Telling the Open Secret: Toward a New Discourse with the U.S. Military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy
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This qualitative dissertation in Counseling Psychology considers the open secret, an under-researched phrase describing an interesting phenomenon that is experienced by some, but not all, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people when their sexual orientation is known or suspected by family members, friends, and/or coworkers, but not discussed. A review of the literature notes how the essence of the open secret appears to be about knowledge that is not acknowledged, while it may also create a space of grace, allowing people to coexist, where they might not otherwise be able to do so easily. Participants (N = 11) were either current or past members of the U.S. military who served before or during the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy. Interviews were analyzed using James Paul Gee’s linguistic approach to narrative, from which three major findings emerged: (a) sexual and homophobic harassment, whereby historically homophobic attitudes within the military drive the need for secrecy surrounding LGBT sexuality; (b) acceptance and support, whereby the open secret seems to create a space of grace; and (c) empowerment and honesty, whereby LGBT people seem to have a new sense of honesty that empowers them toward a new sense of agency. Discussion includes examination of how the three findings may relate to the open versus secret parts of the open secret, as well as how the open secret and the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy may represent a gestalt attempt at balance that may now be moving toward a gestalt dynamic of completion, suggesting the possibility of a new Discourse of openness and honesty for LGBT people that appears to be on a proleptic edge of possibility.
Don't Ask Don't Tell
James Paul Gee
Reichert, Andrew D. (2010). Telling the Open Secret: Toward a New Discourse with the U.S. Military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Policy. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from