Steve Ralls

A College Frat Boy & The Kiss of Dismissal

Filed By Steve Ralls | February 23, 2009 1:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Politics
Tags: college education, Don't Ask Don't Tell, George Washington University, military, ROTC, Todd Belok, Washington D.C.

How officially homophobic is the U.S. military?

Apparently, even more so than a frat party, as we learned from a story on the campus of GW in recent weeks.

"GW," for those not living inside the beltway, is short for George Washington University, a respected, presumably progressive campus in the nation's capital. GW boasts a significant gay community among its student population and often hosts panels, seminars and workshops on LGBT equality. The school, in fact, has a decent reputation as being a forward-thinking, fair-minded college community. But it's fair-mindedness proved no match for federal bigotry.

Last week, the news media started to report that GW, which also has an active ROTC program, was forced to boot its first cadet under the federal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law that still - even this far into the 21st century - mandates the dismissal of openly lesbian, gay and bisexual service personnel.

The dismissal of Todd Belok, a NROTC (Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps) cadet was, according to at least one GW official, the first "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" incident the school has confronted in its entire history. And the entire ordeal began with a simple frat party kiss.

Belok, in a story in a neighboring school's newspaper, The Hoya, recounted that his boyfriend, as loving partners sometimes do, came to visit him on campus in the fall. The couple attended a frat party where other NROTC members were present and the two "kissed at the party," as Belok recalls.

The kiss, however, turned into a legal event when, a few weeks later, Belok's commanding offer called him to talk about the cadet's same-sex PDA.

"What Belok did not know was that two other midshipmen who had attended the party, GWU freshman Dave Perry and Squad Leader Nick Trimis, a GWU senior, reported his actions to Lt. Kathleen Meeuf, an assistant professor of naval science," The Hoya reported. "Still, Belok said, he expected that the situation would be swept under the rug without much controversy."

But Belok underestimated the power of a kiss to shake the world's most powerful military to its core.

"In October," the paper reports, "the Performance Review Board recommended Belok for disenrollment and dismissed him from the battalion in December."

If frat kisses are ground for dismissal, we're quickly approaching the day when posing for Abercrombie & Fitch will be "credible evidence" to fire a model-turned-troop for being gay.

In fact, Belok's story illuminates just how outrageous the law is, and just how viciously the federal government continues to keep "separate but equal" alive and well today. For, had Belok kissed a girl (and, in homage to Katy Perry, "liked it") there's little doubt that neither Dave Perry, Nick Trimis nor Lt. Meeuf would have had a problem with it. But even on one of the most open-minded campuses in the nation, a same-sex kiss still has the power to offend... and facilitate pink slips to boot.

The whole, shameful story also underscores how imperative it is, for the movement for LGBT equality as a whole, that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" be toppled once and for all. Because, when our simple and loving displays of affection are still considered a federal offense, we have a long, long way to go before our country embraces "liberty and justice for all."

It's time for Congress - and our commander-in-chief - to bring about an end to this law. Do it for the military... for the country... and the ROTC frat boys who want to kiss on campus when they show up for classes in the fall.


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Great post, Steve.

I'll also note that being dismissed from ROTC is worse than just being kicked out of an extracurricular activity. Many ROTC students (my own spouse included) could not have gone to the college of their choice, or even gone at all, without ROTC scholarship money.

I'm wondering if you could elaborate on what happens when a DADT dismissal like this conflicts with a school's non-discrimination policy. I seem to recall at least one school stopped its ROTC program because of the military's discrimination, but I can't remember which one. (Or was it just an attempt by students to do so? Or am I thinking of the Boy Scouts and a secondary school? It's hard to keep track of all the bias.)

Daniel Barrett | February 23, 2009 2:15 PM

This is, of course, terrible. In reference to the comment by Dana Rudolph, I know that for many years there was a push at Princeton to remove the ROTC from campus because of conflicts with the university's non-discrimination policy. These pushes were ultimately unsuccessful, however.

Dana,

In fact, the DA, DT law is squarely in opposition to GW's stated non-discrimination policy. And while some colleges & universities have debated whether to keep recruiters and ROTC programs off-campus, they do so at a very high cost: The Supreme Court has ruled (unanimously) that the government can withhold federal funds from universities that bar recruiters. And, since the events of September 11th, schools that had previously barred ROTC programs for similar reasons have come under significant criticism from conservative (and even some progressive) organizations for putting the brakes on ROTC.

One of the most striking things about this story is, indeed, the fact that GW has a great non-discrimination policy, but that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" forces schools to maek exceptions to their policies in order to codify federal discrimination. DA, DT applies to ROTC, and even though the school's leadership surely had no wish for Belok to be dismissed, they had little choice, under the law, but to do just that once his fellow cadets spilled the beans.

The only school to fully block the military from campus has been Vermont Law School, which has shunned federal money and stuck to its guns, so to speak, when it comes to DA, DT. But Vermont, in comparison to GW and other schools, receives very little federal funding. (Their story was recently told by the NY Times, online at http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/29/education/29vermont.html.)

In short, it's difficult - both legally and practically - for schools to turn away the military completely. Until DA, DT is toppled, stories like the one at GW are going to continue, and students are going to pay the price for this ridiculous law again and again.

- Steve .

A quick google search for Nick Trimmis turns up a page revealing that Mr. Tremmis is a Mormon.

I've been hesitant to jump on the Anti-Mormon bandwagon (there are good and bad in all religions), but sometimes the evidence becomes too clear to deny.

Ah, the Clinton Legacy...

While I know it's not going to change any time soon, schools still shouldn't be forced to allow recruiters on campus. We need our best and brightest at home in America during this recession, not fighting a resource war on the other side of the world for the benefit of GWB's wealthy supporters.

And, if they really are the best and the brightest, they should be able to find their way to the army's webpage if they really want to sign up.

another person | February 23, 2009 5:40 PM

Great piece.

It's also worth noting that even when "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is finally ended, transgender people will still not be allowed to enlist in our nation's military.

Perhaps we can follow in the footsteps of the inclusive ENDA push and attempt to open the door for trans people to military service at the same time as repealing DADT for our LGB brothers and sisters?

Well, it would seem appropriate for folks to keep close tabs on freshman Dave Perry and Squad Leader Nick Trimis and see exactly what they're up to at all times. After all, if they're attending frat parties, they're bound to do something minor that's against rules and regulations. If they're going to be snitches, let's fight fire with fire...

One thing I've noticed in relation to the fight for removal/repeal of DADT is that even some of us who question or who are hesitant to get out and fight for gay marriage have joined the cause. We see very clearly the problem with marriage for straights and queers alike and feel strangely about fighting for what is a strange combination of church and state practice, something left over from times when one member was seen as a possession belonging to the other, and something that is overall a kind of bougie practice. And still we fight the DADT? I've felt conflicted about this issue both as a queer and as a woman. I think that the U.S. military is an institution so plagued with problems that we cannot focus on becoming part of it and rather, as prison activists say, abolition there of in order to achieve true equality. If we add gay males to the mix they will continue as part of the oppression of women (queer and straight) who are limited by their inability to perform combat roles. We will continue to see major race/class disparities in the military ranks. We will also continue to see the culture of violence promoted by the military with or without our queer presence.

So should DADT be tossed aside, thrown out and become something of the past? Sure. Can I get behind that and put effort into it as a queer woman? No! I can't advocate ANYONE to join an organization with such negative qualities.

lc,

As I pointed out in my very first post for Bilerico, which you can find here:

http://www.bilerico.com/2007/07/why_the_military_matters_1.php

repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is about more than just military service. In fact, history, and the experience of our foreign allies, has shown that repealing military bans inevitably leads to broad civil rights gains across a number of areas, including relationship recognition, non-discrimination laws and more.

It's no mistake that Dorothy Haight, one of our country's most prominent civil rights leaders, has noted that the end of segregation in the militry was the true beginning of progress for African-Americans. And there's no denying that no nation was provided federal recognition of same-sex couples before toppling their military bans . . . but in countries where that has happened, it has usually taken place within a few years of repeal.

In fact, repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" doesn't just support our LGBT service members (which is reason enough to advocate for it), but it also has far-reaching consequences for the entire LGBT community.

Simply put, when LGBT Americans who choose to do so can openly fight and die for our country, there is very little our country can deny them. And that's a reason to get behind the campaing for repeal, too.

- Steve .