Having served in the United States Air Force 11 years gives me some credibility on the subject of Don't Ask Don't Tell. That said, I think "Close quarters make military policy opposing gay service necessary, experts say" written by the assistant editor of the Baptist Press, Michael Foust, is one of the dumbest pieces of journalism I've ever read. Check this out:
Military experts and social conservatives are criticizing President Obama's goal of allowing homosexuals to serve openly in the military, saying the armed forces' inherently close quarters would make any change in policy similar to forcing male and female personnel to live together.
Seriously? U.S. straight, gay, lesbian, men, and women service members are already living in close quarters. There were also several instances during the Iraqi war when the British, who've allowed their members to serve openly since 2000, and U.S. military exchanged personnel. During coalition campaigns, it is common for armed forces from one country to provide support for another country's forces.
The "experts" and "social conservatives" Faust refers to must be living with their heads in the sand.
Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness, is one of Faust's "experts". Ms Donnelly has never served a day in the military and is far from being a military policy "expert." Ms. Donnelly argues allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military would be
"tantamount to saying that men would have access to cohabit with female soldiers and personnel in conditions with little or no privacy."
"We can pretend that human beings are like machines, that sexuality doesn't matter, that people are perfect, that they don't make mistakes. But that would be wrong," she told Baptist Press. "Good policy in the military recognizes human failings."
This same argument and fear tactic was used before the UK lifted their ban on gays ten years ago. Is Ms. Donnelly suggesting our service members, the most highly trained professional workforce in America, can't be trusted? When the bullets are flying soldiers have things on their minds other than sex.
Faust cites these statistics:
A Military Times poll released last month found 58 percent of military members surveyed would oppose changing the Don't Ask rule, and 23 percent would consider not re-enlisting if the rule was changed.
This Military Times poll was shown to be flawed by the Palm Center research center. The poll only includes respondents who are subscribers to Military Times and not the entire military. The statistics are skewed and disproportionately represents women, minorities, and other groups.
Palm Center research center says this:
...the poll is not based on a random sampling pool but on the self-selected pool of readers of that publication who tend to be older and more conservative than the military population at-large, a fact which skews the results against gay service. Second, opinions about the policy are wholly distinct from actual behavior, and bigoted attitudes do not predict discriminatory behavior. When Britain and Canada polled their troops before ending their gay bans, two thirds said they would oppose the change and, in one survey, nearly half said they'd refuse to serve with gays; but when the changes were actually made, almost no one resigned. The same scenario played out at West Point when women were admitted.
Here are some statistics Faust doesn't mention:
- 73 percent of military personnel are comfortable with lesbians and gays (Zogby International, 2006).
- The younger generations, those who fight America's 21st century wars, largely don't care about whether someone is gay or not-and they do not link job performance with sexual orientation.
- One in four U.S. troops who served in Afghanistan or Iraq knows a member of their unit who is gay (Zogby, 2006).
Faust also cites Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, as one of his "experts."
"Most members of Congress have not served in the military and most of the public has not either. They have a hard time understanding the environment. When I was in the Marine Corps there were 60 of us in a squad bay. You shower together. That's a problematic environment."
I'm not even going there. Can any of you guys, straight or gay, tell us what exactly goes on when showering together?
According to Sen. John McCain:
"We have the best trained, best equipped, and most professional force in the history of our country, and the men and women in uniform are performing heroically in two wars. At a time when our Armed Forces are fighting and sacrificing on the battlefield, now is not the time to abandon the policy."
Yes we do have the best trained and most professional force fighting heroically and sacrificing on the battlefield. They are gay and straight soldiers serving side-by-side with no detriment to unit cohesiveness. Lifting the ban will not change this fact.
The time to repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell is now.
I received a very thoughtful email from one of our readers, Stephanie. She makes some very important points that need to be shared.
Thanks for your most excellent article regarding the recent article from the Baptist Press.
I completely agree with you that Mr. Foust's article is a typically specious recitation of vaporous, bigotry-flavored disinformation. Unfortunately, it is also an accurate reflection (as seen from my rather narrow viewpoint) of the kind of the hazy and ill-formed convictions of so many homo- and transphobic people - especially those with a forum.
As I read your blog, I was delighted to see that you had asked the exact question I would have asked: "...what exactly goes on when showering together?" My intelligence is sharply offended by these so-called experts who espouse their knowledge of an issue when, in fact, they have never personally experienced what they claim to be an expert about. I, too, am an Air Force veteran. And Navy and Army, coincidentally. I retired a decade or so ago as a senior NCO with 22 years of honorable service and I've spent more time in a crowded lockerroom with naked men than I ever wanted to. I think that qualifies me as an "expert", yes?
Mr. Perkins, as cited in your article, wrote "...When I was in the Marine Corps there were 60 of us in a squad bay. You shower together. That's a problematic environment."
Why? Does Mr. Perkins and his ilk think that GIs scrub each other's backs, risking unmanageable temptation? Is there truly a danger of a gay service member openly propositioning another member in a shower full of other men? I've never showered faster than I did in a military facility; all I wanted was to get clean and get out of there!
If I may, I would also like to rebut Ms. Donnelly's statement that allowing gays or lesbians to serve openly together would be "tantamount to saying that men would have access to cohabit with female soldiers...in conditions with little or no privacy". She quite obviously fails to realize that in a combat environment, male and female members often do indeed share quarters. I've slept in a GP tent or on the ground with both genders (and fully clothed like everyone else) a number of times, yet I never witnessed a sexual assaulted or other unseemly sexual behavior a member of either gender. The truth is, exhaustion and bare-base environments tend to force libidinous satisfaction to the lowest of priorities.
Apparently these "experts" believe that our military men and women, regardless their sexual orientation, are incapable of restraint or propriety. Their unfounded statements essentially accuse our young GIs of being a collection of heavily armed sex addicts who can't control their baser impulses. This is nothing less than a gross libel against the integrity of service members who are risking (or losing) their lives to protect their very detractors.
I have no issues with someone stating their opinions, but I do have an issue with such opinions when they are factually deficient - if not lacking altogether - and presented as irrefutable evidence, to people who truly don't know any better, in order to support the perpetrator's personal agenda. But such is the nature of propaganda, yes?
I am not gay, although as a heterosexual transwoman, people like Foust or Donnelly will surely see me as such. Whatever. If I thought they would listen, I would love to disabuse them of their fond convictions. Nevertheless it angers and offends me deeply that bigoted, hateful and woefully narrow-minded individuals defame all GLBT people without real truth or facts to bolster their diatribes and, in the process, incite the same hysterical response in those who are gullible enough to believe their agitprop.
Get your facts straight, folks, then come tell me to my face why I'm scum of the Earth and bound for eternal perdition. I'm a big girl, I can handle it. Oh, and by the way, I happen to be a devout Messianic [a Judaic Christian] (gasp!), so flogging me with a Bible isn't going to be an effective weapon in your attacks.