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OutServe Magazine | November 18, 2014

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The OutHeroes Project: CPT Tanya Domi

In Honor of Captain Tanya Domi, US Army

by Sue Fulton

Former Army Captain Tanya Domi was National Gay & Lesbian Task Force’s (NGLTF) lead in fighting the gay ban in 1992-93.

Tanya Domi enlisted in the Women’s Army Corps in 1974. Her high scores qualified her for specialized training in Military Intelligence, and she was sent to Ft. Devens – site of one of the most infamous witch hunts of the 1970s. Tanya barely even considered herself gay at that point, though she had “kissed a girl” in Basic Training, but when a group of friends went into Boston to a gay bar, she went along. Within 24 hours of their return, all of the women were called into CID, read their rights, and asked “did you go to a gay bar?” Having grown up in a progressive family, she knew enough to contact the local ACLU. Thanks to her, many of the women were provided legal assistance; but she got the reputation of being a “barracks lawyer,” and she suffered as a result.

Over that two-year-period (’74-’75), some sixty to seventy women were discharged from Ft. Devens for being gay. Some women were hounded into turning themselves in, some committed suicide. Tanya survived; but her investigation was dragged out for months, her clearance was downgraded, and despite her extraordinary scores and academic success, she was reassigned… as a cook. Tanya refused to accept it. She fought, calling anyone who would help, including her congressmen, progressives Robert Drinan and Ted Kennedy – and succeeded in getting her orders changed to petroleum chemist. She went through training and was sent to Ft. Bragg and the 82nd Airborne. As the Army was starting to integrate women into the force, she was assigned as one of only six women in the 230-person company providing fuel support to the entire division. Sexual harassment was rampant, and the unit had the highest rate of disciplinary actions in the Army, but she stuck it out and finished her enlistment.

After a year at Central Michigan University, she missed the Army, and ended up joining ROTC. She earned a degree in journalism and was commissioned a 2LT in the Military Police. After a tour at Ft. McLellan, she went to Schofield Barracks in Hawaii, and took command of an MP company. During her successful company command, shortly after being selected to teach at West Point, she reported an incident of sexual harassment by a fellow officer. Not long after, CID called her in because they’d received an unsigned, undated letter, alleging a relationship with a female E-7 in another unit. The allegation was false; Tanya wasn’t in a relationship, her time being completely taken up with the demands of her job, but that didn’t matter. She was able to survive the new investigation, but under incredible stress, she developed ulcerative colitis and realized she needed to leave the Army.

Tanya went directly into politics, working for a Hawaiian congressman, then in Washington for a member of the House Armed Services Committee. She finally came out publicly in 1991, and with a few others, started Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Veterans of America (possibly the first ever gay military group in the US). Her work came to the attention of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and she went to work for them in
December 1992.

When President Bill Clinton announced he would lift the military’s gay ban, and the right-wing backlash started in earnest, Tanya led the Campaign for Military Service Bus Tour. The group of GLB vets started in Minneapolis, and traveled through the Midwest and South before ending their tour in the nation’s capital right before the 1993 March on Washington. Tanya also joined a small group of gay vets who testified against the ban in May 1993 before the House Armed Services Committee.

After the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy was adopted, Tanya worked on drafting of the original Employment Non-discrimination Act in ’94, and worked with Senator Kennedy and Coretta Scott King before she went abroad in 1994. She worked to guarantee free elections in Nepal, Haiti, the Gambia, then went to Bosnia in ’96 for the State Department, and stayed for four years

Today she lives in New York, a city she loves, with her partner Deborah and golden retriever Bailey, and teaches at Columbia University. She continues to work on behalf of LGBT military servicemembers and vets, blogging for The New Civil Rights Project.