America: April 24, 2007, Vol. II, No. 9

© 2006, 2007  Gay Military Signal

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Homosexuals in the War: Should Gays
Be Willing to Serve in a Military that Discriminates Against Them?

by RADM Al Steinman, USCG/USPHS (Ret)

The fight to repeal Donít Ask, Donít Tell (DADT), the law that prohibits gay, lesbian and bisexual service members from serving honestly (openly), is primarily (officially, anyway) about combat readiness and issues of privacy (although if one takes to heart the recent comments by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, gays in the military is an issue of morality, as well Ė but thatís a discussion for another day). I like to think weíre winning this fight, as recent data show that not only do an increasing number of straight troops personally know gays and lesbians who are serving alongside them, but that a vast majority of the troops (73%) are "comfortable Ö in the presence of gays and lesbians." So much for worries about unit morale, unit cohesion, combat readiness and loss of privacy.

However, as the public is apparently becoming increasingly disenchanted with the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a new issue about gays in the military has arisen: should homosexuals serve in a military that openly discriminates against them? A number of editorials in gay publications have argued against gays volunteering for service, specifically because of DADT. And there have been gay veterans themselves who have made this argument. I, however, am decidedly NOT among them. Hereís why: if we demand equal rights as gay citizens in our society, then we must also be willing to bear equal responsibilities. And one of the most basic of these responsibilities is helping to defend our nation.

Whatever is oneís opinion about the justification for and prosecution of our current wars, it is not germane to the fight to repeal DADT. The former is an issue of politics and foreign affairs; the latter is an issue about whether patriotic citizens who happen to be homosexual can serve their country in the same manner as their heterosexual counterparts.

I certainly appreciate that there are members of the gay community who do not want to be part of a "war machine," particularly a war they consider to be ill-advised. And there are members of the straight majority who feel the same way. With an all-volunteer military, nobody has to serve who feels the wars are unjustified. But that is a far cry from advocating that GLBT should never serve in the military so long as DADT is the law of the land.

Our opponents in society who object to the mere mention of anything gay, let alone larger issues of marriage, discrimination, equality and military service would absolutely relish the idea that gays feel they donít need to serve in the military. I can think of nothing more likely to generate hugely negative sentiment against us in Congress, in the Pentagon, and indeed among the public at large than the gay community advocating the "special right" to avoid military service and the responsibility to help defend the nation. 

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Conference Report:
COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY
Mailman School of Public Health
Queer Health Task Force
The Camouflage Closet
:
Health and Policy Issues For Queers in Uniform

DADT affects the healthcare of
gay service members and veterans

New York, NY; by Denny Meyer
On April 13th 2007, the first university conference on Health and Policy issues for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender American military service members and veterans affected by the Don't Ask Don't Tell law (DADT) was presented by the Queer Health Task Force at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.  The conference explored the interface between treatment and policy relating to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), as well as other unintended health treatment consequences of the DADT law affecting gay service members and veterans.  Speakers included a psychologist and a psychiatric nurse working with gay veterans, a veteran nurse and former officer, a minority gay veteran, and a gay veteran public policy advocate.  Some of the conclusions revealed during the conference were:

Don't Ask Don't Tell prevents partner
visits to wounded gay soldiers

Having to hide sexual orientation in service
to nation can result in long-term PTSD

The discriminatory DADT policy induces a
sense of shame and leads to low self-esteem

Treating social stigma and isolation caused
by DADT policy is a Public Health Issue

For minorities, the discrimination against
gays serving their country is all too familiar.

John Pulhamus, a nurse and former naval officer, who was discharged due to homosexuality, began with an overview of events and advances that affected the health and integration of servicemembers in recent history.  Until the most recent conflicts, there was a very high death rate among wounded combatants in the Spanish-American War and World Wars I and II.  Starting with Vietnam and in the current wars there have been a high rate of wounded survivors who must deal with mental health issues such as PTSD and the disclosure issues resulting from the need for partner participation in healing.

He noted, also, that it was General Pershing who conceived of the idea of 'open bay living' for enlisted personnel so that there was very little possibility for servicemembers to have any sort of privacy or choice in the matter of whom they shared personal activity and space with.  (In the matter of prosecuting 'undesirable' behavior, it was not until WWII that the UCMJ article 125 criminalized sodomy for those in uniform, he noted).

 

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