Don't Ask, Don't Tell - An Idea Whose Time Has Passed

Tuesday, July 22, 2008
It seems that the House Armed Services Committee will be holding meetings tomorrow to review the efficacy of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law, in place since 1993.

I believe that the DADT law served a purpose. The military is an extremely conservative organization. Easing in the idea of gay and lesbian service members into the culture by using this compromise law allowed people to get used to the idea without feeling threatened. And the DADT culture was in place long before the policy took effect. But it's a policy whose time has passed.

I was on active duty from 1984 - 1995, and in the active reserves from 1995 - 2001. During that time, I served with many, many lesbian and gay shipmates. Some were fabulous sailors, some were not. Some were overt in their sexuality, some were not. But make no mistake - all of them were known to be gay by the general population, even if it was never mentioned. That was part of the don't ask culture. Most of the people I served with couldn't have cared less about who was sleeping with who - what mattered was your ability to execute the mission. Of course, there was a small, vociferous minority who did care. These people ranged from folks who were rabidly homophobic to those who had legitimate concerns about morale and morality.

My own view is that I don't give a rat's ass who you sleep with. One of the finest sailors I ever knew was a lesbian, and one of the best firefighters a gay man. Their sexuality did not affect their ability to execute the mission, and from my perspective, that's the only measure that counts.

I think there may be a generational issue, as well. It seems to me that by and large, younger adults simply don't care about this issue, or more accurately, consider it a non-issue. Older people still haven't cleared that cultural hurdle, and still consider the gay and lesbian community to be "other." There are obvious exceptions, of course, in both groups.

So the hearings will commence, and we can hopefully take another step forward in civil rights. Interestingly, the Department of Defense refuses to participate, saying they are upholding the current law, and that it's inappropriate to comment. Since it's an election year, and the issue appears to be split along party lines, I think that's prudent.

Interesting times.

15 comments:

Cindi in CO said...

I have never been able to wrap by brain around why people get so worked up over this particular issue. Really, who gives a rat's ass?!

Some straight folks I know seem to be operating under the assumption that gay people have absolutely no control over their baser urges. Like, if you give them an inch, before you know it, they'll be doing it on your front lawn or something.

Ignorance is a powerful force.

vince said...

Some straight folks I know seem to be operating under the assumption that gay people have absolutely no control over their baser urges.

Some gay people don't have good control. Some straight people don't, either. I always thought it had to do with the person, not their sexual orientation.

And I always thought "don't ask, don't tell" was stupid. How about "can't perform the mission, get the hell out." That makes more sense to me.

Ignorance is a powerful force.

Sad but way too true.

Janiece Murphy said...

Vince, you make me laugh. "Can't perform the mission, get the hell out" sounds like a fine criteria for continuing service.

The Mechanicky Gal said...

Hehe, Like, if you give them an inch, before you know it, they'll be doing it on your front lawn or something.

Well said! I really have no concern with who my straight friends are sleeping with or what they are doing (smote my eyes with a red-hot poker), nor do I expect anyone to inquire into my sex life. Why would someone need to do that? Aside from secret yearnings, I can think of no good reason.
So there.
And having served with Janiece, I wqas much more concerned with those that were where they were supposed to be, doing what they were supposed to be doing, than what shenanigans they were up to in the sack. (And believe me when I say that people who are on a cruise away from teh family can get into some shenanigans. Straight or not. I've seen it with my OWN EYES so shut up 'Phobes).

Really people. Get a grip.

Matt Warnock said...

To each his/her own. Who am I (or anyone else) to deny who someone is and their sexual orientation.

When my brother came out it wasn't a big surprise to me. I was surprised by how cool my parents were with it. I was equally surprised at how much my sister flipped out over it at first.

I've never been in the military, but I agree, as long as they can do the mission and they're not putting anyone in harm's way, what does it really matter?

Funny story: When I was still living at home and my wife and I were all but engaged, if she spent the night at the house, I would have to sleep on the couch in the basement. It was their rules so that was fine. The first time my brother had a boyfriend spending the night at the house (with my parent's knowledge) my mom came downstairs as the then gf and I were watching TV and said she didn't know what to do about my brother's boyfriend spending the night, if she should make them adhere to the same rules we had to. And I said, "You know, mom, it's not like they can make a baby." She was shocked, I think the gf was more shocked that I said it and I got a good laugh out of it.

Janiece Murphy said...

Ah, shenanigans.

Good times.

Tania said...

Some straight folks I know seem to be operating under the assumption that gay people have absolutely no control over their baser urges.

That's the one that just kills me. It's like when straight guys get hit on by gay men, and they are offended. C'mon, someone found you attractive. Roll with it, politely decline, move on.

At times like this I start thinking that the guys that get upset are the ones that don't listen when they are politely turned down. Then the stream of conciousness mental babbling starts up, so I'll stop. But, yeah, I think Janiece is right about the generational thing. Most people 20 years from now will wonder why people made such a big deal out of it.

Jeri said...

I think they're afraid that it's, like, contagious or something.

Good lord. They need to get over themselves and go get their jobs done - 'cause they're probably not all that attractive to singles of either gender.

Janiece Murphy said...

Jeri, your comment made me laugh out loud, and also gave me an idea for a future blog entry. I can't waste an idea in a comment thread, though, so you'll have to wait.

Hee!

Jim Wright said...

Can't perform the mission, get the hell out

Goddamn but I would have loved to see that policy put in place. I've got a list of idiots who would suddenly find themselves out of uniform.

As to the gist of the post: See, I often suspected, without any shred of proof, that many staunchly conservative folks - the ones who like to claim that homosexuality is a choice - have repressed homosexual tendencies themselves. Which leads to the assumption that it is indeed a choice, because they choose not to pursue their feelings and fantasies. And I suspect that they think everybody is that way - I also think that's why so many vehemently anti-gay types end up cruising airport restrooms :)

As to DADT, well, I posted my feelings about that two weeks ago - and they're pretty much a mirror image of Janiece's comments.

Cindi in CO said...

"As to the gist of the post: See, I often suspected, without any shred of proof, that many staunchly conservative folks - the ones who like to claim that homosexuality is a choice - have repressed homosexual tendencies themselves. Which leads to the assumption that it is indeed a choice, because they choose not to pursue their feelings and fantasies. And I suspect that they think everybody is that way - I also think that's why so many vehemently anti-gay types end up cruising airport restrooms :)

Jim, I couldn't agree more. In fact, I know someone like this. He would be appalled to know that I thought he was so deeply closeted, he's in the crawl space, but there you go.

A gay friend told me once, "The only choice gay people make is whether to be true to their feelings or not." Then he went on to say that he'd rather shoot himself in the head than live a straight life.

Jim Wright said...

Cindi,

he went on to say that he'd rather shoot himself in the head than live a straight life

Exactly, and why should he? Why be miserable. Why live a lie? What possible moral imperative is justified by demanding that others live a lie? Or be miserable? Demanding this of others is immoral, unethical, bigoted and self-serving. How can we call ourselves free people when we deny our own citizens the fundamental right to be who they are? It makes no sense to me.

Cindi in CO said...

Jim,

Damn skippy.

Janiece Murphy said...

I love you guys.

But in a completely straight and non-sexual way.

REALLY.

Hee!

Damn straight!

Random Michelle K said...

Damn straight!

It's not straight, it's gaily forward!