Friday, August 07, 2009


Gay and lesbian activists are unhappy with the Obama administration for not doing away with the military's Don't Ask Don't Tell policy. As you recall, the policy was implemented early in the Clinton administration as a way to protect gays in the military. The idea being, if you are gay but no one in the military knows it, you are supposed to be left alone.

This was to prevent going after someone who is just suspected to be gay, and harassing him or her. Essentially it means that if you've done no overt act or made no statement indicating you're gay, then you're protected.

Gays want to serve in the military, and be open about their sexual orientation. They point to other countries where this seems to work, and argue that we can do it here. Maybe we can. I'm pretty much a live and let live kind of guy, and gays in the military wouldn't bother me to be around, work for, or have work for me. But, it's complicated.

First, an anecdote. My sister was an officer in the Navy. While in port in the Philippines, armed sailors patrol the deck to keep Filipinos from getting on board and stealing, or whatever. However, her boss wouldn't let her do the patrol, because she was female. When she asked, the boss said, yes, of course you can do the job. However, he thought that the invader would be more likely to attack her than a man, and thus it was more dangerous for her. She wasn't the problem, it was who she might have to deal with.

Likewise, I'm not so sure it would be gays that would be a problem, it's reaction to them. There are louts who would act against gays and cause trouble, but I think the military has the discipline to deal with them. But there's a group of folks who have a bad reaction to gays even though they take no act against them.

Here's a true story from my experience in Iraq. A young male soldier got an email out of the blue from another male soldier, asking if he was gay, stating that the sender was gay and was attracted to the other soldier, and asking if he might like to get together. I read the email, it was polite and respectful, but carried a very disturbing message for the recipient.

The recipient reported it, we did a bit of research, found the sender, and per DADT discharged him and sent him home. The gay soldier had been a fine soldier and productive in his unit. Had he not sent the email, he might well still be in.

The problem was the reaction of the recipient. He was a young man from rural Montana. Not a homophobe, that I could tell, but not enlightened on the issue either. Well this fellow went into a deep depression for a while, thinking that he comes across as gay, something he did not want. He really started questioning himself and his appearance and behavior. He was wondering what other soldiers thought about him. This kid was very shaken up by the experience, for quite a while. He just read an email out of the blue, and it rocked his world in a bad way. The one at fault? The gay guy. If he had followed the policy, everything would have been fine. Sexual relations and PDAs were forbidden to everyone, so gays weren't any more deprived that anyone else in that area.

Actually, in at least one case, they were better off. Soldiers shared living quarters, and two lesbian girlfriends managed to room together. But they kept their mouths shut, followed the policy, and both are still serving.

DADT may not be all what gays and lesbians want, but it's not all bad, either.

1 comment:

fortboise said...

For some reason, this reminds me of secrecy about pay. Some organizations have it, some don't. The ones that keep it secret have their arguments that all sound good, but the ones that don't have it get along without it just fine.

It's less work to disclose. It adds responsibility to have each person's pay be justified relative to others in the organization, but that's a useful responsibility.

Everybody has to deal with sexual identity sooner or later, and I don't see the anecdote you provide as a reason for anything in particular.

I haven't had the pleasure myself, but I hear about how effective military indoctrination (or "training" if you like) is, and if our military communicated the command to "get over it," I'm sure it could.

Some individuals might not make the grade, but that's as it is now. Fewer irrelevant secrets would make for a stronger organization.