Servicemembers who are suspected of being lesbian or gay may face harassment from their commands and fellow servicemembers. It can take the form of rude jokes and name calling, increased scrutiny of the member’s performance or conduct (such as disciplinary action for minor infractions that the command tolerates from other members), orders to perform undesirable duties, death threats, and physical assaults by one or more people.
Be prepared to take immediate and aggressive legal action. A strongly-worded letter faxed from a counselor to the commanding officer may provide some protection. In other cases, one or more of the formal complaint procedures, along with outside intervention, may persuade the command to take action. Equal Opportunity offices will sometimes treat harassment based on perceived sexual orientation as a form of sexual harassment and accept those complaints. The procedures can be lengthy; therefore, assertiveness at the first stages of the complaint process may persuade the command to take action rather than let the procedure run its course.
It is usually best to document harassment before a complaint is made. However, when danger to the servicemember is great, the claim should be made at once and the harassment documented after the complaint is made. Unfortunately, it is not safe to assume that commands and military investigators will be thorough and evenhanded in questioning witnesses and searching for evidence of harassment.
Servicemembers considering filing complaints over harassment must review what information the command or coworkers may have, or may be able to find out without difficulty, about homosexual statements or acts. Behavior that is theoretically protected under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, (such as associating with lesbians, reading gay material, going to a gay bar, etc.) may also trigger an investigation of the member. An absence of evidence does not protect members against unfounded allegations but it does make it harder for commands to pursue an investigation of the victim.