How 'Don't Tell' Translates
Glover looks like the standout soccer goalie she was in high school in rural Ohio. Her skin is tanned from a summer spent outdoors, her hair streaked blond by pool chemicals. Her backpack is crammed with books on Islam and the latest issue of Foreign Policy magazine. She shares an apartment in Adams Morgan with another discharged gay linguist, who works as a temp in a law firm. The two of them watch al-Jazeera on cable to keep their Arabic oiled.
Glover graduated from Miami University in Ohio in 1999 with a degree in political science. She'd spent a semester in Ireland studying conflict resolution. She was substitute teaching in Ohio, contemplating graduate school, when an Army recruiter called her parents' farm. The recruiter pitched the DLI. Glover thought that learning a language would prepare her for a career in foreign policy.
Glover knew she was gay. A private person by nature, she thought she could live under a rule such as "don't ask, don't tell."
"It sounds simple," she reasoned. "Don't say anything."
Glover arrived at the DLI after nine weeks of basic training. The campus was beautiful, studded with palm trees and overlooking Monterey Bay. Like Glover, many students had college degrees. Glover had hoped to study Russian, but her high scores on the language aptitude test bumped her into the more difficult Arabic program.
The new soldier immersed herself in modern Arabic. Six hours a day, five days a week, 63 weeks. Nights were occupied by homework and study groups. Some students were so intent on absorbing Middle Eastern culture that they wore Arab headdresses to class.
Glover's class was midway through the program on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. The DLI campus went into lockdown. The only channel that came in on the TV in Glover's classroom was al-Jazeera. The students used their limited Arabic to piece together what had just occurred. In just a few hours, their value in the military had skyrocketed. An officer visited Glover's classroom to remind the linguists that their job was to defend the United States. "He told us not to get too close to the culture," she said.
Glover was maintaining a 3.2 grade-point average and leading study groups, but privately she was stressed. Being gay at a place such as the DLI had its advantages -- San Francisco was two hours up the coast, and the DLI campus was more academic than most military posts. But "don't ask, don't tell" was still the law of the land. She was making every contortion to hide the fact that she was a lesbian.
"What if a married person in the military couldn't tell anyone that his wife exists?" Glover said. "And if he did, he'd be fired?"
That was Glover's predicament. Her partner had moved from Ohio to an apartment in Monterey. Glover told no one, splitting her time between the post and her partner's place, and lying about her whereabouts on the sign-out log. She was afraid to be seen in public with her partner. The hiding took its toll; the four-year relationship ended. The breakup fueled Glover's anger toward "don't ask, don't tell."
© 2004 The Washington Post Company