his troops for teasing another soldier about being gay.

Ethan Persoff, who posted the book on his blog Comics with Problems, surmises that it was likely a "test document," and may not have been distributed to troops. But a 2002 feature in the SF Weekly, an alternative paper in the Bay Area, suggests that the comic was indeed distributed among troops — and that opponents of the "don't ask" ban hailed it as a valuable teaching tool. "We'd rather there not be a policy excluding gay service members," Steve Rall, a spokesman for the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said at the time. "But given it is the law, we think it is a positive step for the Army to go the extra step to educate its troops. It is about eight years too late, but late is better than never."

A Department of Defense spokeswoman has not yet returned a request for comment.

More photos from the comic book here:

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