“Timely. . . . Witt’s story . . . is part of the larger story of gays in the military. . . . [An] historic trial.”—Booklist
The true story of the woman who ended the ban on gays in the military
In 1993 Margie Witt, a young Air Force nurse, was chosen as the face of the Air Force’s “Cross into the Blue” recruitment campaign. This was also the year that President Clinton’s plan for gays to serve openly in the military was quashed by an obdurate Congress, resulting in the blandly cynical political compromise known as Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Contrary to its intent, DADT had the perverse effect of making it harder for gay servicemen and -women to fight expulsion. Over the next seventeen years more than 13,000 gay soldiers, sailors, marines, coast guard, and airmen and -women were removed from military service. That is, until Margie Witt’s landmark case put a stop to it.
Tell is the riveting story of Major Margaret Witt’s dedicated and decorated military career as a frontline flight nurse, and of her love and devotion to her partner—now wife—Laurie Johnson. Tell captures the tension and drama of the politically charged legal battle that led to the congressional repeal of the controversial law and helped pave the way for a suite of landmark political and legal victories for gay rights. Tell is a testament to the power of love to transform hearts and minds, as well as a celebration of the indomitable spirit of Major Witt, her wife Laurie, her dedicated legal team, and the brave men and women who came forward to testify on her behalf in a historic federal trial.
“The name Margaret Witt may join the canon of US civil rights pioneers.” —Guardian
“Major Witt’s trial provided an unparalleled opportunity to attack the central premise of [Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell] . . . and set an important precedent.”— New York Times
“A landmark ruling.”—Politico
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Reviews / Endorsements
“[I]mportant. The events that led to Witt’s dismissal from the Air Force are quite dramatic as are the court cases that led to the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” This lovely book combines the personal and the objective in a way that general readers will find appealing.”—Library Journal
“[C]hronicles the personal struggle behind her landmark case — and the happiness that came from it.” —The Seattle Times
“[A] love story first and foremost - a love of country, of family, friendship, and, perhaps most importantly, a love for oneself…. Ultimately, [Witt] wins - and so does everyone else who’s ever had to spend a day marching in silence under the discriminatory law…. [TELL is] a story about one woman’s dedication to her country that spanned more than 20 years and inspired millions (in and out of uniform) to live their lives with dignity, integrity and grit.” —The Huffington Post
“[R]eads as part biography, part legal thriller.… The book has an extra bit of relevance following President Donald Trump’s announcement earlier this year that transgender Americans would no longer be allowed to serve openly in the Armed Forces.”—The Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA)
“The book goes well beyond the edges of the case, giving readers a look into Witt's childhood and service [and] focus[ing] on her loving relationship…. The launch of Tell comes at a time when equal rights for service members have again been called into question, as in August, President Donald Trump issued a ban on transgender military members, via tweet, reversing a year-old policy that they could serve openly.”—The Pacific Northwest Inlander
Best Fall Books—The Bay Area Reporter
Fall for a Good Read—Baltimore Out Loud
“[Witt’s] book is indeed a love story first and foremost—a love of country, of family, friendship, and, perhaps most importantly, a love for oneself. Its message dares to demand respect for one's journey through a myriad of internal struggle in the face of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Ultimately, she wins—and so does everyone else who's ever had to spend a day marching in silence under the discriminatory law.”—Windy City Times
“Witt’s memoir is a compelling account of the ‘Don’t Ask’ years.”
“Few people get to actually witness history and fewer still are fundamental in making it happen. Major Margaret Witt has managed to do both. Tell reminds us that now more than ever we must learn to care for each other across differences within our communities, especially when those in power attempt to diminish us.”—Ryan Berg, author of No House to Call My Home
“Margaret Witt’s moving and inspirational story of how she took on the US military and won is a powerful testament to how regular people can help achieve extraordinary results. Witt gives the reader a poignant insider’s perspective on the legal case that was crucial in building momentum to send Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to the dustbin of this country’s history.”—Marc Solomon, author of Winning Marriage
“This discussion [of Major Witt’s case] formed the backdrop of. . . my first in-depth discussion of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell with President Obama.”—Former secretary of defense Robert M. Gates, New York Times–bestselling author of Duty
“You may not know her name, but Margaret Witt is one of those seemingly ordinary Americans whose persistence changed the country’s culture. Her determination will help many who serve this country live better lives. Read her story. Tell others. What she’s done speaks for itself.”—Bob Dotson, New York Times–bestselling author of American Story: A Lifetime Search for Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things
“Margaret Witt made history. . . . Tell is the inspiring story of the remarkable grit and courage that have made her a true American hero.”—Lillian Faderman, author of The Gay Revolution
MAJOR MARGARET WITT is a decorated twenty-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force who made history in 2010 with her successful challenge of the notorious Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law, which prohibited known gays and lesbians from serving in the U.S. military. She is currently a rehabilitation supervisor for the Portland VA Health Care System in Portland, Oregon. TIM CONNOR is an investigative reporter specializing in legal and science journalism. He lives in Washington State.