Miriam Ben-Shalom—Lesbian Shero Erased by U.S. Army

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Without women like Ben-Shalom, there would be no advancing of our rights, no one to speak up when it really counts the most — when no one else is willing. She wasn't going to be forced to lie then, and she won't be forced to lie now.

Miriam Ben-Shalom was, and still is, as tough as they come. After all, she went up against an army to fight the ban on gay people. Nowadays, you can sign up to serve in the U.S. Army without hiding in a closet… and you can thank SSG Ben-Shalom for that. But as is often the case, you’d have to do some digging to discover that it was a lesbian shero who kicked off this particular revolution. And sadly, to this very day, regardless of her excellent service record, the Army refuses to reverse the “erroneous enlistment” they’ve saddled her with.

As I sit down for a chat with her, split screen before me, cup of tea in hand, I’m immediately reminded that nothing is as it was. Most days I can barely recognize what the world has become. But by the end of the conversation, I’m left with the eerie sensation that while everything has changed, so much has remained the same. Ben-Shalom told the truth, she wouldn’t lie, and as a result the Army wanted her out. And while the Army no longer requires gay people to lie, it seems the rest of the world, nowadays, will penalize women for telling the truth.

The full chat with Ben-Shalom

Miriam Ben-Shalom is a name you should know — a lesbian shero, that should be recorded in all the history books. However, you might not know it for how she’s been cast aside. Let’s start with the complete lack of respect and loyalty that the U.S. Army has shown her. With plans for a follow up interview, and the camera off, I ask Ben-Shalom if the Army ever reversed the “erroneous enlistment.” When she explains that they haven’t, and that she’s through trying to get them to, when she explains how much it’s affected her, a heaviness sets up camp in my core, and I’m relieved I waited to ask this one in private.

The way this has impacted her life isn’t something everyone can relate to, and it’s not something everyone can understand. She’s considered writing it all down in a book, but it’s too emotionally painful. I ask if I can quote this one thing she’s said: “I’d like it reversed if only so that I can have an American flag on my coffin to give to my family. No VA benefit, etc. Just that.”

Days later, I still sit with the heaviness. Even the strongest of warriors have their limits, and for Ben-Shalom, it’s been this — this final flip off the Army has left her with. Imagine putting yourself in the line of fire, doing your job so well you’re promoted and given commendations, only to be erased, as though none of it mattered, as if you were never there.

Some weights are too much to carry alone. This is where we need to do some lifting, fight for someone who risked it all to fight for us, and demand change.

“It was kind of frightening at first, because they wanted me to undergo a psychiatric evaluation… My response to that was, ‘I’m a lesbian. I’m not mentally ill’…”

You’d have to do some major digging to discover that a lesbian kick-started the war on what would eventually be coined “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” You’d have to do a whole lot of cutting and pasting to get the full picture. So allow me to rewind a bit and break it down:

Miriam Ben-Shalom collage
photos courtesy of Miriam Ben-Shalom

In 1976, the Army discharged Ben-Shalom for being a lesbian under the ban. In 1980, Judge Evans ruled that Ben-Shalom’s discharge violated the U.S. Constitution, specifically the right to free speech. But the ruling was short lived. The U.S. Army refused to comply with the court’s decision. In 1988, Ben-Shalom became the first openly gay person to be re-enlisted in the U.S. Army. She was promoted and given commendations. That victory was stripped away a year later when it was appealed in 1989. In 1990, the Supreme Court refused to hear her case. This time, Sergeant Ben-Shalom was not even given a discharge. She was released from the army as an “erroneous enlistment.” In 1993, the outright ban was replaced with “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” a policy recommended by President Clinton. The modified version of the outright ban, would continue the tradition of keeping soldiers in the closet, for fear of being discharged, for many years to come. In November 2010, Ben-Shalom was among 13 protesters arrested after handcuffing themselves to the White House fence to protest “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” and refusing to disperse. Shortly after, in December of 2010, a repeal was signed into law, by President Obama.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is lesbian-history-screenshot_miriam-ben-shalom-arrested-2010.jpg
Lesbian history: 2010, Ben-Shalom arrested for protesting “Don’t ask, don’t tell”

While Ben-Shalom fought to have the “erroneous enlistment” reversed, that status still remains in place today, and she’s no longer appealing it. The U.S. Army has not only left her burdened, they’ve effectively erased a lesbian shero. It’s unforgivable. Also unforgivable: None of the major (so-called) LGBTQ+++ organizations have lifted a finger to right this terrible wrong — sadly unsurprising, given that they ritually endorse lesbian erasure, consistently ignore the lesbian community, and pour exorbitant amounts of money into gaining more and more male ‘rights’ and recognition. They’re much too busy crediting males (with gains lesbians achieved) and building them statues. Not to mention, all the time and money they’ve spent promoting the medical assault of our gay and lesbian youth, and the erasure of ‘sex’ as a protected class in law — busy, busy bees that they are.

Ben-Shalom has been attacked with an ice pick, shot at, and during her legal ordeal with the Army, she even lost custody of her daughter, a daughter she wasn’t allowed to see for three years. But none of this seems to matter to the powers that be, when it comes to acknowledging all she’s done. Even within the ever-expanding LGBTQ+++ — Milwaukee Pride went so far as to rescind her invitation to be grand marshal at their parade a few years back. “Her mindsets don’t line up with ours at this time,” the man in charge of coordinating the parade said.

That “mindset”...

Ben-Shalom speaks her mind. Trained in the U.S. Army, she was ready to throw down back then, and she’s still ready to throw down now. She wasn’t going to be forced to lie then, and she won’t be forced to lie now. Where the enforcement of gender ideology is concerned, she’s certainly not tip-toeing around.

Currently, she’s interested in writing about the tactics that dictators, like Stalin and Hitler, have employed to get what they want, and comparing it to what gender ideologists and big pharma are doing to get power through misinformation and strong-arming. She says, “I’d like to write about the barbarism that I see, that’s going on in the medical community now. I mean, this is vivisection almost… Whatever happened to first do no harm?”

“There’s the alt-right, the alt-left, and then there’s this whole bunch of us that are stuck in the middle again.”

About the massive human rights violation of LGB youth currently happening, she says, “It is conversion therapy. They use the very tactics they wish would not be used on them. Even to the point of denying talk therapy. Denying a therapist the right to ask questions… This just reminds me so much of Nazi Germany… the excoriation that goes on.”

On why she’s willing to work with different groups, different political backgrounds, when it comes to speaking out against the medical assault of our youth, she says, “We need to start cooperating with anybody who will work with us on this issue… One of the things I talk to [conservatives] about, is, as a Jew, I look at what’s going on, and this lopping off of healthy body parts… It feels to me like it’s Josef Mengele come back to haunt us… this is Auschwitz medicine. And so their mind is opened up a little bit, and they no longer see me as a menace, but they see me as a human being fighting for the rights of children to be children.”

When Ben-Shalom first won and got back into the Army, her life was threatened. She says, “I went to my commanding officer and said, ‘Look… I am getting my life threatened, people are calling me. If they wanna rock and roll, let’s do it, but let’s do it in the open. They don’t need to be cowards and call me anonymously, you tell ’em that. Anywhere, any place, any time, one on one.’ And it stopped. And I actually did very well when I went back in.” And when it comes to the extremists who’ve threatened her for speaking up in recent years, she has the same attitude about it now as she had while in the Army… “Any place, any time.” She says, “You wanna mess, bring it on.”

Until 1974, banks required a woman’s husband to cosign in order to get a credit card. And it wasn’t until 1976 that women were admitted into military academies. Without women like Ben-Shalom, there would be no advancing of our rights, no one to speak up when it really counts the most — when no one else is willing.

It’s easy to swoop in and play the hero once someone like her gets the ball rolling, and with mainstream media being as it is, lesbian contributions always seem to conveniently get ‘lost’ in the shuffle. Media in general loves to redirect credit, typically omitting lesbians from the story altogether, but don’t get it twisted — It was a lesbian, a tough-as-nails and tell-it-like-it-is lesbian, that stepped up, spoke up, and kick-started the war on a ban that would eventually be modified into a policy coined “Don’t ask, don’t tell” (a crafty continuation of the original ‘stay in the closet or else’).

Ben-Shalom told the Library of Congress, “I want it recorded that it was not a gay man who first won and went back in… It was a Jewish lesbian from the state of Wisconsin.” After all, being a lesbian means going up against lesbian erasure on top of everything else. It often falls on the lesbian community, with little to no funding, to set the record straight when it’s not recorded correctly. And even when it is recorded correctly, we’re often fighting revisionists who want to erase the record, redistribute credit, or redefine what’s on record.

Back when women were expected to play house, Miriam Ben-Shalom fought. She not only fought for her country, she fought for us. Now it’s our turn to have her back. To tell the U.S. Army that they must recognize SSG Ben-Shalom’s service, and honor her and her family as they would honor anyone else who served (sign the petition here). We simply cannot allow lesbian sheroes to be ripped from the pages of his-story, continually erased.

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