Monday, April 28, 2008

"Don't Ask Don't Tell" Revisited

I know that I have a number of GLBT readers of this blog, and I've been a champion of civil rights for everyone for many years. I've also railed on occasion about the shortsighted actions of the US military when it comes to gays serving in uniform.

Even at this late date, the Pentagon is still kicking out an average of two persons per day, a decision based solely on their sexual orientation.

So I am happy to learn that PFLAG is issuing a call for personal experiences with the military's so-called "don't ask don't tell" law.

If you are a veteran, or the parent or friend of a veteran, who has been affected by this ridiculously stupid law, please consider contacting PFLAG's Steve Ralls and sharing your stories.

It's past time to start fighting back. This country belongs to all of us, and those who want to serve in the military should have that option, regardless of their gender, race or ethnicity, politics, or even -- shock! -- sexual orientation.


pepsiholic said...

Ok Farns, question for you... First of all, I also think gays should be able to serve in the military. The question I have is, what would be the legal ramifications if the military openly accepts gays and lesbians in the military? Since they are a "different" sexual orientation, does that mean the government would be legally required to provide four seperate bunking and showering areas(gays, lesbians, straight guys and straight females)? I mean isn't that the reason why we have male and female berthing and showers? Females weren't allowed on submarines when I was in because of the lack of seperate areas. If gays were legally required to have their own areas, would that mean they would be prevented from serving on subs and other small ships that don't have segregated areas?

Tom Scharbach said...

Pepsiholic, you might want to switch over to the "No Caffine" version.

Gays and lesbians have served in the military, without problems, for as long as we've had a military. About 20% of gay men are veterans, as I am, roughly on par with the percentage of straight men who are veterans. A somewhat lower, but significant, percentage of lesbians are veterans.

Gays and lesbians serve in the military now, legally, in relatively large numbers, and are fully integrated into their units, with no special accommodations.

The only question is whether or not gays and lesbians should be allowed to serve "openly" -- that is whether or not gays and lesbians will continue to be forced to be dishonest and secretive about their orientation in order to serve in the military.

I would suggest to you that the time has long passed when this is necessary. A Stars and Stripes poll taken about a year ago showed that 75% of enlisted personnel said that serving with gays and lesbians was "no problem".

Similarly, in countries -- the bulk of NATO, for example -- where gays and lesbians serve openly, there is "no problem".

If it is "no problem" for the men and women who serve in the military, in conditions of limited or non-existent privacy, why is it a problem?

The reason that it is a "problem" is that a minority of straights think it is a problem, without factual basis.

Let me repeat that so you don't miss it: The problem is not with those of us who are gay and lesbian, but with those of you who are straight and scared.

You have no reason to be scared. Gays and lesbians learn, early on -- most of us figured this out in the first month of high school, if not before -- how to behave appropriately around straights. The "don't drop your soap" fantasies are straight-guy fantasies, not gay ones, believe me.

We are not the problem. The problem is in your head, not our behavior.

Think about it for a second.

Most of you straight guys shared bathrooms and showered with us in high school, a lot of you served with us in the military, and some of you belong to gyms and health clubs now, where you presumably use the locker rooms, bathrooms and showers.

What happened to you during all of that? Nothing, I'll bet.

In fact, assuming that you are male, I'll bet you can't even tell me, with any accuracy, which of your high school classmates, or your health club or gym mates, or the men you share public restrooms with are gay.

So why it is such a big deal when you think about serving with us in the military, as you now do? What is going to change if we serve openly, without having to lie and dissemble?

Let's get right down to it. What in the world do you think is going to happen if we happen to take a look at you and like what we see, and you notice because you know our orientation? Nothing is going to wilt, you know.

Most of you have exposed your privates around us all since high school without giving it a thought.

So, why, when you think about it in the context of military service, does it become an issue that leads to such outlandish ideas?

As to the "legal ramifications", I am a retired lawyer, and let me assure you that there will be no legal ramifications. The government would not be required to provide any special accommodations if gays and lesbians are allowed to serve openly, any more than they do now when gays and lesbians are allowed to serve -- and do, in high number -- under DADT.

pepsiholic said...

Thanks Tom for your insight.