Ware Farms

Speaking truth to prejudice

Friday, March 31, 2006

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Gay Military Service

It's fair to say that gays have served in the military for thousands of years. Prior to WWII, being gay was considered to be a psychopathology. This was a hold over from late nineteenth century psychiatric conjectures. How exactly to classify this disorder was always a question; it didn't really fit into any of the major classifications.

The fear was that a person in the military with this condition, like other serious disorders, was likely to have a mental breakdown under the stress of combat, thus rendering him ineffective as a soldier, sailor, marine or airman.

Over seven million men served in WWII. Local draft boards across the nation made many of these selections. If they could, they would rather pick single men or, if married, those without children. With scarce resources, the single fellow who might act a bit queer seemed better than the guy with a family. As long as he didn't show up at the induction center wearing a dress, he was processed into the service like anyone else.

This bending of the rules was something few chose to notice. Who cared what the fellow might otherwise be like as long as he could get your leg to stop bleeding? After the war, people finally admitted that gays served, and in disproportionate numbers. Single men got called up first we recall. Some got to wondering, where were the military psychiatric wards full of gays with the mental breakdowns predicted? Well, there weren't any. Gays proudly served their country as well and as honorably as anyone.

Still, prejudice prevailed, then Korea happened. "You seem a bit odd, my boy, but you say you want to go to Pusan, Inchon or pork chop hill? Well, then, step right this way and sign these papers. We'll get you there right away." We recall Jamie Farr's portrayal of Klinger on M*A*S*H. Even wearing a dress didn't get him a section 8 discharge. No one is turned away when the job is important.

Prejudice again, then came Vietnam. I flew RF-4C reconnaissance missions into hostile territory from Udorn AB, Thailand. Sortie requirements came to us each day from MAC-V, Saigon. Were any of the crew members gay? Don't know. Don't care. If someone will fly at 2,000 feet down the shipping piers along Haiphong harbor at night with 12 million candle power flash cartridges lighting his path every 1.2 seconds, and wings straight and level so the cameras remain pointed at that 150 x 150 foot patch on the ground that is the target, and anti-aircraft fire lighting the sky as the red tracers arc ever closer, then let him go do it. Who would send a capable airman like this home leaving more slots to fill in for the rest of us? We'd be the "crazy" ones in that case not him.

Now we find the latest Pew poll shows those in favor of allowing gays to serve openly in the military lead those who are opposed by nearly a 2-1 margin. HR 1059, the Military Readiness Enhancement Act, which would replace "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" with a policy of nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, picked up a few more sponsors this past week bringing the total to 110.

Let's get our policy in line with the reality of gay service and support the passage of this legislation.

5 Comments:

At 3/31/2006 12:08 PM, Blogger Robert Bayn said...

I have a mixed opinion on this. Military service should not be about sex, if they are going to throw out gays for having sex, than they should also throw out Heterosexuals for having sex, i think it should be clear line, that says no sex while in the military, or on active duty.

The Don't Ask Don't tell policy, that was put into place under Clinton, was really a protection for gays for the most part, the thought was if you are not open about it, homophobe people won't seek out to hurt you. The failure has been, it's now become a penalty for gays, and what's really sad, is the Military is having a hard time recruiting, but is throwing people out for having a different sexual orientation.

 
At 3/31/2006 1:18 PM, Blogger Bill Ware said...

Robert,

Your points are well taken. The military has sets of rules about sex that are stricter than those in civilian life. These restrictions can be easily applied to gays as they are to straights.

 
At 4/03/2006 10:49 PM, Blogger DuWayne Brayton said...

I am not sure if it was just because it was sex with another soldier but a guy in my cousins unit was courtmarshelled and I believe drummed out of the Army for having sex with a female soldier while on active duty. Of course the fact that she was openly engaged to my cousin at the time might have influenced it. She was drummed out too.

 
At 8/14/2006 3:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I followed your link from Pam's House Blend.

I'm currently dating a man who is a psychologist in the military. He has been for the past 20 years and holds the rank of colonel.

While he's not out of the closet, he says everyone he works with knows he's gay. (I really can't imagine how they couldn't know.)

Robert's comment about no sex while in military isn't very realistic. My friend loves his career. He specializes in managing treatment programs for post-traumatic stress and is one of the top in his field. Our military needs him and requiring celebacy in return is asking far too much don't you think?

He doesn't date other people in the military. But, we've run into straight people he works with while we've been out on dates and THEY'RE obviously dating each other. That seems to be totally accepted.

If my friend were asked to resign his commission, he would probably continue to do the same work for the military as a civilian. Isn't that ridiculous?

 
At 8/15/2006 6:55 AM, Blogger Bill Ware said...

My experience is that the military generally ignores outside sexual activity unless it somehow comes home to effect the military mission in some way. If it creates internal conflict that makes it more difficult for persons in the organization to work together effectively, then the commander is rightly concerned.

Dating outside the military should not have this effect, so it should not concern the military in any way.

 

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