Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Don't Ask Me About DADT

(This is a departure from my usual Reflective Mama-type post. But I can't be a good mother without speaking out for what's right.Please know I'm not out to offend, but to defend those who aren't defended nearly enough.)

This could have been a great day.

But it wasn't. In Washington DC, Republicans blocked the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell. For those unfamiliar with DADT, this gist of it is simply this: if you are homosexual and want to risk your life in the Armed Forces, you don't have to jump through the "Are you or have you ever participated in homosexual activities?" hoop. This used to come right before or after the "Are you or have you ever been a Communist?" interview question. Well-intentioned, DADT was once seen as a way to keep gays and lesbians from being kicked out of the military. Now, nearly twenty years later, it seems to be a way of forcing homosexuals to stay in the closet.

Imagine, being willing to lay your life on the line for the oppressed, those whose human rights are being trampled-- possibly risking your life to support the soldiers and service persons around you, yet not being able to freely enjoy those same human rights. When your beloved comes to visit, you cannot express your affection freely. Unlike your fellow soldiers, you might not be able to talk openly about your partner and your relationship the way others around you do without a second thought. There is no financial allowance if you want to live off base with your partner, as there is for heterosexual married couples. Zero financial support for your partner if you go overseas and are unable to provide for them here in the US, and if your partner has parented children that you consider family, there's probably no structure to support them.

Because if you are in the military, you aren't "supposed" to be a homosexual. Of course, when I was in the Navy, there were plenty of homosexuals that were discreet and stayed in, no problem. But we were always told that if you decided to come out, you would be given a dishonorable discharge and as one captain told us "You won't even be able to get a job at McDonald's."

Don't Ask Don't Tell also puts homosexuals and bisexuals at risk for hazing and harm. What happens when you are being harassed for being homosexual, yet can't report it to your chain of command for fear that it will lead to your own discharge for revealing the cause of this abuse? This look-the-other-way policy drives real antisocial behaviors underground, because it will take an incredible amount of risk and courage on the part of the victim to make it stop.

I was in the Navy in the early 90s. I met a lot of great people there, but also was horrified at what was allowed to go on as leadership looked the other way. This was the era of Tailhook, mind you, a sensationalized incident which didn't exist in a vacuum. A woman on my ship was brutally raped by two other sailors and she got the psych eval and subsequent discharge. The men? They were transferred to other duty stations.

If this can happen to a heterosexual woman, living a life more or less sanctioned by the military, what is the harm and risk others face if they are being forced to live in the closet?

We have to get over the idea that we ourselves decide the moral rightness of another person's sex life.  A person's sense of what is moral is truly between their own selves and the deity of their choosing. No one has the right to impose their sense of moral standards regarding sexuality on anyone other than those in their own immediate family, or those who affect one's immediate family. This is what laws are for. Laws were not made to accommodate religion or politics; laws are enforced to keep order and civility among the natives, and shouldn't be misconstrued as the tools for any one person's agenda.

I personally find it deeply disturbing that there are Americans who would continue to deprive other fellow Americans, upstanding, tax-paying citizens, of equal rights which would protect their loved ones, spouses (in some states), partners, families and their mutual property. Those who are not impacted can never know how incredibly inhumanely homosexuals are treated in many places across the globe. It's easy to look at homosexuality from an ivory tower, to say it's a choice. Biology is not a choice, any more than some people's brains are wired to be left-handed or geniuses.

Humankind once feared left-handed people, smart people, too.

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