Wednesday, November 01, 2006

In the Navy!

Gays serving in the military has long been a topic of discussion and debate. The former Democrat President, harolded by many misinformed people as "Gay-Friendly," established the current "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" rule. With friends like him, who needs enemies?

The truth is, Gay people have long served in the military. Just like every single other establishment on the planet, we have already infiltrated all branches of the military and served with distinction. Reichen Lehmkuhl is only the latest example of a successful man in uniform who served our nation with the highest of honors while hiding his sexuality from the world.

After attending the United States Air Force Academy, Lehmkuhl spent 5 highly successful years serving our country proudly. At the end of that time, he was honorably discharged with the rank of Captain.

Then he came out.

Had he been outted in high school, in the Academy, or during his service, he would have become ineligible for the military. Clearly, Captain Lehmkuhl was a good match for the US military and served his country well in peacetime and in battle. In order to do so, he was forced to keep something about himself hidden to the world, although he and his family had long known his sexual orientation.

It was once explained to me that it isn't that Gays are unfit for military service but because straight members of the military wouldn't accept them. As I remember from my history books, Black people segregated for the same reasons (read: Buffalo Soldiers). It was feared not that Blacks couldn't fight as well as Whites but that Blacks and Whites would fight amongst themselves. The rules were changed and Blacks serve right along side Whites in the US military without much incident.

But, you might ask, "Gays want to have sex with men and would make the straight men nervous or would be distracted by the other men?" Again, I remember a similar argument being made about women serving in the armed services. Women now serve in the military alongside their male counterparts. In fact, the only differences in their service are that they are ineligible to be drafted under current law and are unable to perform certain tasks because of their physical differences from men.

We may also look at other male dominated institutions to gain a better perspective of how the introduction of Gay people might affect the military. Social organizations such as men's clubs and college fraternities have both been integrated by Gay men. Notably, they have not been similarly integrated by women. College fraternities, in particular, have always been known as especially aggressive and heterocentric. Even with the addition of openly Gay men, they continue to be just as aggressive if slightly less heterocentric and certainly less homophobic. It should be noted that in most college fraternities, brothers, whether Gay or straight, cohabitate in a shared living environment including shared bedrooms, bathrooms, and showers. Athletic teams have similarly been integrated by those who are openly Gay. The result hasn't been earth shattering. While there is anecdotal evidence of physical violence or social rejection against Gays in these establishments, the results have been a far cry from the effects feared by those wishing to keep Gays out of the military.

Going back to Reichen Lehmkuhl, he has a new book that hit shelves earlier this week called "Here's What We'll Say." I haven't had the opportunity to pick up a copy yet, but I am very interested to see what Lehmkuhl wrote about his years in the military.

Given that the United States is currently in the middle of a war and has struggled to recruit enough qualified volunteers to serve, it makes sense to broaden military eligibility requirements to be inclusive of Gays. Already, the military has loosened its requirements regarding the age of an enlistee. While I don't think that allowing openly Gay people into the military is suddenly going to create a bevy of new recruits for the US military, it would be a fair thing to do.

On that note, I will leave you with a final thought. There is an old joke that essentially asks if "Homosexuality is a disease, then can I call in Gay to work?" Similarly, if there is a draft, can I respond and say, "Nope. I can't be drafted today. Still Gay."

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