Paul McNeal, a gay former U.S. servicemember, contacted me a while back. He submitted a guest commentary at InterstateQ.com and then sent this "inside look" at "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" over to me a couple days ago. It's posted at my pad but I thought I'd share with you all as well.
McNeal's piece is a fabulous look into how some LGBT servicemembers might feel about the dreaded anti-gay military policy implemented by Congress and signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993.
His piece serves as a great reminder of the sacrifices our LGBT servicemembers must make as they put their lives in harm's way to protect us.
An Inside Look...DADT
By Paul McNeal . InterstateQ.com Guest Contributor
Wow, it appears the submarine force is representing! I didn't think the topic of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) would be discussed among submariners and boy am I surprised. Steven Hall, a former submarine commanding officer, came out and is working on a film about DADT
. On the blog "The Stupid Shall Be Punished" Joel Kennedy, former submarine officer, discusses Gays In The Military
and says that he is torn on the issue. I can understand why he is, but I am not. I served 10 years in the military on three different submarines and I believe that it can and will work.
Let's discuss the current situation and see how it is working now. I served under DADT and as a gay sailor and struggled a bit. Why? It was not because my hormones were continuously raging and I was after my heterosexual comrades. In fact, it was just the opposite. I could not disclose the events surrounding times spent with a other, things as simple as chatting on the phone or going to dinner. I could never let them really know me and that meant I had to keep them at a distance concerning the most intimate part of my life; the person I loved. While they talked about their girlfriends and wives, I could only shake my head in agreement and pretend that I would one day get married to a women. BLAH! Because of DADT I was forced to keep a significant person in my life private, live in the closet and live a life void of integrity and self-dignity. Britain's Spy Agency is seeking out gays to fill their ranks, why? Because we are so good at pretending to be something we are not; how unfortunate.
I did my job well, just like so many other gays and lesbian currently serving. I am a well-decorated veteran. To list a few, I was awarded good conduct every year I was enlisted, named sailor of the quarter, and chosen as a United States Navy League recipient. As a Second Class Petty Officer (E-5), I attained the qualification to be Chief of the Watch and Duty Chief Petty officer; positions normally staffed by Chief Petty Officers onboard submarines. I was qualified and received my dolphins in three months (one of the fastest qualifying times on record), normally time is 8 months.
I busted my butt day and night to take care of the crew and the ship. I didn't like DADT but I served my country in light of the fact that I had to compromise my integrity. When my Chief of the Boat asked me several time to stay in, I declined. Why? Because I was tired of hiding and knew that developing a relationship and family in the military was not possible with that law in place. So I gave up being a 20- -year-guy; how unfortunate. I was a good asset and I still talk with a lot of my colleagues who are still in, they tell me, "Mac, you would be COB by now" - I agree.
Now to face some very controversial issues: I've read some of the comments from Joel's blog and I have to agree and disagree with some of the posters.
The dreaded gays-in-the-showers argument: Come on, listen - we are all big boys and girls. I've never seen any kind of sexual issues going on in open showers. Oh, and by the way, the only place I dealt with open showers was boot camp. That was almost 20 years ago. I'm not even sure they still have open showers. Has anyone even stopped to think that there are already gay people showering with straight people; right now as I type it's happening. So, what's the problem? Are we so untrusting that we think just because we now know that John likes guys that he would do something when he hasn't done anything prior to that?
Someone else commented, and I agree, that every gay man or woman is not attracted to every straight man or woman. Message to straight folks who think all gays want to get in their pants: Get over yourself. I can personally say there might have been a handful of folks I was attracted to and who I served with. And even though I might have been attracted to them, I would have never approached them. Are you kidding me? Even with an indication from them that they might be attracted in return, I was still super-hesitant to even consider that an option. That doesn't even take into account that current military policy already prohibits fraternization, no matter the circumstance. Without DADT, the same policy would still apply. So what's the problem?
Someone else used the example of having women serve on submarines. What's the point? During one tour, we actually had a woman come and serve onboard. We were underway with her for about three days. She slept in the XM Stateroom and shared showers with our CO (not literally). The crew responded well to her and her to the crew. Could women serve onboard submarines? YES; some already do. I can't believe how we keep thinking that people just lose all morals in the presence of the opposite or same-sex or something. Guess what: We don't - we know how to control ourselves.
Others talk about unit cohesion. We had folks on our sub who we didn't like but we worked with them and the crew was still tight. As a matter of fact, on one port call in Japan there was an altercation between that person and a crew from another ship. Our crew defended him and said, "We can pick on him but you can't!" Kind of like brothers, you know. I truly believe that we have common sense as military people and we know where to draw the line. Suggesting otherwise calls into question your own belief in the professionalism of our servicemembers. Sounds like an insult to me.
As for transgender servicemembers, I don't see a problem. I say transgender servicemembers should be allowed to wear the uniform of their choice. It's not as if transgender people willy-nilly "switch" genders. If they do, it's only because of social pressures. And, if any person - gay, straight, transgender, whatever - isn't well-enough adjusted to life to serve in the military, then they simply won't be there to begin with.
I am excited to know that organizations like Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) are working on these issues. The work they are doing with Congress is awesome and I look forward to the day that DADT will be repealed. We have everything we need to do it: A president that is willing to sign the repeal, a good number of folks in congress (147 members), retired admirals and generals (100 of them), Colin Powell (part of the reason DADT is in effect), and a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who have signaled that he will do what he is instructed to do. What's the problem?
I have been blessed since I have left the military to chat about my sexuality with former friends I served with including one of my commanding officer's and each have responded favorably. I was floored. I had feared that they would abandon me and have nothing to do with me; not true. I hold each of them in high esteem for at least understanding. I don't need them to approve but I appreciate that they understand and love me anyway and they let me live my life. That is all we are asking, let us serve our county, live our lives and be at peace.
The military teaches us honor, courage, commitment and discipline. Repealing DADT will fulfill those lessons.
Okay enough from me. Would you take the time to participate in this poll? Should Obama Overturn "Don't Ask Don't Tell?"