I just finished reading some of the stories posted on the Service Members Legal Defense Network- www.sldn.org/content/military-stories Like many across the country I was greatly saddened last week by the senseless killings and injuries at Ft. Hood. I must admit that my first thought upon hearing of this tragic event, which ran parallel to the chill in my bloodstream and the anguish in my heart, was that this is even more reason to kick the schoolyard bully in the gut and allow gay people to serve openly in the military. After reading more of the heroic and poignant tales of gays and lesbians who have served our country and were discharged simply because they are gay or retired for fear of the former- my emotions are going to spill onto pen and paper.
I say schoolyard bully because what I have observed from the past administrations and now even the current one is that same peevish attitude that sways toward standing behind the bully with the loudest voice. Ignoring majority facts and reasoning that clearly show gays and lesbians make excellent soldiers and that the only issues to them serving affectively are generated by the same ignorant rantings of misogynist hostility that berates women and stereotypes anyone who isn’t a blue eyed heterosexual male. It is this archaic energy that breeds people who are dangerous. Homosexuals have had to live under an umbrella of intolerance, fear and denial of self for longer than any other group in recorded history. And yet, even with a church that denounces our existence and rallies against us at every turn-we pray, we worship, we maintain faith in a loving God. We volunteer- in greater numbers than any other group, we work, we are artists, we are teachers and doctors and we pay taxes like everyone else- Governors and heads of state appoint us “human rights” and then voters abolish them. All this and yet you never see headlines of a gay person shooting a doctor, his neighbors, his co-workers, or his fellow soldiers.
My father was a Captain in World War II, and his best friend was a gay man who went on to work for Life Magazine for fifty years. Although divorced when I was five, I was blessed that both my parents were very supportive of me as a lesbian. My mother encouraged me to join the military and by the time I got around to enlisting, at age twenty-four, I had already torn my knees up in sports. Even with a letter from my congressmen I was denied entry. And so, for the next twenty-three years I met hundreds of soldiers, many gay, many straight- all with a common bond- a call to duty. For my many gay friends in the military, all share stories of friends and leaders who accepted them and were honored to serve with them. I know my story is not unique and that is what is most troubling about the Don’t Ask-Don’t Tell policy is the continued “blind eye” that is turned by administrators, including and especially the President who ignore the overwhelming proof that the United States Military would be a better, safer and more productive entity if gay people were allowed to be an open part of it.
So I would like to take this opportunity to ask everyone with a heart, with courage, with acquired wisdom- to put your pen to use and suppress that bully in the school yard who is only still there because his voice is most loud and others are afraid to speak up. When people can walk into an army base with anger and fear and shoot our soldiers- we cannot afford to be quiet anymore. Let the soldiers who love this country serve. Regardless of your gender, your color or who you choose to love- if a person has the courage to be a soldier- then by God- we need to let them.