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Monday, May 25, 2009

Don't Keep "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

I remember that during the very early days of the Clinton Administration, "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" was announced. This allowed gays to serve in the military as long as they hid the fact that they were gay. Immediately, I thought this was one of the most stupid things I had ever heard.

The military wants people, presumably of integrity and character, to defend the country, but they wanted some of these people to essentially lie - TO THEM, no less - about who they are? At least the outright ban on gays in the military was honest; wrongheaded, but honest.

It recently came to me what I think is an apt analogy. It is like Negroes - I use the word specifically for the historic context - who could and did pass as white. They got all the benefits of the society that being white meant. At the same time, they always worried, "What if the secret gets out?" They had to make sure to stay away from those darker-skinned cousins who might ruin the ruse, for they feared the consequences of being revealed. It was not just because of their race but because they knew that deceivers receive even harsher punishment.

Likewise, gays in the military who make sure they change the pronouns of their loved ones back home are worried out being found out lest they be forced from their chosen profession. And I can imagine that colleagues being lied to about who their comrades-in-arms are might find that problematic as well.

I heard Tim Kaine, chair of the Democratic National Committee, on one of the talk shows last weekend saying that the Obama administration will be addressing this issue in a positive manner after consulting with the military. I certainly hope this is the case, and soon.

There is a great cartoon here that brings it home on this Memorial Day weekend.



Rebecca Hickman said...

Very, very interesting.

Uthaclena said...

Many people dislike drawing analogies between the black civil rights experience and the gay initiatives to gain acceptance and equality. Although the scale is certainly different, many of the protections from harm, securing legal rights, and the ability to present yourself as who you are without having to change yourself for the social environment, are the same.

"Civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights…it’s all wrong. Call in the cavalry to disrupt this perception of freedom gone wild. God damn it…first one wants freedom, then the whole damn world wants freedom."
- Gil-Scott Heron