Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Few Thoughts on DADT

I started this blog weeks ago, shortly after President Obama (finally) announced the repeal of the 17-year ban on gay and lesbian service members serving openly in the military. This antiquated Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policy basically would “allow” homosexuals to serve in the military, as long as they didn’t disclose their sexuality. It "allowed" someone to defend our country, as long as they hid who they truly were. Thankfully, it has finally been repealed. I know that this is a touchy subject, and one that will likely cause some to disagree with me. But, I’ve never been one to say only popular things. And this simply needs to be said.

It may seem obvious, but think about what would happen if we were to require women to pretend to be men in order to serve (as we have in the past), or African Americans to paint their faces white in order to serve, or people to hide their religious beliefs in order to serve (as some feel they must). People would be outraged. Yes, racism, sexism, and discrimination are still alive and well, and are certainly present in the military. But, for the most part, we respond to it, we hold people accountable for it, and many fight against it. Homophobia, unfortunately, is one remaining form of bigotry that is largely tolerated. And it’s long past time for it to stop.

Regardless of your view on homosexuality (and I can assure you I will address these views in a later blog), there are many important reasons to support the repeal of DADT. Most of all, gay and lesbian soldiers have been serving in our armed forces, and fighting for our country, forever. They train, sacrifice, and deploy for months on end, just as heterosexual soldiers do. They suffer injuries, depression, post traumatic stress disorder, and many lose their lives, fighting for each of us. And they leave behind partners who love them as much as I love my husband, as much as many of you reading this love your soldier. So why should they deserve any less respect than any other soldier, any other hero?

For those of you who are military spouses, think about what got your husband or wife through those long months of a deployment. For my husband, he of course looked forward to phone calls home and Skype dates. (And he especially looked forward to receiving boxes of cookies). But, what kept him going day after day were the pictures of me and the kids that he had taped to the wall around his cot. Every morning, he would look at the pictures of our family—happy and together—and remember that he had someone to fight for, someone to come home to. It was important for him to be able to see us any time he wanted, even if the Internet and phone lines were down. The kids loved seeing their pictures in the background when they talked to Daddy on the webcam. And yes, so did I.

Now, imagine being at war and not being able to put up pictures of your partner. Imagine fighting all day, risking your life, seeing friends and comrades injured and killed, and then having to hide who you truly are. Imagine having to sneak phone calls and keep pictures hidden. Imagine knowing that the country you are fighting for doesn't respect who you are. Just imagine.

And think about the partners who are at home—waiting, worried, counting down the days, afraid they may never see their love again, just like the rest of us. Don’t they deserve to send pictures—pictures that will be taped to temporary walls and looked at with love and admiration? Don’t they deserve to see their picture in the background during webcam chats? Don’t they deserve to know that their loved one, too, has pictures of home to keep him or her safe and focused? Don't they deserve to freely run into their love's arms when he or she returns home? Of course they do. We all do.

To anyone who is reading this who is not serving: Well, to be frank, you have no right to judge someone who is. And to anyone who is reading this who is serving, and who thinks you can’t comfortably serve next to a gay or lesbian soldier: As a commander once said to his troop, “Now might be a good time to get over it.”

I’m sorry to be harsh, but the fact is that no form of intolerance or hatred has ever ended comfortably. People were uncomfortable when women received the right to vote. People were outraged when schools integrated. But, they learned to deal. And if they didn’t, we certainly didn’t feel remorse for them. We moved on. And this change, this long overdue liberation, should be no different.

Anyone who is willing to risk their lives for our country deserves to be themselves. They deserve to have comforting pictures from home taped to their wall. They deserve to say “I love you” to the person they long to hold again, without the fear of someone hearing them. They deserve to love openly. And just like any hero, any human being, they deserve our respect.

And that, to me, is all that really matters.

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