Comment: L Word highlights US military’s gay ban

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Actress Rose Rollins is speaking out about her The L Word character Tasha and the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” storyline garnering national attention for her role.

Playing a captain in the Army National Guard, Rollins’ character is navigating the difficult choice many real LGB soldiers are facing in the US military – whether to stay in the closet or face being discharged and losing their careers.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Rollins says there is “a lot more to Tasha than her ‘attitude’,” and this is certainly a true statement.

Although Tasha has developed a reputation as being the ‘tough’ girl on the show, her character is about far more than her exterior ‘attitude’.

Tasha’s storyline delves into a serious and controversial issue facing the US in the midst of an ongoing war that continues to drain not just the economic resources of the country, but the human ones as well.

Crafted by Colin Powell in the early 1990’s and signed into action by President Bill Clinton, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy allows homosexual soldiers to serve in the military as long as they are not open about their sexual orientation.

Under the policy, the military cannot ask service members about their sexual activity or orientation and cannot investigate a service member’s sexual activity or orientation without existing solid evidence of their homosexuality.

In exchange, soldiers are not to engage in homosexual activities or do anything that demonstrates their sexual orientation, including making public statements or entering into a same-sex union or marriage.

The flaw in the policy is that a soldier who comes out, or is ‘forced’ out, can still be discharged from the military simply based on their sexuality.

Brought on board The L Word in the show’s fourth season, Rose Rollins initially thought she was going to be playing a basketball player, according to the New York Daily News.

Instead, her role on the show transitioned to become one of the most important ongoing storylines in the series.

“When we created the character of Tasha, one of my writers said to me, we should do a lesbian who serves in the military, somebody who serves in Iraq,” series creator and writer Ilene Chaiken told the Daily News.

“Once we finished our first season with her and touched upon the issue, we said we have to do ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’.”

As closeted soldier Tasha Williams, Rollins plays a character who loves her career in the military, regardless of the traumas she has endured serving in Iraq.

Although her sexual orientation is known to some of her other gay colleagues, so far she has managed to keep her commanders off her back.

While back home in the US, Tasha meets radio and web site hostess Alice Pieszecki (Leisha Hailey) and falls in love with her.

Alice’s refusal to keep herself and their relationship under wraps threatens to bust Tasha’s secret life wide open and put her in danger of being discharged.

Now Tasha has to face the decision of whether to try to salvage her career at the expense of her lover or fight the system that has decided being openly gay and serving in the military is incompatible.

The issue that Tasha, and the real gays lesbians serving in the military are dealing with, is a pivotal one also being faced by the current Democratic and Republican contenders in the 2008 presidential race.

All of the current Democratic frontrunners, including Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards, support repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.

On the Republican side, however, contenders John McCain, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Fred Thompson, Rudy Giuliani and Ron Paul all support keeping the policy in place.

Rollins said she spoke with a number of soldiers about the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy while researching her role on The L Word and was moved by their stories.

“These women have been through so much,” she told the New York Daily News.

LGBT Americans will likely have to wait until at least 2009 and the election of a new President to see how the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” issue will be resolved, or won’t.

The L Word fans in America, however, only have to wait until Sunday night to watch the next chapter of Tasha’s story.

Ann Turner © 2007; All Rights Reserved