The Courage to DIE? The Right to TELL!

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It appears that the HOT topic in recent debate is on reversing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy written in the law for our U.S. military that keeps the GLB community “hush, hush” over their sexual orientation in order to serve their country.

For the “T” crowd (Transgender), it’s more about keeping your gender identity hidden, which embarks on a whole new playing field…and an even HOTTER debate.

It will take a majority of both houses of Congress to lift the ban that was written into law during the Clinton Administration.

Prior to Clinton’s botched effort in 1993 to force the military to accept gay personnel in its ranks, the ban on gays serving had simply been a presidential directive that could be unilaterally reversed by the White House.

In 1993, Gen. Colin L. Powell, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs at the time, opposed allowing gay men and lesbians to serve openly in the military; however, he did support a compromise, which was the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” bill passed by Congress.

For many years since, those who “came out” and admitted they were gay in the military (some pressured or “forced”) would be discharged and sent home. More than 13,000 discharges of gays and lesbians, including those of much-needed Arabic translators, have been recorded. This is not due to them not serving “honorably” or “effectively”, it is simply due to their sexual orientation being made known.

I witnessed this personally with the USAF back around 10 years ago. I was stationed at Lackland AF base in San Antonio, TX for basic training. I was appointed the leader of my flight and doing incredibly well … until I ran into two issues.

(1) During a routine locker inspection, my notebook was revealed and my training instructor read aloud things I had written (poetry and letters home) that made it blatantly clear that I was “gay”. On impulse, I snatched the notebook from his hands, which only infuriated him more. After that, he told me he didn’t want to see that again; yet, he didn’t “ask”. Later on, I went into his office and came clean. I asked myself, “Am I truly willing to risk my life for a country that expects me to hide who I am?” To my surprise, he actually tried to talk me out of it and told me to think it over before I would be discharged. He addressed that I was doing very well and would graduate basic training as an honor graduate. I tossed the idea back and forth for several moments in my heated mind; however, I finally agreed to think over … hiding my identity in order to serve my country.

(2) Less than a week later, I was discharged due to a medical conflict…mild asthma I never knew I had before. Call it fate, or call it “everything happens for a reason”.

I was transferred to another barrack where those discharged waited to go home. I was put on one end of the hallway with approximately 50-60 others. Those labeled with psychological issues were separated from us and had their own place across the hall. Most of those in the “psych dorm” had tried to or threatened to commit suicide.

I “patiently” waited for three weeks to go home and during that time befriended many others who were waiting. Many of whom were leaving due to being gay.

People might suspect they were going home because of “coming on” to someone, “flaunting” their sexuality or because the military was “too much” for them. None of those I met left for those reasons. Most had similar situations that I had, or worse. Some had situations were rumors flew and their “friends” turned against them, doing everything (including lying) to get them discharged.

I had a good friend who served in the U.S. Army Reserves. On the weekends she had training, I would see her remove her HRC “Equality” sticker from her car before she drove to the base. She had to be extra careful not to reveal any aspect of that part of her. When some brave soldiers and sailors would walk in the Gay Pride Parade, she would watch from the sidelines … too afraid to be seen and get in trouble. She also would never display any public affection (including holding hands) with her partner of 8 years. Hiding her identity in one part of her life, inhibited her in other areas of her life.

I have been aware of news over the years where a gay soldier or sailor had been murdered. I decided to do a little bit of research and uncovered many cases of soldiers and sailors brutally attacked and/or murdered for being gay. Who were they murdered by? Mostly, those serving with them…their “brothers” and/or “sisters”.

It is a fact that HATE CRIMES happen everywhere. Even in situations where you are supposed to be fighting together against the enemy; instead, brother turns against brother, sister turns against sister . . .  and makes one of his own the enemy.

“No matter how I look at this 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.” Those were the words of Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaking last week before a Senate panel.

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A letter to the editor of Daily Press read:

I feel President Barack Obama has opened up a can of worms (what’s new?) with his proposed policy on gays serving openly in the military. I served in the military for more than 20 years and of course knew of numerous gays who served with dignity but did not flaunt their sexual orientation.

What happens when gay military members are serving in a state where same-sex marriage is permitted? Will the military recognize that marriage and issue dependent ID cards, housing allowance, medical coverage, etc.? Will there be complaints of sexual discrimination when military discipline is justified? What’s next? Transgender individuals serving in the military? Maybe the military will provide the medical care for the operation?

I was proud to serve my country, but I’m glad I am not still in.

Fred Whitesell
Hampton

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Like I said earlier, allowing transgender individuals to be open in the military is an entirely new playing field. A more challenging one at that.

If President Obama can get this military ban reversed, it will be next step towards marriage equality. I have always felt that until our gay soldiers can serve openly in the military, we will not see 100% marriage equality.

I’m curious your viewpoints on the positive and negative effects of reversing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.

Time for you to SPOUT OUT!


Written by TQ Nation President: Tristan Skye


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