Monday, October 12, 2009

The Closet & Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

A number of years ago, I was participating in a debate/discussion board where a number of extremely conservative people dominated a number of threads. One, in particular, was apoplectic about "homos" being "out."

He said, affirmatively, that if he was a homosexual, he would hide it from the world, and that it would be no problem whatsoever to make that happen.

My argument to him was that, in this day and age, it is utterly impossible to live in the closet. If you're the new person at the office, for instance -- and, yes, I have worked in a few offices -- people start talking about you the moment your books hit the desk. "Who's in the picture frames?" "Is he wearing a wedding ring?" "Does she seem a little butch?" "Is he dressed a little too well?"

And they won't stop until they find out.

That's just life. It's just human nature. I don't think people generally do it out of spite, as much as information for the dating pool. After all, if you're single, and someone is attractive to you, you want to know if they are taken, and whether you'd have a chance with them. Sexuality is part of that equation. The soldier, Joseph Rocha in this Washington Post op-ed knew he was gay, but he was a person of duty :

However, I chose to put service above my personal life. My understanding of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy was that if I kept quiet about my sexuality and didn't break any rules, I would face no punishment. I was wrong.

Once I joined the Navy, I was tormented by my chief and fellow sailors, physically and emotionally, for being gay. The irony of "don't ask, don't tell" is that it protects bigots and punishes gays who comply...

...Within days of arriving at my duty station in Bahrain, I decided that I wanted to earn a place among the elite handlers working with dogs trained to detect explosives. After passing exams and completing training, I went from serving among hundreds of military police to serving in a specialized unit of two dozen handlers and 32 dogs. I was responsible for training and working with two dogs throughout the region. Our goal was to keep explosives and insurgents out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

But, when you're gay and in the military, and you have to keep it a secret because the rules require you to keep it a secret. But how do you keep it a secret in a locker room where the only conversation during down time is sex and parties with hookers?
My higher-ups seemed to think that gave them the right to bind me to chairs, ridicule me, hose me down and lock me in a feces-filled dog kennel.

I told no one about what I was living through. I feared that reporting the abuse would lead to an investigation into my sexuality. My leaders and fellow sailors were punishing me for keeping my sexuality to myself, punishing me because I wouldn't "tell."
When a new soldier joined the troop, she witnessed the constant abuse being heaped upon this soldier, so she reported it, an investigation started and, finally, with the abuse still happening.

After receiving a letter of caution, the military's version of a slap on the wrist, my chief was eventually promoted in rank and position.

In the course of that investigation, the Navy decided to charge my best friend, Petty Officer 1st Class Jennifer Valdivia, a 27-year-old Sailor of the Year and second in command of my unit, for failing to put an end to my chief's tyranny. The idea that she could have stopped the abuse is, to me, unfair and unreasonable. The Navy itself failed to stop him.

Val, as I called her, was set to return home when she was told of the charges and that she wouldn't be leaving Bahrain as planned. She was afraid that she would never see the United States again. My mentor ended up taking her life.

This is "don't ask, don't tell." This is the policy now undermining our military.

But it also points to the more obvious fact that it's impossible to live in the closet and not drive yourself or someone (or everyone) else to the point of insanity. To live a dishonest life, intentionally. Covering your every move, your every thought. Insane.

Obama, this weekend, promised (again) to end the military ban. It's time.
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For my birthday, also St. Francis of Assisi Day,

here is "Rescue" the song I sang to Erika Amato 's Buddy the dog. Imagine if we loved humans as much as we love our animals...