The L Word Season 5, Episode 3: The Coach’s Perspective

This week’s episode was rich with great writing and situations that could foster a lot of discussion. I don’t know about you but so far I am finding this season the best yet in terms of the quality of the writing and really showing off the characters with much more depth without losing the viewing appeal.

Besides my general plea for Jenny to hire a real personal trainer before she pops a knee (did anyone see that awful form on her lunge in the gym?) this The L Word - Tashaweek I want to tackle the highly charged and complex situation Tasha and Alice find themselves in.

I want to preface this whole dialogue with the fact that I certainly don’t have the answers to this dilemma Tasha faces nor do I have any real answer for the many real life soldiers who struggle with the same inner conflict day in and day out. What I do have are some observations, questions, and a personal opinion. Yet I realize my personal opinion is just that — and truly how can anyone REALLY know unless they have walked a mile or more in someone else’s shoes.

The storyline got formally introduced in Episode 2. Tasha was supposed to ship off to Iraq but suddenly finds herself detained because she is under investigation for homosexual conduct. And thus begins what I expect will be a fairly long storyline involving the portrayal of one woman’s professional and personal experience with the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy and blatant (but legal) prejudice against gays and lesbians.

As we’ve already come to see, Tasha is a dyed in the wool military person. She is willing, ready, and able to serve her country with honor and is willing to potentially make the ultimate sacrifice in risking her life to fulfill her commitments with dignity. Her entire life has been spent cultivating her career with the military and she has not only served in active duty but received medals of Honor for her leadership on and off the battlefield. She is one of the military’s best and most honorable soldiers.

That’s how it is and how it would stay except for this little glitch in the whole system called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. You see the military is based on trust, honesty, and integrity except if you happen to be gay or lesbian. In that case we’ll bring you up on charges simply for being seen in public with alleged lesbians, threaten everything you’ve built your career on, and oh for an added bonus we will assume you are guilty until proven innocent beyond a reasonable doubt. And that is the very situation Tasha finds herself in.

In a powerful scene with the homophobic man who is forced to become her military legal representation Tasha states the reality of her situation — her only way to beat the charges is to lie and deny who she is. I find it a disturbing yet clear declaration of the fact that if she wants to save her military career she must step out of integrity with herself (and I have to assume her personal belief system about being a lesbian) and lie. Doesn’t this fly in the face of one of the key cornerstones of what the military code of conduct is supposed to be about – Integrity?

Here’s a little snippet from the US Army website on values. It lists the following as the seven core army values:

Selfless Service
Personal Courage

So let’s look at Integrity through the eyes of the US Army with this excerpt:


Do what’s right, legally and morally. Integrity is a quality you develop by adhering to moral principles. It requires that you do and say nothing that deceives others. As your integrity grows, so does the trust others place in you. The more choices you make based on integrity, the more this highly prized value will affect your relationships with family and friends, and, finally, the fundamental acceptance of yourself.

I suppose the rationale for putting valued soldiers like Tasha through this personal and professional hell comes from the loophole that some people still think being gay or lesbian is immoral. Obviously I’m not getting into that debate….but I find it pretty ironic when you place “the fundamental acceptance of yourself” up next to this scenario that is playing out for Tasha.

I have strong feelings about being true to yourself and for me I cannot understand how anyone who is gay or lesbian navigates the conundrum of being true to who they are personally while also being true to their career choice knowing that the institution they work for reviles and will swiftly ruin their careers in one swoop of charges of homosexual conduct if the mood so moves them. I personally couldn’t reconcile it. The cost in terms of lost energy and having to dance around my relationships and essentially live two lives would be too great. Even Alice who clearly loves Tasha says “I can live as a nonexistent girlfriend if that is what you need me to do”. That is pretty powerful. Yet I wonder, even if you could do that for a while, is that really a sustainable way to build a rich and lasting relationship? Pretending it is nonexistent?

My coach’s powerful questions to Tasha and others in her situation are:

— How comfortable in your own skin do you feel in your professional life? Your personal life? When you are looking yourself in the eye in a mirror?

— Can you live in full personal integrity with the obvious contrasts and constraints of being in the military and having a personal relationship? Are you willing to take those risks and live that dual existence?

There is no right or wrong answer to these questions. Only what is ultimately right for YOU. For some the compromise is something they can live with; for others it would eat them alive. The questions, feelings, and contrasts run deep and each person must answer only to him or herself and make powerful decisions from there.

I know I can’t wait to see how Tasha and Alice navigate this challenge. I expect it to be a groundbreaking and award winning portrayal of the inner conflicts and situational realities of one woman’s journey through the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell maze.

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  1. […] Last week I talked in depth about Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and this week we see how emotionally charged the very process of creating a defense can be as Tasha and her counsel Beech have words. He comes around with the help of his wife and what I might imagine was a “do the right thing” type of conversation. After all, whether he approves of Tasha’s relationship or not is not the issue, whether he chooses to honor his obligation to defend her is. Both Tasha and Alice seem very relieved and grateful when he comes to visit them and discuss the case. Alice even says “Thank your wife for me. I believe that behind every man who does the right thing there is a woman that got him to that place.” Clearly she is pleased about his decision to be in integrity and do the right thing. […]

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