By Rachel Dorman, MS & Heidi Radunovich, PhD
While the creation of the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy (DADT), made it legal for lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals to serve in the military, it still restrained LGB military members from being able to engage in LGB relationships. With the repeal of DADT, LGB military members now can be open about their relationships without military repercussions. Yet, even with the repeal of DADT there are still risks LGB military members may face in having an open relationship (Johnson, Rosenstein, Buhrke & Haldeman, 2013).
Johnson, Rosenstein, Buhrke, and Haldeman (2013) explain that, due to the military’s historically unaccepting environment to LGB military personnel, there is a stigma that may remain. Such a stigma among military members may create an unwelcoming or hostile environment for those who do not have the same sexual orientation. The researchers explain there may be resistance, homophobia, prejudice, exclusion, and harassment that can flare up against LGB military members in the military environment. These could be legitimate concerns for LGB personnel, and therapists should be willing to listen to the client and follow his or her lead as far as comfort with disclosure. Such stressors, or concern about those potential stressors, could cause LGB military personnel to want continue to conceal their sexual orientation, which can affect their health and well-being. Furthermore, these stressors may result in decreased job satisfaction and commitment to the military, as well as other negative outcomes.Johnson and colleagues (2013) recommend that mental health providers seek an awareness of the environment and stressors that LGB military members face. It is recommended that practitioners pursue cultural awareness by actively seeking to better understand the negative experiences and stigma clients may have encountered as a result of their sexual orientation, particularly in the military setting. It is also recommended that mental health providers create an environment of acceptance and support when assessing and treating a client. Finally, they stress that those mental health practitioners who do not feel adequately trained to provide care for LGB military personnel to provide appropriate referrals. When providing a referral, seek other mental health providers with an expertise in LGB affirmative treatment, LGB networks for professionals, and local LGB community resources. To learn more about LGB military personnel check out our webinar on “Needs and Supportive Strategies for Professionals Working with LGBT Military Families” or our previous blogs here:
 Johnson, B., Rosenstein, J., Buhrke, R., & Haldeman, D. (2013). After “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”: Competent care of lesbian, gay and bisexual military personnel during the DOD policy transition. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 1-9. doi: 10.1037/a0033051
This post was written by Rachel Dorman, M.S. and Heidi Radunovich, PhD, members of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.