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Gays in the Military.....

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  • #16
    I hesitate to post to this thread and revive such an emotionally weighted topic, but it's still the top of the list as best I can tell, so I'm going to give it a whirl. As a bisexual servicemember with multiple deployments to Afghanistan, I feel I have something to say that might be productive. A lot of good points were already made, but, heregoes- warning, it's long.

    A story. I was visiting a friend of mine stationed in Texas when I ended up, by complete accident, at the Denver airport as the Democratic National Convention or whatever it's called was letting out. As I stood in line, I cheerfully informed a frustrated man that I was relieved that everything was going according to plan. He mentioned having a connection he needed to make and wanted to know how our waiting in line was going according to plan. I told him that waiting is what one does in a line, and thus, was according to plan- and that I would really be concerned if we were standing in line on fire, which would be not according to plan. We had a good laugh and then proceeded to make Airport Talk.

    "So, where are you headed?"
    "Texas," I told him.
    "Oh, yeah? Texas? Where at?"
    Not wanting to give away too much information, I said, "Killeen."
    "Oh! Fort Hood?"
    "Yeah, I'm visiting a buddy."
    "Oh, is he in the Army?"
    "Yes, he is, actually."
    "Oh, nice. Are you in the Army, too?"
    "I am."
    "Oh. Nevermind."
    Wait. What? "I'm sorry- nevermind what?"
    "Oh, I was going to talk to you about the convention. But I figure you're- well- in the Army."
    "...Well, what's that have to do with anything?"
    "Well- aren't you- you know- a Republican?"
    "Actually I'm a moderate with slight Democratic leanings, thanks to my mother."
    "Oh. Wow. Really? I always just thought that-"
    "That taking people from all 50 states and the various territories of the United States between the ages of, say, 17 and 42, and putting them through 9 weeks of a shared experience, and reassigning them randomly around the planet would somehow remove all of their childhood development and formative adolescent years?"
    "... Okay, when you put it that way, it is pretty narrow minded. Good point. Thank you."

    I've also been told by a lady majoring in Women's Mysteries for grad school in super-mystical-Ireland that she couldn't believe I was both pagan and military. She was under the impression that regarding all life is sacred somehow meant I shouldn't be able to function, due to the outcry of a dying soul. While I am lucky in that I have never had to be directly responsible for a death, there have been a great many close calls and I have had to do some things that definitely put obscene pressure on the human spirit, both mine and others'. That said, I regard my own life as sacred as anyone else's, and I believe that nature is a wonderful magical place of balance- in which lots of things get killed by other things. Life is sacred. Death is sacred. It's the mindfulness that makes us pagan. Nature goes on without us. Our job is to have a personal relationship with the divine, whatever our path. That's what I try to do.

    The military has a lot of homoerotic humor. I learned very quickly that to avoid being suspected of homosexual conduct, I had to act like a big ol' homo. A lot. It was very surreal. These guys were gayer than me, and I actually do the gay stuff. I learned to play The Pronoun Game, too. What's the pronoun game? "Well, this person I'm dating, they said this, and then they did that, and i can't believe we..." Notice the lack of gender-specific pronouns? If someone can tell you an entire fight with their significant other and not say he or she, they are typically needing to talk to you about it and can't bring themselves, for whatever reason, to tip their hand. So I learned to play it. And recognize it. It was great. One day, my heterosexual squad leader turned off our jammers (the things that help us not get blown up and killed?) so he could text message his girlfriend back on the post. I'm sorry, but most people are just dumb, and that means a lot of pagans, a lot of military folk, and a lot of gay people, and a lot of straight people, and a lot of bi people, and a lot of airport people, are just, well, dumb. What turns their crank, sexually, rarely has an actual impact on the fabric of society. Any society. There's a Muslim culture that believes in five distinct genders and tolerate homosexuality. This isn't "a new way of life." It's just another way of life.

    Here's the thing, though. The pronoun game is dangerous. Because inevitably, you make friends. In the military, your friends come and go. You may never see them again. You may see them again in three years and pick up right where you left off, except maybe your lives have changed. As a good straight, catholic, married-with-kids (who knows all about me) soldier once said: "It's weird. At home you won't even give people your phone number. Here, you tell some guy you've known three months your full social and give him your bank card and ask him to bring you back a hundred bucks from Finance. Trust is bizarre." You know what happens? You get close to people. They tell you about their wives. Their kids. Their problems. And then, because we are social creatures, they want to know all about ours. And suddenly, you realize something. You can't just passively lie. You can't say "Ronnie" instead of "Ron." You can't say "my girl back home." Because suddenly you aren't protecting yourself anymore. Suddenly, the DADT policy isn't protecting your right to serve. Instead, it's forcing you to intentionally craft an active deceit and fabrication with a friend of yours. A friend who may, at some point, have your life in their hands. A friend who isn't just a soldier- they're that girl with the guy back home, and she doesn't know if it'll work out, and she needs to feel close to someone who she trusts, and you can either choose to risk your career or risk your soul. I have always chosen, at that moment, to risk my career. Nobody has ever been offended enough to end my career; others have not been so blessed. DADT is bad because it undermines unit cohesion. There will be challenges ahead, and it will be frustrating. Yes, the whole shower and barracks situation will be freaking messy. But they're already with gay people in the showers anyway. As SNL once pointed out, homosexuals are not wanting for sex. We have the Internet, remember? Taking a bullet for 18 months just to see some dude's member in the shower is NOT a deal any of us actually think is a win. Yes, there will be problems. But I was always taught that military leadership is about making tough choices and handling the risks and consequences as bravely as one can, not hiding from difficult problems. Ultimately, I don't think the policy repeal will really change the work environment very much. Some people will have to become more tolerant. Other people will have to realize when to keep their mouth shut. The homosexuals in the military who have been serving clandestinely will continue to serve. The policy was a compromise that helped in some cases and hurt in others, and it's a good thing that it's going away. Some people will have to come to grips with diversity, but that happens in the military already. As a bisexual man, I think it's a big step in the right direction. It wasn't until just before the policy's repeal that a servicemember could talk about their homosexual conduct to a chaplain, physician, lawyer, or mental health. Did I mention I was date-raped by a former Marine while home on R&R? At the time, I could not seek help for that, because while there are codes against assault, I would have lost my career. So I went back to Afghanistan, alone except for a few friends with no training in such things, for 3 more months as we ran convoys. Military personnel in such situations deserve the right to talk to people about their personal lives when they need to- and the families left at home (like with my second tour, bless them) deserve someone in the dead of night to reassure them when they don't know if their partner is dead or not, other military families that have been through it before. To ask otherwise of servicemembers and their families is honestly asking them to suffer through situations that none of them should have to, and heterosexual and other minority servicemembers are not asked to go through. Nor should any of them be asked to go through that. They make enough sacrifices.

    Thank you for your time.
    Last edited by Hamelyn; August 16th, 2011, 02:36 PM.
    "Truth is outside of all patterns." -Bruce Lee


    • #17
      Ham, I applaud you. I really do. Your last (admittedly huge) paragraph puts up some very painful reminders of what it is like to have to hide that side of your life.

      Civilians don't understand just how much transparency is required in the military for things to function as they should from soldier to soldier. They don't realize that you can't just list some random person's name because you have to explain the relationship, or the military won't talk to them.

      Unfortunately, sometimes no matter how much you point out some people just won't care. THOSE are the people that cause us trouble. THOSE people would rather see us not exist than to even offer us some exemptions to notify loved ones upon our death.
      Now this is the Law of the Jungle - as old and as true as the Sky. And the Wolf that shall keep it may prosper, but the Wolf that shall break it must die. As the creeper that girdles the tree-trunk the Law runneth forward and back; For the strength of the Pack is the Wolf, and the strength of the Wolf is the Pack. ~ Rudyard Kipling


      • #18
        When I was in the Army we had several openly gay soldiers. No one cared. The only time it was used to kick someone who was homosexual is when said person was a dirtbag.