Friday, January 4, 2008

Repeal and Replace: A Guest Blog About Gays in the Military

Many of the women I know who are or were in the military are gay. In fact, I sort of wonder how the military thinks it would have substantial numbers of women serving if lesbians truly did not serve their country. Anyway, I even know some gay men and transgender persons who have served. I thought about serving, myself, many times. But in the end, I could not justify risking my life for a country that (a) denies me equal rights and (b) said I was not even legally allowed to risk my life for my country because of who I love.

In fact, I often wonder what motivates LGBT people to serve in the military at all. Answering that isn't hard, however. Like many Americans who join, gay people are attracted to the educational benefits, the opportunity to travel, and the possibility to make something of one's life having grown up with limited options.

What follows is a guest blog by a woman pretty active in the movement to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" who wishes to remain anonymous. She served the military and was discharged after being outed as a lesbian. Her story and reasons for advocating against the ban are compelling. Even though she was discharged, she has fond memories of her service. And, she sees the push for repealing the ban as an important step in paving the way for gay people to gain further rights.

This is her story:

"Fannie was nice enough to ask me to write a guest blog about the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” law. (Note: Law not policy, 10 U.S.C. 654) After being outed and losing my retirement, the question most gay people ask me is why I wanted to serve with such an unfair law in place. People pick the military for many reasons. I chose the military because my parents couldn’t afford college and I had always wanted to travel. The military was a perfect fit to achieve all of these goals. My reasons for staying are very different from why I joined. I truly loved teaching young service members and contributing to a larger cause than myself.

Several of you have made reference to the military’s ban on your blogs. There is an interesting conflict that occurs when the gay community discusses military service. We are patriotic and want to be a part of our larger American community. This includes serving when we are needed and contributing to our families’ safety and security. However, gay people don’t want to be treated like second class citizen while they are serving the greater good nor do they want to see their loved ones that are willing to sacrifice for everyone hide inherent characteristics (this includes being gay). To me, both are valid, logical perspectives and I have struggled with both sides.

Throughout history there have been necessary military recruiting spikes. These spikes can be seen during every major war. The military has never expanded service to minority groups unless there was a critical personnel shortage. Three diverse groups of people, along with a historical timeline; 1) African Americans; 2) women; and 3) lesbians, gays and bisexuals. Shortly after all of these groups were acknowledged within the military, they achieved additional rights within the larger society.

There is an amazing opportunity for the gay community to kill two birds with one stone while there is a troop shortage. First, we can contribute to our larger American community by showing our continued dedication to the principles embodied in democracy by letting those who want to serve do so. Second, the gay community will move one step closer to equality in a manner that has proven effective for other disenfranchised groups. So here is a list of things you can do if you would like to see the law repealed and replaced:

1. Write your representative and ask them to support H.R. 1246.

2. Ask YOUR senator to be the leader on this issue.

3. Work with your state and local government to pass resolutions supporting repeal.

Finally, if you know a service member that needs assistance, tell them to remain silent and contact (It’s free and confidential.)"

Thank you, "Anonymous." And shoutout to all of our LGBT current, former, and future servicemembers!

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