Thursday, October 15, 2009

Rethinking “Don’t Tell”: Gays in the Armed Forces

I got an interesting question from a friend yesterday that got me thinking:

Hey, one of my friends in my legislative politics class is writing a paper arguing about the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy, and is wondering about the view that homosexuals take on it. Any thoughts? Would you be offended or a supporter of separate living barracks for Out individuals if it were repealed?

My response:

A homosexual who has served in the armed forces would probably have a more interesting and thoughtful response, but I'll speak to what I understand or presume to understand.

"Don't ask, don't tell" was implemented largely on the basis of not making straight individuals uncomfortable without outright denying homosexuals the right to serve in the armed forces. The main problem with that position is that it suggests a relationship of inferiority/superiority.

That begs the question, what would be the consequences of being Out in the armed forces? The worst case scenario would be violence and/or discrimination which, ideally, should be ameliorated by the justice system of the armed forces. That said, Out individuals would be aware of the risks they take by being Out with their fellow soldiers/marines/etc. just as they would be with their family members or co-workers.

The main problems I see with the proposed solution of living in separate barracks are:

  1. It reminds me of the "separate but equal" pre-civil-rights doctrine. Who's to guarantee equal conditions/facilities/treatment in separation.
  2. Financially, it would likely be difficult to secure or construct homosexual-only barracks.
  3. Finally, it is not a solution to the larger problem.

I see it this way: separation suggests that Out individuals need some sort of protection. To me what is really necessary is a change in mindset. But how do you change a person's misconceptions? Through lectures? Through violence? No. The only solution is putting these people in a position from which they can see for themselves that the stereotypes don't hold up. (Especially for gays in the military. In my limited experience, I've found that gay the men I've known in the armed forces do not stick out it any way).

I concede that it's a difficult question, but I think that it will just take a few willing strong men and women being themselves—given the opportunity to be Out (and guaranteed protection)—to break down those stereotypes by fighting alongside men and women who don't necessarily agree with their lifestyle.

...Or... perhaps the best solution would be homosexual squadrons in the Greek tradition? Men fighting alongside their lovers fighting for each others' lives in the heat and passion of battle. Although I might contradict my "separate but equal" point, I suppose there would definitely be more incentive to succeed!


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