Tuesday, March 30, 2010

On don't ask don't tell

I have no strong opinion on homosexuality. In the immortal words of Seinfeld - not that there's anything wrong with that. It's perfectly fine if that's what you're into.  I'm all for legal unions that provide the rights of people of any gender combination to create a family of two or more - though I won't debate with anyone on whether that should be called marriage or not.  Semantics, people!  I'm also not much of a political thinker, so you won't often hear me pontificating on social issues.  However, I was taken aback when I heard a story on NPR about enforcement changes being implemented by the military to the "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Under the policy, commanders are prohibited from questioning members of the armed services about their sexual orientation.  However, a basis for discharge exists if "the member has said that he or she is a homosexual or bisexual, or made some other statement that indicates a propensity or intent to engage in homosexual acts."  There are guidelines governing investigation into such matters, but according to information at Solomon Response.Org the Services continually violate the basic rules designed to make investigation and enforcement of this policy humane.

The new guidelines raise the level of officer authorized to conduct investigations into allegations about a service member's sexual orientation and tightens the rules about what constitutes "credible information" and "reliable persons" on whose say-so those investigations can undertaken. But here's what really got to me: in a move of supreme humanity by the military, the investigation can no longer use confidential information from conversations between a service member and their lawyer, therapist, priest, pastor or doctor against them.  Wow.  So before this new guideline, that was perfectly acceptable?!  I find this horrifying.

Although I've never had any real opinion on it before, I started to consider the don't ask, don't tell policy in general.  I've come to the conclusion that this policy is basically state-sanctioned acceptance of sexual bigotry.  I mean, can you name one good reason why gays and lesbians who want to serve their country should have to suppress information about their sexual orientation?  Distraction due to sexual tension introduced between service members if the knowledge is public?  Um, holds no water - we've had women serving for years.  If a person, gay or straight, behaves sexually inappropriately, it should be dealt with - but that seems a weak excuse against prohibition of any openly gay person serving in the forces in the first place.  

What I've realized is that this policy essentially protects the delicate sensibilities of homophobes serving in the armed forces.  Heaven forbid that we confront them with the knowledge that some of their battalion members - people they may like and trust - are (gasp!) homosexual.  Heaven forbid that aligning that knowledge with their experience serving with a gay service member could potentially open their eyes and divest them of their prejudices.

It's not like we can afford to be choosy here.  Not many people are beating down the government's door to sign up for a tour of duty.  To ask some of the brave men and women who do volunteer to deny who they are just seems unfair. It's time to abolish this antiquated policy.

[Quietly stepping off my soapbox now...]


  1. Whew! I'm with you, sister. I kind of subscribe to the philosophy of another favorite comedian...Chris Rock...who says that he has no problem with gay marriage. They should have the right to be just as miserable as everybody else. ;)

  2. Agree with you 100% Keenie! -Pips

  3. I pretty much wouldn't think of asking. Gay guys always flirt with me and I just take it as a compliment of sorts. My own view is that everyone is normal, it's just that when the numbers are counted it all of a sudden becomes un-normal. It's a bunch of BS if you ask me.
    I do love to delve into just how it "cheapen's" a straight marriage though when someone actually recites this phrase. Ummity ummm umm is usually what you get.

  4. I don't care what a person's sexual orientation is and I very much prefer that they keep that to themselves when in a work environment. It's none of my business. What I do dislike is that so often upon meeting a gay guy or lesbian that the person feels compelled to introduce the subject within the first meeting. Uh, why do I need to know or do I even care? NO! So get over the fact.

    Next, I just got out of the U.S.Navy Active Duty. I served with many females who were fairly openly gay. They however never discussed it so it didn't matter. The real problem is when you deploy. On a ship you have to shower in open showers and sleep immediately next to one another. It was very uncomfortable to have suspicions that the woman next to me might be homosexual. It felt like I was showering next to a man. Not something that made me happy at all. Everyone can say that it's an easy thing to change and that color bias or gender bias eventually was overcome but this is far more challenging. Ships can only accomodate separating people so much.

    So I ask everyone who thinks this all such an easy thing to fix, would you volunteer to daily shower and sleep in such an environment.

  5. Dear Anonymous,

    Thanks very much for your respectful comment. I don't mind hearing from someone with a different opinion - particularly since you obviously have a basis for that opinion and a perspective I don't share, having never been deployed on a ship. You make a good point.

    Thanks for reading.