Sea Change

Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Today the U.S. Armed Forces will formally acknowledge the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law that prohibited gay and lesbian men and women from openly serving in the military.

In the seventeen years that I served in the Armed Forces, my shipmates were straight and gay. With few exceptions, everyone "knew" who the gay service members were. We shared berthing compartments with them, we shared meals, we shared showers. Believe me - we knew. And with the exception of a small, self-righteous minority, no one gave a good goddamn. The gender of your sexual partner wasn't really the issue, but whether or not you were a good Radioman, a good Signalman, a good Hospital Corpsman, a good Damage Controlman, a good Photographer's Mate, a good sailor. It makes me proud that the organization where I spent so many years is finally catching up with its members and acknowledging that sexual orientation simply doesn't matter in this context.

And yet, I worry about that small, self-righteous minority.

Evangelical Christians have made significant progress in infiltrating the military in an attempt to push their religious agenda and marginalize other faith traditions. And one of the tenants of this initiative is a belief that homosexuality is "wrong," "unnatural," and "sinful." There is no doubt in my mind that these self-styled "prayer warriors" will do whatever they can to marginalize those gay service members who choose to come out under the protections of this repeal. And they'll feel good about it. I can only hope the leadership of the Armed Forces will force the cultural change that will be necessary for gay and lesbian service members to serve openly and in safety.

Sea change is never, never easy. One of my children is a member of the United States Navy. The other is a lesbian. They will both be affected by this change, for good or for ill, and I can only hope that the example of Admiral Mike Mullen will inspire and inform people of good conscience:
Mr. Chairman, speaking for myself and myself only, it is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do. No matter how I look at the issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me, personally, it comes down to integrity -- theirs as individuals and ours as an institution. I also believe that the great young men and women of our military can and would accommodate such a change. I never underestimate their ability to adapt.
Move forward with grace and courage, shipmates. Non sibi sed patriae.

14 comments:

Warner said...

About time.

Tom said...

So now it's official. I wonder how long it will take to become customary throughout. You intimated that it is mostly customary already, but there are those...

mom in northern said...

Check the history of the integration of the Military under Pres. Truman…
They were years ahead of the civilian population. The process was bumping to be sure
But they got’er done.

Anne C. said...

I <3 Admiral Mullen. He was on The Daily Show the other day. He is, I believe retiring (big sad face from me here), but I hope his replacement is as pragmatic and thoughtful as he is.

I love the variety of people Jon has on the show.

Matt said...

Janiece, I too share your worry about our evangelical christian brothers in arms, and not just the ones that wear the cross on one of their collar points. Regulations at least prohibit them from practicing religious discrimination (even though there are plenty that ignore them, feeling that their faith calling is a higher one). The ones that worry me more are the unit commanders, Department heads, Division officers and Senior enlisted that feel it's ok to pressure their troops with a religious agenda.

Janiece said...

Matt, that worries me, too. While I strongly believe religious services should be available to service members, NO ONE should have to pass some sort of arbitrary religious litmus test in order to be considered a good sailor.

The Mechanicky Gal said...

My FB post:
One of my favorite days - guys at work who are talking about repeal of DADT - and they have never been in the military. Never.
Near as I can tell they spent a majority of their LIVES strung out and barely being able to function, and they are going to criticize someone who will give a substantial chunk of their lives to protecting and defending? I work with some real shitbags.

Janiece said...

Yes, MG, you do indeed. Maybe they should hang out with our old friend Elaine Donnelly, who's wildly opposed to the repeal but who has also never served.

STFU, BIGOTS. YOU LOST.

Nathan said...

Not to be a glass-is-half-empty kinda guy, but it was pointed out on ABC News last night that in spite of repealing DADT, the military won't be extending spousal benefits (health insurance, access to married quarters, etc.) to same sex partners who are legally married or have state recognized civil unions.

Two steps forward, one step back.

:(

filelalaine said...

When I'm elected the ruler of the universe (which will happen some day, as billions will suddenly realize I am so much smarter and cuter than the current leaders) I will give each member of the armed forces (who put their lives on the line to protect and serve others, all others, without any moral judgement with regards to their worthiness):
- lifetime free tuition
- lifetime free mortgage
- lifetime free Merry Maids housecleaning services
- lifetime free supply of Ben and Jerry's
- lifetime free health insurance
- lifetime free movie tickets
- lifetime free breakfasts at Denny's
- lifetime special parking at events, any event
- AND lifetime free legal representation to sue the pants off anyone who tramples on ANY part of their civil rights.
Who's with me?

Matt said...

Filelalaine, are you willing to make that retroactive? Where do I vote for you? Will it be secret ballot or can we just vote by acclaimation?

Janiece said...

She may have to arm wrestle Jim for that whole "Ultimate Emperor of the Universe" title. Just sayin'.

filelalaine said...

I don't want to be the emperor, just the ruler, as in the thing that you measure things with (no that's not true). I look forward to meeting this Jim fella, who I'm sure is quite lovely, but will still need to persuade me that he is cuter than me.

Matt: when that time comes, I'm sure we will all be voting telepathically.

Janiece said...

filelalaine, I can almost guarantee that you're cuter - it's Jim Wright, of Stonekettle Station. He's been our Future Emperor of the Universe for some time.