by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
On April 1, the Military Acceptance Project (MAP), a new organization which focuses solely on the promotion of acceptance for all former, current, and future servicemembers, launched a new website designed to provide information, resources, and support to servicemembers regarding the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' (DADT).
Former Marine Corps officer Kristen Kavanaugh co-founded MAP with colleagues and faculty from the University of Southern California's School of Social Work, San Diego Academic Center.
'At first, all we knew is that we wanted to support servicemembers through the repeal of 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell,' stated Kavanaugh. 'After talking with military leaders about the implementation process, it became clear that the services had no way to directly learn and address the questions and concerns of the Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual servicemembers most impacted by the repeal.'
The MAP team quickly held a focus group with 15 local LGB servicemembers. The team used this forum to gain a better understanding of the groups' questions, concerns, and ideas of how best to support them before, during, and after the repeal. Their input formed the foundation of the new website and the organization's mission.
'MAP fills a unique and important space, specifically in the DADT repeal world,' Jasper Kump, co-founder and director of communications for MAP, told Seattle Gay News. 'There are already several strong organizations focused on various aspects of the repeal of DADT and beyond. From lobbying and political forces to legal and family-based organizations, they have all blazed a trail for the repeal and continue to forge our way to equality for LGB servicemembers.'
'In our interviews with various military leaders as well as focus groups with LGB active duty and veteran servicemembers, we quickly learned that until the repeal training and process was over, there was no safe way for these two groups to communicate without risking retaliation to the servicemembers,' Kump said. 'As a result, LGB servicemembers - who the repeal affects most - had no voice and were getting generalized information that didn't address their basic questions.'
Kump said MAP's focus is squarely on providing information, resources, and support to servicemembers related to any form of marginalization. 'This includes serving as a conduit of communication to and from marginalized servicemembers themselves and the services,' he said. 'Currently, with the repeal of DADT, this means LGB service members specifically.'
Kump told SGN that MAP is 'very careful not to have any political or partisan agendas or affiliations.'
'This allows us to remain neutral and focus on promoting the acceptance of all servicemembers,' he said.
The website includes articles, training materials, and other information about the Department of Defense and each branch of the military's implementation plans and progress. An anonymous research poll, a blog, and personal stories allow service members to actively be heard and participate. According to MAP officials, 'It's a resource designed by servicemembers, for servicemembers.'
MAP officials told SGN they want visitors to walk away with simple, direct, and current information on the repeal of DADT, resources for additional support or information, opportunities to ask questions and share their stories safely and anonymously, the understanding that their service is deeply appreciated, and the knowledge that they are not alone.
'We are dedicated to supporting LGB servicemembers for the long haul,' said Kump. 'The formal repeal of DADT is only the beginning. Our initial research indicates that servicemembers (both LGB and non-LGB) believe it may take anywhere from three to 10 years for LGB servicemembers to serve openly and be treated equally. We are committed to working to help support and accelerate this process.'
For more information about MAP, visit them online at www.militaryacceptanceproject.org.
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