The Upshot

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

Liz Goodwin
The Upshot

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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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