I’ve been a supporter for gay rights for awhile. This stance has mostly consisted of agreeing that allowing gays to get married is not going to shred the fabric of our society. I’ve known several gay people over the years, some of them friends and co-workers. The fact that might surprise some people is that they’re just like us. The even look like us. Shocking, right?
So when a friend of mine, who is a soldier, asked me what my stance was on the repeal of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, I had to admit…I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, it meant that they could serve without having to worry about being hurled out if they came out of the closet, or even if someone else found ‘evidence’ suggesting that they were gay. On the other hand, it’s a lot more complicated now.
The tolerance and acceptance of homosexuality has taken an amazing turn over the last twenty years. You couldn’t have mentioned something like this when I was a kid without invoking the specter of AIDS and hellfire being brought up as well. But despite that tolerance and despite my own views, at best, many people still aren’t comfortable with homosexuality.
That doesn’t make them bad people. I’m not talking about the people who stone gays to death or chain them to vehicles and drag them down the road. I mean normal, everyday people. And while men will talk about how hot lesbians are, not all men would be willing to live next door to one and have their children interact with them. For many people, being gay is something they can’t understand or relate to. It seems unnatural. It makes them uncomfortable. Some people can move beyond this as they meet gay people and realize they’re not monsters or alien creatures but others never can.
This same mind set is true for the military as well. The United States has a huge variety of people, from all walks of life, who join the different branches of the service. When it comes to gays, some will be tolerant and accepting, some will be uncomfortable, and some will be downright hostile. This leaves us with several problems.
First, where will gays sleep? Where will they shower? Men and women are given separate quarters on a military base for a reason. Now if you have gays and lesbians in the military, is it right to let them sleep in the same barracks as their gender? Of course if you segregate them into their own area (an expensive proposal in and of itself) it immediately throws open the doors for a discrimination case.
Second, whether or not you segregate, sex is prohibited in the barracks. A straight man or women can’t bring their girlfriend/boyfriend on base for a quiet sleep over. So if two gay soldiers, staying in the same room, find each other attractive, it can create a dangerous situation for rules violations. Because even if the rules say no sex, we all know the biological imperative will often take control, even or especially in a war zone.
Third, what happens to the rest of the military? As I said before, while a lot of people can be comfortable around gays, others can’t. My friend I mentioned earlier, who will remain nameless for his protection, has said several people he knows are talking to lawyers. They’re trying to find a way out of their service contracts, the one that requires them to do their job for a set amount of time. I don’t know if they’ll actually find a legal way to do it, but the fact that they’re looking at all doesn’t bode well.
There’s a list of other potential problems I could go through, but I think I’ve made my point. Despite what we may think about the unfairness of DADT, it’s possible that repealing it could make things worse.
I will say that I felt it was disingenuous of people like Lady Gaga and other celebrities to push for DADT’s repeal. As civilians, and civilians who live in ivory towers no less, they don’t have to deal with the consequences of congress’ decision. They’ll get to tweet about their ‘victory’ while everyone else is left to sort out the mess.
In the end, my friend and I came to the same conclusion. We’re just going to have to wait and see how the chips fall. It may be that we’re making a mountain out of a mole hill and that nothing dramatic will go down. It may also turn out to be much worse than we fear. All we can do is wait to see how the Department of Defense handles the repeal with their policies and procedures.
Whatever the case may be, I think we’ve definitely seen a turning point in our military and that nothing will ever be the same for the armed services.