Gays in the military

Posted: January 11, 2007 in Celebrating Diversity, Military, Politics, War

Nothing short of the abortion debate guarantees polarization, red faces and throbbing forehead veins faster than discussing homosexuality.  Not sure why that is.  I’ve taken more heat from progressive crusaders and idealistic sympathizers to the homosexual viewpoint merely for daring to present an un-PC (read: homophobic) viewpoint, one which dares to raise questions or point out shortcomings.  I know, I know; glass houses and all that.  Who am I to dare to question another’s sexuality?  Well, in area’s where another person’s “sexuality” gets force-fed into my life, I guess I feel like I have, shall we say, moral authority to speak out.

There seems to be an unwritten rule out there that it’s either paint homosexuality in the best possible light, with an almost fawning adoration, or zip it.   However, issues such as not just accepting, but actively promoting the homosexual worldview in public schools, or the forced integration of gays into the military are not issues that can be addressed with blind idealism. There are very real issues dealing with OTHER people’s rights, not just those of the aforementioned minority group.  Suggesting that only the “pro” view is allowable is hardly conducive to a balanced discussion.

For example, the issue of allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military is not so cut-and-dried as many of its proponents would like to suggest.  It’s not simply a question of flicking a switch, signing a paper, and “TADA!”, gays are now equals with breeders as far as recruiting and retention goes.  

And you can’t just say, “A person’s sexuality is no one’s business but their own,” or, “Personal and Private lives should be kept separate.  What people do on their own time shouldn’t be compared to their professional life.”  In the military, the two are not so easily demarcated.  For example:  By allowing and affirming the”right” of homosexual men and women to serve in the US military, we are bound and obligated to treat them equally in all respects as any other service member, correct?  So, say some one from Massachusetts joins the military.  And oh, by the way, they are married under Massachusetts state law.  So now they bring a Dependent spouse into the mix.  Is the military also obligated to honor this marriage, and thus provide spousal benefits to the “partner,” the same as with hetrosexual couples?  We can’t very well say, “sure, you can serve, you just can’t bring your life partner/spouse along with you anywhere you go.”  So right off the bat it goes from a “personal” issue to a family issue, one with federal implications.

If the homosexual couple then decides to have an invitro birth, is the military obligated to pay for the obstetrics care and delivery?  The military doesn’t currently cover invitro fertilization, but allows for it in the case of infertility (at the servicemember’s expense).  Will refusing to cover homosexuals for the procedure be painted as discriminatory, due to their special circumstances?  While not technically “infertile,” they are still incapable of reproduction in the “traditional” fashion.   What if there is a surrogate mother who is not a service member? Does she rate coverage?  (Nope.)

Moreover, even among single men or women, how do we deal with this forced integration?  Many would draw parallels between the struggles blacks faced in attending white colleges, or crosstown busing to infuse cross-cultural “appreciation” in traditionally all-white schools.  I would suggest, however, that when we add sexuality to the mix (a topic about which Americans are traditionally deeply conflicted), we add a whole new level of complexity.  With the forced integration of women into the services, “separate but equal” is mandated.  Women’s showers, womens bathrooms, separate and distinct from men’s.  No co-ed rooms.   Women are not to be treated as any less equal, but special allowances are to be made for the gender differences.  However, with minorities, specifically blacks, separate but equal doesn’t fly. 

With homosexuals, now you’ve got a little of both.  A minority group, forced integration into the services to “catch up with the times,” and yet, there is the added ambiguity of sexuality or a “third gender.”  In berthing and billeting, do you group the openly homosexual servicemembers together, or do you simply infuse them randomly with other members of the same biological gender?  A Marine cannot request another room simply because he or she is forced to room with a personal of different ethnicity or religious beliefs.  Do we hold the same standard for sexual orientation?  Is it fair to force a hetrosexual who is deeply uncomfortable with the thought of living, bathing and undressing in the presense of someone of the same gender, but whom they know to be openly homosexual to “just deal with it?” 

And what of other gender-identity minorities who want to serve and yet honor their sexuality?  Does a transgendered man or woman get to serve, and chose which gender identity to adopt?  Would we ultimately see a move to get the military to pay for a sex change operations?  Or are these issues so remote as to really not have bearing on the discussion?

In all honesty, I don’t know any openly homosexual people, much less any military servicemembers.  I do know they are out there, and I may very well work day to day with someone who is.  Would I suddenly think any less of them if they were to reveal their sexuality?  I’d like to think not.  They WOULD have to be subject to the same rules and codes of conduct as anyone else.  No special dispensation.  Equal rights, not special rights, and all that.  Prohibitions against fraternization, sexual harassment, adultery, and every thing else would hold sway, without charges of “persecution” if someone gets caught in the showerwith his squadleader  and gets run up for it.  If it comes down to a question of “lifestyle” vs. the UCMJ, the UCMJ will win, every time. 

Have the military services benefited or suffered through the introduction of women, and ethnic minorities into their ranks?  Most would agree that ultimately we have benefited, both as a military, and as a country.

The question ultimately becomes, then, will authorizing openly homosexual people to serve benefit the military? Will it detract?  Or will it ultimately have little impact overall?  I don’t know.  There’s no way to tell up front.  But there are clear and specific issues which need to be addressed first, outside of the idealistic notions of “just because.”  Homosexuality is gaining more and more acceptance among the general population, but is the military ready to open it’s doors to homosexuals?  Can two guys slow dance at the enlisted club on Friday night without fear of getting a beatdown afterwards?  My hat would be off to the first ones who try it, because I suspect they will have to face discrimination and hostility every bit as fierce as that experience by blacks in the 40’s and 50’s.

I don’t have the answers, but I am suggesting that we still need to ask the questions.  And not brand people as homophobes who dare suggest that there are still a lot of issues to resolve before anything like this gets shifted over to the “Good Idea” column.

  1. Hi Steve.

    Well thought out and presented.
    I do think your a little too Gee, i dunno about a subject you’ve obviously spent a lot of time and effort to learn about.

    The black/gay coupling get’s a lot of coverage lately and I for one don’t get the comparison other than an attempt to gain victim status through comparison.

    Personally, I’ve chosen every sexual partner and encounter I’ve ever had. At no time were my actions slavish or compulsive. I made the choices and acted on them. We seem to concede the point that somehow, gays are unable to make choices but instead are compelled to act. That seems insulting.

    Thanks for your effort.

  2. Steve B says:

    Thanks for the comment. As for as being too, “Gee, I dunno,” I guess I’m trying to avoid laying down a thick coat of “Here’s how it oughta BE!”

    I’m not sure where I presented the slavish/compelled idea. My point was not so much about a gay roomate not being able to control himself and launching a sexual assault on his buddy. I’m certain that gay service members will be more than capable of choosing not to engage in sexual activity, as much as any hetro. However, in allowing/condoning their sexuality/lifestyle, there will inevitably be those who will make advances, potentially unwanted advances. My question is, will today’s military male handle such an approach with the same aplomb as a female would with a propositioning male? And will he have the same recourse and credibility if he files a complaint when the advances continue…or will he be labled an over-reacting homophobe?

    I’m as interested in the dynamics of the straight roomate, who, perhaps burdened with a strong eversion to things gay, will face a certain cognitive dissonance. Not to say this can’t or won’t be overcome fairly quickly with the establishment of some basic roomie “ground rules” (Not interested, don’t even ask), etc.

    I’m just saying the homo/hetro interaction is another level of complexity beyond some southern boy not wanting to share oxygen with a black guy, and that that needs to be acknowledged, not poo-poo’d out of hand as throwback handwringing.

  3. Kontan says:

    A person’s sexuality IS their business. However, like I continued before, it has NO place in the professional environment. In other words, DADT b/c it is no one’s business what your choice is, you have a job to do. I just do not recognize the parallels with racial equality that some want to throw out there. There are too many other factors in the midst.

  4. Steve B says:

    I agree. Of course, the counterpoint to that is for their to be equality, it’s an all or nothing proposition. We can’t open the doors for gays to serve, but then impose restrictions not present for hetros. Which inevitably removes the wall between personal and professional.

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