Political cartoon: The End Of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell


First panel: We see a deep pit. Climbing out of the pit, using a rope and anchor, are three cartoon letters, each with arms and legs: “L,” “G,” and “B.”

L: Almost there… Almost free of this horrible HOLE of DISCRIMINATION!

Second panel: The three letters have climbed out of the pit, and are dancing and celebrating.

LG & B (speaking together): We MADE IT! “Don’t ask don’t tell” is GONE!

Third Panel: The shot has moved down to the bottom of the pit; the top of the panel is now above the top of the panel. There, still holding onto the rope and climbing, is a cartoon letter “T.”

Word balloon from above the top of the panel: Thank goodness that’s over! Now we can rest!

Another word balloon from above: YAY!

T: Um… GUYS?[/spoiler]

Don’t get me wrong — I’m thrilled about the end of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. We should celebrate. But we shouldn’t forget that the work ain’t done.

Transgender American Veteran’s Association (TAVA) president Monica Helms wrote:

On this day of celebration, TAVA has one request for all of those who will be cheering and partying. We ask that everyone take a moment of silence to acknowledge that the fight is not over. A moment of silence for all of those trans people who will still face discharge when being outed.

Take a moment to remember the trans people who gave their lives in silence to protect this country. TAVA stands in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in celebrating this historical day. All we ask is for them to stand in solidarity with the trans community in our struggle to end ALL discrimination in the US military. The fight is not over.

This entry posted in Cartooning & comics, crossposted on TADA, Transsexual and Transgender related issues. Bookmark the permalink. 

25 Responses to Political cartoon: The End Of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

  1. 1
    CaitieCat says:

    Thanks for this, Amp. I’m a Canadian Forces alumna (doesn’t feel right saying I’m a vet, when the only war when I was in was the Cold one), and wouldn’t have left the military if I’d been able to transition while serving.

    Since then, the Canadian Forces have shifted that position; just as the military law against being gay was repealed in 1992, they moved to not only keeping transitioning members, but also to providing medical care, up to and including SRS. I know three people personally who’ve transitioned while serving, and while I won’t say it was easy – the transphobia of serving military is a thing of impressive size, and bullying is endemic to military culture in some ways anyway – they’ve been able to have careers in the military post-transition.

    I was a damn good soldier: won Soldier of the Month a couple of times with my unit, and with my knack for languages, was a useful asset to the then-CF: I spoke German, French, and Russian reasonably well, which in a Cold War environment meant I was as useful as Dan Choi’s Arabic skills are now.

    But none of it mattered, because I was trans, and therefore inherently unfit to serve.

    Thanks so much for stepping up to bring this to light.

  2. 2
    Lilian Nattel says:

    I’m glad you posted this–and interested to read the comment above. I didn’t know that about the Canadian services now. It speaks well to my country.

  3. 3
    catherine says:

    CaitieCat, I appreciate you being open about your previous situation. It definitely sheds some light on what goes on behind closed doors. For those of us not in the military we can safely assume that there will be bullying and belittling, but also a strong sense of comradery. We would like to think that as honorable, respectable men and women serving our country, there would not be issues against gays and those that are transitioning. We would like to think that all of the men and women putting their lives on the line would be able to come together and pursue the issues that are greater than us. But for CaitieCat and a myriad of others that are transitioning, this was not so. Although “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has been repealed (which is huge!!) I also agree that we need to remember that the T in LGBT has been left behind. We need to continue fighting for those that are transitioning to be seen as an equal, and not “unfit to serve.”

  4. 4
    Christine says:

    Being a woman, and a US Veteran of the Army, please allow me to express a deep joy in another brick being torn off what I call the wall of discrimination. Equality sees no color, caste, or for that matter, gender! Having said that, I do however, see the need to mention one aspect of this issue. There will always be people who are going to be on both sides of the fence about this issue. The heart of the debate is clearly a moral, social norm, and religious one. Discrimination of any kind is not acceptable, yet both sides of the fence need to be compassionate towards each other. The only issue that comes to mind for me, is sleeping/shower arrangement. Men and women are seperated. They don’t shower together, nor sleep in the same barracks room. If a woman takes off her clothes in front of a man, he is going to look. Likewise, so will a lesbian. It would be considered a natural impulse. I disagree with the standing argument about he/ she probably thinks your ugly anyway and wouldn’t care to look. That may be the case, and it may not. Who knows? For this reason, it is not okay to discriminate, yet not okay to force a person who is against it to shower next to a gay person. I can’t speak for the entire military, of course. But, in my opinion, a big fat shout out to all those who don’t have to hide anymore! Hooah!

  5. 5
    Schala says:

    “For this reason, it is not okay to discriminate, yet not okay to force a person who is against it to shower next to a gay person.”

    Have door-closeable individual showers, the same way we have toilet stalls in public bathrooms.

    I’ve never understood why people even have communal showers in schools or elsewhere, at all. Especially given the paranoia about sexual contact.

  6. 6
    Elusis says:

    If a woman takes off her clothes in front of a man, he is going to look. Likewise, so will a lesbian. It would be considered a natural impulse

    You clearly have no idea the lengths to which lesbians and gay men (and bisexuals) go to suppress their “natural impulses” (a term I would dispute anyway) in order not to get outed, beaten, or killed. Straight men openly ogle women, clothed or naked or anything in between, because they feel entitled and safe to do so (and some react with violent indignance when told they should keep their eyes and comments to themselves because it offends their sense of entitlement – see the various posts here on street harassment). Queer people are *really good* at staring at their feet in locker rooms.

  7. 7
    Schala says:

    And some people are attracted by things other than appearance. Or have it be so secondary that you’d need the equivalent in aesthetic appeal to a Venus de Milo (though not necessarily male or female in body) to draw their eyes against their better judgement.

    Personally, I’m attracted to a certain aesthetic ideal…that has little to do with what gets me sexually or romantically attracted. I like long hair, looking at it. I have long hair myself (and love it), and prefer a partner who also does (male or female)…but that’s about it.

    Let’s say that my high school years, in male locker rooms, with 98% of guys having short (visibly less than shoulder) or very short hair (buzzcut to 1 inch) …was not interesting. Even if they went shirtless in front of me. Couldn’t care less.

  8. 8
    Grace Annam says:


    For this reason, it is not okay to discriminate, yet not okay to force a person who is against it to shower next to a gay person. I can’t speak for the entire military, of course.

    Christine, thank you for your service and for your support of equality. I say this with respect: I think you have been drawn in by a false argument.

    When I went to high school I was male-bodied, and I showered with the other male-bodied people in communal showers. No one gave a damn, including me.

    When I college I was male-bodied, and after athletics I showered with the other male-bodied people in communal showers. No one gave a damn, including me.

    After college, in recent years, I was male-bodied and after working out as a guest at a local college, I showered with the other male-bodied people, and joined them in the sauna. No one gave a damn, including me.

    So, in my life I have showered next to hundreds of different people. Statistically, it is certain that tens of them were gay. I am sure that they were occasionally aroused, because men of high school and college age are notorious for getting aroused at the drop of a towel. I never knew they were there, and I never knew they were aroused. I never cared.

    When YOU were in the Army, you must have showered communally. If so, you certainly showered next to lesbians. It’s equally certain that you never knew, because apparently the thought hasn’t occurred to you.

    Schala is right, that communal showers are silly. It’s so trivial to hang a partition curtain, and almost as easy to build stalls. In the field, some tent fabric would do the trick. In fact, if you hang a spare tent and run the hose inside it, in a pinch you would not even have to alter the tent. Let it dry and re-use it as always. Hell, pick the dirtiest ones and have the soldier hose them down during the shower and you also end up with a cleaner tent (assuming you have plenty of water, of course, which is the limiting factor in most deployments).

    But more than that, I have faith in our soldiers. We give them some of the hardest missions human beings can face, and they come through. They have the self-discipline to keep eyes front as need be in the shower. The few who screw it up? That’s what discipline is for. Those few who still screw it up? Probably the Army is better off without. Think of it as an early-warning system.

    The same is even true of trans soldiers, though it would take a block of education during Basic. Until society gets used to us, it would probably be best to have separate shower stalls with plastic or canvas shower curtains.

    Someday, someday.


  9. 9
    Christine says:

    Please let me clarify my standpoint a little more. When I said it is not okay to force a person to shower next to a gay person, I was merely pointing out the uncomfortability it proposes. Of course, I knowingly showered with other women who were probably bi/lesbian. It would have been ignorant on my part to think out of 75 women(roughly), we all were straight. This was only during basic training(to point that out). During actual duty, the showers(at least the ones I showered in) were seperated, and 2 people per barracks room. I was not uncomfortable taking a shower during BCT. However, there are people that wouldn’t want anyone looking at them naked, giving no matter to their sexual orientation. We all have the right to privacy. I just feel that this transition to a better military should keep in mind all issues addressed, and this is an issue for some straight people who feel their right to privacy has been infringed upon.

  10. 10
    Eytan Zweig says:

    Christine @9 – I don’t understand this. If, as you say, the issue is people that wouldn’t want anyone looking at them naked, giving no matter to their sexual orientation, then nothing about the situation changed for them with the DADT repeal. No new communal showers have been added – last year soldiers had to take showers with other people (some of whom may have been of non-hetero sexual orientations in secret), and now they still have to take showers with other people people, except that now some of them may be openly non-hetero. The only reason for anyone to feel uncomfortable with this new situation is if they feel that (overt) sexual orientation matters.

  11. 11
    KellyK says:

    I can completely understand being freaked out by the possibility of someone who might be sexually interested in you seeing you naked. When I was in college and moved into a house with a co-ed bathroom, I was creeped out by the very possibility that there might be *guys* in the room while I showered, even though the showers had individual doors. And when I found out that one of my roommates was bisexual, I changed in the bathroom unless she was out of the room or sleeping.

    So I can appreciate the emotion, and the feeling of vulnerability there. (I was also pretty much a fundamentalist then, so I was a complete prude and vaguely bothered by the idea of homosexuality in general. I’ve since loosened up a lot.)

    As far as the military goes, I got the impression that the joint (and timed) showers in basic were just one more way of making it suck. And that basic is supposed to be hard, and crappy, and without any sense of privacy.

    So, while I like the idea of individual showers, think it would solve any weirdness and discomfort about people seeing you naked, I kind of doubt it would happen. Which does suck.

  12. 12
    Scar says:

    You could at least credit the person who came up with the original concept for this cartoon.
    It’s pretty disgusting to sit there and claim it as your own.


  13. 13
    Ampersand says:

    I’ve never seen that cartoon before you linked it, Scar. I came up with a similar idea independently.

    It’s not unusual, and it’s not plagiarism. There’s even a term for when five cartoonists come up with the same idea — that’s called a Yahzee.

    Thanks for pointing out that cartoon, though; it’s always interesting to see how another cartoonist handles a basically similar idea. Is that cartoon by you?

  14. 14
    Scar says:

    It’s odd how it took a blog comment to get a response and email correspondence was ignored.

  15. 15
    Ampersand says:

    I haven’t received any email correspondence about this; I never heard about this until reading your comment on this thread. If someone was trying to email me, I didn’t receive it. :-(

  16. 16
    Grace Annam says:

    I like the cartoon Amp drew, but I also like the cartoon you reference, Scar, which I’ve never seen before. I like them for different reasons. I like Amp’s art.

    But in the one you’re talking about (are you the cartoonist?) I like the narrative structure of the others getting out with the help of the T, because it makes it clear that the L and the G would never have made it over the lip without the T, which more accurately reflects the fact that, historically, it was gender variance which was targeted and treated with hostility, more than homosexual acts (the canonical example being Silvia Rivera at Stonewall). The police weren’t conducting individual interviews at Stonewall and Compton; they just targeted the guys who looked femme and the gals who looked butch, which meant that they tended to focus on people who were visibly trans or deliberately playing with gender, rather than those with passing privilege, which L and G people tend to enjoy more than trans people.

    Getting back to your point: even cutting-edge scientists have the same idea independently; look how many Nobel prizes have been awarded to pairs of people, each of whom did roughly the same thing. No surprise that it’s going to happen in other creative endeavors.

    As it happens I had an idea for a cartoon vaguely like the one Amp drew, and mentioned it to him, and his response was to send me a draft of the one he eventually published. We kicked ideas around, and I conceded that my idea was probably unworkable, but I like what he came up with. I don’t know if he came up with it in response to my nudge or if he already had it in his head, or drafted.

    The point I’m trying to make, here, is that I was witness to part of his creative process. It seems extreme to suppose that Amp would go to the effort of engaging in a fake collaborative discussion via private e-mail with someone uninvolved in order to hide something nefarious.


  17. 17
    Mandolin says:

    Especially since, honestly, it’s not that great an idea.

    I mean, it’s a _fine_ idea. It’s a workable, entertaining idea. But by the standards of really good political cartoon imagery, it’s not the cream of the crop–it requires the awkward labeling for instance.

    This is a perfectly good cartoon, but it’s not worth stealing.

    Which always used to be my reaction to the fanfic writers I knew who were worried about copyright theft. The ones who were worried were generally not of the caliber to need to be.

  18. 18
    Scar says:

    ‘Entertaining’ idea?
    Oh wow. You’re quite a piece of work aren’t you?
    Lovely to know that my struggles and lack of human rights are ‘entertaining’.

    I’m disturbed that this seems to be more about drawing ‘good’ political cartoons than it is about the message being sent by the cartoon.
    Is that all my struggles are? Fodder for the pen so that white cis dudes can reap kudos from their buddies?

  19. 19
    Ampersand says:

    1) I think nearly everyone here is in agreement about the message sent by the cartoon. Certainly, you and Mandolin are in agreement, if I perceive your views correctly.

    2) The person who changed the subject from the meaning of the cartoon, to cartooning, was you. You changed it from being about the cartoon, to being about falsely accusing me of plagiarism. It’s not fair of you to change the subject, and then criticize other people for discussing the new topic you brought up.

    3) I care a lot about the issues that I draw political cartoons about — otherwise I wouldn’t draw about them. I also care a lot about good cartooning technique. I don’t think these are contradictory things.

  20. 20
    Scar says:

    Walking away from this now; you were right, I was wrong.
    Hope you have a wonderful week :-)

  21. 21
    Christine says:

    @ Grace Annam :
    “When YOU were in the Army, you must have showered communally. If so, you certainly showered next to lesbians. It’s equally certain that you never knew, because apparently the thought hasn’t occurred to you.”

    Please don’t be so certain of yourself. NO, I didn’t shower communally, thank you for the thought. Yes, the showers were communal, but, when I was enlisted, a few of us women requested our nightguards to wake us up at specific times, to shower alone. Yeah, the thought did occur to me. Likewise, it occured to other women in my unit as well. I really don’t care about the morality of the issue itself. I don’t care who is straight or not, live your life….be proud and happy about who you are. What I care about is coming to a happy-go-lucky agreement that suits everyone….not just some.

    ” You clearly have no idea the lengths to which lesbians and gay men (and bisexuals) go to suppress their “natural impulses” (a term I would dispute anyway) in order not to get outed, beaten, or killed.”

    That very statement IS the reason it is imperetive to make this transition comfortable for ALL parties involved.

  22. 22
    Susan says:

    when I was enlisted, a few of us women requested our nightguards to wake us up at specific times, to shower alone.

    The shower thing is interesting.

    Back in the hippie years we many of us went around naked when we thought we could get away with it, often in groups of other people. We were young enough to think this was liberating. Since then I’ve gone to such places as “clothing optional” hot springs deep in the California desert, and encountered naked people of all genders, ages and conditions. Of course the only conspicuous thing would be to wear clothes.

    As it happens I don’t have a lot of body-shyness, and walking around without clothes, assuming that this is a venue where this is accepted, does not bother me in the slightest. Communal showers with other straight women, with lesbians, with straight men, would be non-issue with me, so long as all we were doing was, you know, taking a shower. Lust? You don’t have to be naked to arouse lust, you know. The only way to prevent arousing lust in other people, so far as I can tell, is to never leave your room. If someone else is experiencing lust, for whatever reason, that would be their problem, you know? not mine particularly. And me? I don’t have that short a fuse. I personally think we all look better without clothes than with them, actually, and this is even more true for people who are not 19 year old fashion models than it is for people who are.

    Not to mention my gym, where all the women’s showers are communal, and no one seems to have a problem with it….or maybe they join some other gym? Surely some of these women are lesbians? Who cares?

    But that’s me. Military service should be arranged for the convenience of the many, not for outliers like myself. I didn’t serve in the military, so I have no idea what the imperatives would be in that situation.

    What does seem irrational – but hey, whatever – is someone who has no problem showering with someone who is a closeted lesbian, but who freaks out as soon as she knows about it. Or worse, someone who is laboring under the interesting illusion that no one in the armed services was gay or lesbian until we got rid of DADT.

    Now, that’s out of touch with reality!

  23. 23
    Christine says:

    @ Susan….agreed with out of touch statement. I absolutely don’t have the guts with/without a nice body to show it. Kudos to you!
    My personal view meerely stands with the fact that I like my privacy. I wouldn’t want to openly shower with a bunch of guys either……

  24. 24
    Susan says:

    @Christine – nothing wrong with privacy, we need more of it not less of it.

    As for a “nice” body, in my 20’s I looked OK. Most people in their 20’s do. Now I’m 66, and if someone is surprised that I don’t look like a 20 year old fashion model, they have an intelligence problem. I’m still OK. For a 66 year old.

    Here’s my personal view on this. Human beings come from the hand of whoever you think is the creator, and we are all beautiful, in the way that all horses, say, are beautiful. Even old and sick horses, fat horses, whatever, have a kind of physical integrity. So do people.

    Clothing, on the other hand, comes from designers in wherever and factories in China. It can’t stand up for beauty against the real deal.

    Your mileage may vary, but in any case everyone has or should have the right to draw that privacy line wherever they’re comfortable.

  25. 25
    Grace Annam says:

    I don’t know if Christine is still around, but I thought she and others might be interested in this successful integrated military unit, 60% women and 40% men.