The weekend vote to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” was at once a serious affront to the slothful senatorial sauropods of societies past, and is, as Rachel Maddow put it “…the President’s victory.” This indeed is true, and given the landslide results (65-31) it seems that the certification process will also prove fruitful. In the interim, an anxiously awaited House vote on the matter looms on the horizon for Wednesday and soldiers, administrators, recruiters, and officers alike find themselves wondering what precisely will be the “great shift” in military society once final approval reaches President Obama’s desk. But that’s just it: the question in everyone’s mind should not necessarily be “what” the shift will be, but rather “if” there will truly be one. The answer, in all likelihood, will be no.
Currently, according to former USAF Sergeant David Hall, there are on the order of 66,000 soldiers in uniform who are not openly expressing their LGBT status. Where they are in the world remains a mystery, and likely would remain so after passing the repeal. Not so much to their immediate unit members, the leadership, or other military officials to whom they would then be able to communicate their orientation without fear of reprisals. But in the theater of battle, the communities where they operate, their enemies and anyone else involved in their daily activities, it would in all likelihood be entirely unapparent.
Lt. Dan Choi is an excellent example – having already received medals for valorous service, graduated from West Point, and currently awaiting a decision on his re-enlistment, he was discharged from the Army after admitting his preference in an interview with Rachel Maddow. Up until that moment, his loyalty, battle readiness, or leadership ability had never been in question. Nor should it be now. No, these men and women of honor would continue to serve with the same integrity with which they always have, in the same uniform, only more so now as they would not have to continue living a lie, in hiding, and under false pretenses. As one Marine sergeant writes: “Let’s focus on the mission.”
Focusing on the mission, and trending towards creating a more reasonable society will definitely entail a major difference of opinion about what, precisely, it means to be desirous of the same sex. Clearly, to an outsider, allowing yourself to become excited, your blood pressure to rise, and unmitigated streams of foul expressions to escape your lips at the sight of rows of tightly toned, and even more tightly wrapped bodies emblazoned with bold colors and fierce emblems, as they sweat and grapple with each other, frequently ending in gravity defyingly tall piles of intertwined bodies must be an indicator. Millions of hardcore, dedicated NFL fans, however, would beg to differ about their cherished pastime being thusly described. The simple fact of the matter is, it doesn’t matter. This is the home of the brave, and the land of the free – free to believe as one sees fit, free to love as one desires, and brave enough to die on the battlefield.
The final approval of this landmark legislation, however, is a much more wide reaching societal commentary. As long as sexual orientation is still something that a governmental organization such as the military forces its own membership to hide as a requirement of employment, it is a tacit acceptance of hateful behavior towards the same people, such as that which produced a near lethal attack in the Bronx recently. A tacit acceptance, undoubtedly, is unacceptable. As one friend put it: “…If homosexuality is a choice, then you had to have some options available when making that choice. When did you leave your homosexuality, bi-sexuality, or (insert sexuality) behind and CHOOSE to be heterosexual?”
A total paradigm shift in the elemental education surrounding what it means to have a non-heterosexual orientation is in order. Luckily, there exists “Put This on the (Map)” a Seattle-based group that first filmed a documentary about non-heterosexuality in the adolescent community, and then created a portable program on reteaching gender and sexuality, available to schools and faculty, and currently with a group on a national tour. A group of concerned citizens has also resurrected the Bronx Community Pride Center, similarly dedicated to education and outreach to borough residents in response to the events.
‘Tolerance,’ in this case, is no longer an option. ‘Acceptance,’ possibly, is also too soft a term. One’s sexual orientation, now, in the aftermath of the first decade of the new millennium, must necessarily pass into being a non-issue. The ones truly affecting unit cohesion are those at the legislative level, directing commanders to issue the order to discharge decorated, loyal, highly trained individuals after they have honorably served their country. That is inherently not a defensible position.