Back to Work? Next Steps in DADT Repeal

Posted December 20, 2010 by Troy
Categories: Uncategorized

Why wasn’t I as bubbly as one of Lady Gaga’s “little monsters” once the senate voted for cloture on the DADT repeal? Thanks to an all too rare (these days) show of bipartisan effort, it breezed through both chambers (despite the occasional ridiculous bluster of “the gays will get our boys killed” rhetoric). More surprisingly, the conservative news outlets were strangely silent in the wake of the vote. Have I just become programmed to want more of a fight? Not really. But my sincere appreciation of the efforts thus far is tempered by a sneaky suspicion that the uglier fights are coming later.

I keep thinking back to my Marine friend’s comments in my last post. Though they are shrouded in the language of practicality, you don’t have to scratch too far below the surface to see the discomfort with gay people. And he’s a nice guy. There are plenty of people around him, I’m sure, who are not. They are the people who used to pry into the private lives of gay soldiers who weren’t “telling” in order to get rid of them.

I believe there will be a period where gay soldiers will bear the brunt of less subtle attempts to get rid of them. And sadly with General Amos’s poor leadership on this matter, the would-be abusers have all but gotten a written permission slip to terrorize. One reason I was hoping Amos would be fired was so that a smarter, stronger and more fair-minded person would take his place.

The end game is a win. Sure it will be a while before f****t leaves the verbal arsenal of crusty drill sergeants, but it won’t be long before some giant, chiseled, Skoal-spitting stack of gay concrete is in charge of whipping a platoon of jarheads into shape. We’ll see what happens then.

My friend Karen believes this step may just be the beginning of some other important things to come for equal rights for gay families. For instance, how does one handle spousal benefits in a federal institution like the military fairly? For these, we’ll all have to stay tuned. Be prepared for a return to “states rights” and “secession” talk when these issues are tackled. I’m sure those icebergs have only begun to surface.

What’s Up with the Marines?

Posted December 15, 2010 by Troy
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So you know how Facebook brings the whole clan of your past together – all the people who knew the really ignorant you from years ago and the ones who know the ostensibly less ignorant you of today? I’ve always kind of liked that about Facebook, even (especially?) when it brings opposing views together. Considering the jacked up tone of discourse in other parts of our national conversation, I prefer to hear civil talk among non-strangers about important issues.

Last week I posted a frustrated status update about how I didn’t understand why Republicans were so dead set on blocking the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell when a majority of Americans, the Pentagon, and enlisted folks think doing so would have a net positive effect. I put things like that out there on Facebook in part because I have a big mouth and need an outlet to express myself, but also because I know it will invite responses that keep me honest and show me other perspectives. My friend Karen pointed out that Obama and the Democrats don’t have clean fingers when it comes to this mess either, and she’s right. At present, I’m not convinced Obama wants the repeal of DADT.

I was honored to have one of my childhood friends who serves in the military say he didn’t think now was the time for a repeal. In a later message, this is what he wrote:

Ok, the survey is and was bogus if you looked at it. I had to fill it out, as well as my wife. They questions were in a very vague format, which would have been very easy to direct either way, but that isn’t the real problem with the survey…the big deal is that thw services were made to fill this out like any other survey that soldiers are made to do. On the other note, I lived with a gay dude for 4 years, so I am not a homophobe. This issue with DADT is about 4 different issues…when I have a computer instead of a blackberry, I can talk about the other issues: housing, living quarters in a wartime environment, awareness training that soldiers will have to go under, issues of legal spouses and marriage and benefits, and the list goes on…

My response is below:

I will look forward to when you have a computer because I would like to hear more about your perspective.

I’m sure you don’t think spouses of gay soldiers are entitled to fewer benefits than those of straight soldiers (anymore than my family should be entitled to fewer rights and privileges than yours), so I’m trying to imagine what the issue would be there and can’t come up with anything.

And I’m also curious about the difference between housing and living quarters in a wartime environment. I would assume a wartime environment would mean closer quarters, but as you’ve said, you already serve with gay soldiers, and I assume as long as everyone is professional enough to avoid unwanted advances that would not be a problem (if not, harassment charges would be in order). Personally, as a gay man who has showered and slept in the same bed with many straight men with no issues, I have a hard time imagining what the big deal is. Is it so different in the field?

As for awareness training, I can see how timing would be an issue here. I see it as necessary, but at the same time I realize we are a nation with combat priorities right now. My understanding is that repealing DADT would not mean that full implementation would have to happen immediately. Am I wrong about that? Honestly, at this point I would just be happy if they stopped discharging innocent people and robbing them of their pensions until they can figure out how to implement the repeal.

As for the survey, I’m actually surprised that the troops were surveyed at all, let alone their spouses. As far as I know, personnel decisions are not democratically decided in any large organization, and especially not ones charged with defending the values of equality and freedom for all.

I realize this is personal for you as an armed serviceman, and please understand that I do appreciate your service. But I hope you understand that this is personal for me, too. I’m trying to raise a son to believe all people in this country are created equally, and that the wars we support are for the sake of defending ideals such as this. DADT goes against those values as far as I am concerned.

So, when you get access to a computer and you have some time, let me know where you’re coming from on this.

Thanks and be safe,

Troy

So far I haven’t heard back from him. I checked out the survey myself to see it was as confusing as my friends suggested. It seemed pretty straight forward to me, but any readers who may understand where he’s coming from can fill me in. I’m cutting him some slack in getting back to me since he is fighting a war!

While most of the military commanders recommend repeal, I keep hearing the Marine Commandant, General Jim Amos talk about how a repeal would disrupt “unit cohesion” and “cost lives” (??!!!), but he doesn’t seem to be able to provide examples of how.

My dad was a Marine. My impression has always been that when Marines are told to do something by a superior they do it or suffer the consequences. NOT following commands is what costs lives. Has the military changed that philosophy and moved to a more consensus building approach when it comes to personnel issues? It’s very confusing to me.

Prepare to hear more comparisons (fair or not) between Truman and Obama on how the repeal is handled. There were certainly no surveys distributed to find out if our troops were comfortable with racial integration of our forces back in the late 1940′s.

The Danger of Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Isn’t

Posted November 28, 2008 by Troy
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My sister in California and I were talking about the backlash from gay people over Prop. 8. She wondered if the anger from the gay community helped our cause. All I could say was that sitting back and saying nothing certainly hasn’t. Not that I advocate knocking the Styrofoam crosses out of the hands of the opposition, even if they did come to a candlelight vigil looking for a fight.

I do, however, believe in using money as a political weapon. I for one have never faulted the Southern Baptist Convention for boycotting Disney because the company is gay friendly. I thought their reason for boycotting was stupid, but in my opinion withholding your private dollars is a good way to get a message across.

So, I wonder why there is so much public surprise that gay people and their supporters are now throwing their financial weight around over the recent stripping of their marriage rights in California.

If a company, or the leadership of a company, donated to support Prop. 8 via a public political action group, then there is no way John and I are giving that company our hard earned dollars.

But is it fair to criticize individual citizens for donating against us?

Take for example, Bill Raddon who is, or was, the director of the Los Angeles Film Festival. He resigned (note that he wasn’t fired) over the backlash he received from donating $1,500.00 to a political group that supported passage of Prop. 8.

Don Cheadle (Hotel Rawanda) and Forest Whitaker (Last King of Scotland) are on the board of the Festival and were among those who supported Raddon (I wonder if they would have if he’d donated to a political action group in support of eliminating interracial marriage rights, another pet project of the Mormon’s back in the ’50s). But gay board member Bill Condon, director of Dreamgirls and Chicago did as well, saying:

“I’m personally saddened by the outcome,” “Someone has lost his job and possibly his livelihood because of privately held religious beliefs.”

Raddon quit, but whatever, Condon, see if I ever pay to see your sparkly Broadway film adaptations again. Anyway, Raddon a “devout Mormon” issued a statement that said:

“I prefer to keep the details around my contribution through my church a private matter.”

There is the key question, hidden in those last two quotes. Did you catch it? The pivotal question is, “Was Raddon’s contribution to Prop. 8 simply an expression of ‘privately held religious beliefs’?”

And the answer is no. Heads up would-be political activists. Donations to political causes are PUBLIC RECORD. There was no witch hunt, no McCarthy-ist tracking down of who donated what. If Raddon had simply donated to a church he thought would support Prop. 8 his name never would have gotten into the media for this. But he didn’t. He donated to a political action group, which means any U.S. citizen has access to the record of the donation.

I’m sure that Raddon and many others probably had no idea that their choice would be brought into the light. Raddon never thought he would have to sit next to a gay co-worker who knows full well that he donated well over a grand just to keep that co-worker from marrying. And I don’t suppose Raddon can sit by the ill-informed Condon all day long.

So do I feel sorry for people like Raddon?

Pardon me if I don’t. I’m too busy feeling sad for the millions of Californians who have had their marriage rights stripped away.

Here’s the civics lesson for Raddon and others like him. Donations to a public political cause are public statements so before you make them, consider how you or the organization you represent is going to have to defend them.

Mike Huckabee Has Rocks In His Head But Wants Them Upside Yours

Posted November 20, 2008 by Troy
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So, Mike Huckabee was on The View the other day spouting off about how he didn’t think gay people had a civil rights struggle on their hands because black people were victims of violence during their struggle, and gay people aren’t.

Really, Mike? What number of cracked skulls are required to fit your definition? Did the Japanese-Americans in internment camps meet it? How about women getting the right to vote?

Suffering violence should not be a prerequisite for equality, but here’s a list of gay folks who certainly have suffered and/or died because of who they are. Violent enough for you, Mike?

Last week, Tiesh Cannon, Syracuse, NY, was shot and killed with a .22 rifle while sitting in a car for being gay. Her brother, also gay, was shot at the same time.

A Memphis transgendered woman (born a woman with male physiology), named Duanna Johnson was beaten by cops and then murdered weeks later by an unknown assailant.

In August, 18-year old Michael Cause died from wounds incurred by gay-bashing thugs in U.K.

Jane Currie and Anji Dimitriou were beaten while dropping off their children at school. Their children had to watch them be bloodied to the point of needing stitches, and so did the children of the man who attacked them as well as several other parents and their children.

The day of a rally in support of Jane and Anji, two gay teens were beaten for being gay at a party to which they were invited.

Then there’s Todd Metrokin of DC who along with his friends got jumped by a bunch of thugs in Adams-Morgan. (Warning, pictures not for the squeamish).

It’s ironic that Huckabee chose this week to cock off something so insane since it is the national week of remembrance for people murdered for being transgendered.

The above was just the result of a five-minute search. There are scores more. The list of victims is much longer for this year alone. Every week I hear another story, so spare me Huckabee. In your mind there would never be enough violence to make ours a justifiable civil rights struggle, because people with your mindset read the Bible in a way that justifies killing people like us. I won’t look for you to stand up for the safety of gay people anytime soon.

Sadly, Huckabee is only giving voice to a growing reality. The closer we get to winning this battle, the more threatened cavemen like Huckabee feel. And, as a result, the more violent towards us they become. While I would like to imagine it will be otherwise, I expect our world to become more violent for gay people rather than less in the near future. Something for Mike Huckabee to look forward to, I suppose.

What About My Mom? A Response To A Reader’s Comment

Posted November 13, 2008 by Troy
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A friend sent me the following question in my comments section asking how to talk to her Catholic mother about the marriage issue. My reply follows:

So how do I reply to people like my mom, who insist that gay marriage is a moral issue, not a civil rights issue? She claims that her position on gay marriage is not a judgment on the gay community. She thinks that gay marriage affects *every*body, because if gay marriage is normalized (God forbid!), then it will have to be taught in schools as ‘normal, acceptable behavior.’ It feels silly even just typing this out, but she seems to be drinking the Kool-Aid :(

Don’t feel silly. Your mother’s feelings are understandable given the amount of fear-mongering about gay marriage that has been floated out there. Here are some thoughts. I invite my other commenters to chime in, too.

The truth is that schools do not teach marriage—straight or gay. Schools often teach about family structures, which in your mom’s eyes could be just as frightful if she finds the idea that “families are formed in a lot of different ways” scary. But that is the reality today, and it has been for a while. There are between 8 and 10 million children being raised in gay households in the U.S.

Your mom may believe her position isn’t a judgment on the gay community, but if married gay parents being considered “normal” in school bothers her so much that she would advocate legislating against their being treated equally, it most certainly is a judgment on the children of gay parents. Your mother is right. This is a moral issue, and I can’t imagine that she wishes to make sure our government treats these children’s families differently.

Would your mom prefer that a kid with two dads be taught that his family doesn’t exist or that his family is second best, faulty, dangerous or immoral? That is what legislating a prohibition of his parent’s right to marry says to that child. Even if she believes these couple’s unions to be inferior to ones with differing genitalia, how would she know? She really needs to get to know gay families to make such an important call accurately.

For now, we’re back to school, where, by the way, genitalia only come up in conversations about reproductive sex so you can’t blame gay couples if kids see pictures of parts in a classroom. Since sex discussions happen in older grades anyway, let’s focus on younger kids.

Consider a children’s book called King and King. Some teacher in Massachusetts read it aloud to her elementary students, and a couple of parents decided that their kid hearing it was one of the worst things that could happen to him. Here’s a summary (We own the book, and know it well. Are you ready for it?):

The story is about a prince whose mom is trying to marry him off to one of the many women in nearby kingdoms. He is pretty bored by the whole affair until he meets one of the prospect’s brothers. They enjoy hanging out, decide to be together forever, and the queen throws a wedding and a big party for them. The End. It’s kind of a Cinderella story with two guys.

The moral of the story isn’t that boys should marry boys. It doesn’t teach marriage any more than Cinderella does. The message is that finding whom you really love is something to be celebrated. I don’t know what bothered the parents of the child. I suspect it was the same thing that bothers parents of people who believe creationism is more scientific than evolution. They tell their kids one thing. The school tells them another. The result is home drama the folks don’t enjoy.

But the school still has a responsibility to do the right thing. Even if gay marriage is not yet legal in your state, why should children of gay couples be ignored or taught that their families are inferior simply because of another’s religious beliefs? To them their family is normal. As long as the parents’ relationship is mutual and does not disadvantage one of the parties (polygamy, incest, marriage to minors) what is the problem? I can assure you that most gay families are not teaching their children that straight families are bad.

At the end of the day, religion is often a matter of the heart. I don’t know that your mother would do it, but the best advice I could give her is to become very good friends with families of gay people. Though not all the kids at Broadway Methodist Church are in gay families, many are. I even know some incredible gay-and-at-Mass-every-Sunday-Catholic families I could introduce her to.

But I should warn her; the gay families I know are terribly normal. They stay at home and watch Disney movies on Friday night because the parents are too tired to go out. They struggle to keep on top of laundry and to keep healthy food on the table and to stay away from McDonalds. Their kids read the gospel lessons from the pulpit at church on Sunday. Seriously mundane. Feel free to pass on the information to her anyway.

Finally, here is some encouragement for you. Don’t give up on changing your mother’s mind. I have found that I am most likely to win arguments when I gently (okay, at least I try to be gentle. It’s hard sometimes when the discussion is so personal) keep coming to the table. And you never know who else is listening as you do.

High Profile Straight Guys Against Prop 8

Posted November 12, 2008 by Troy
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First, from Conan the Governor:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Sunday expressed hope that the California Supreme Court would overturn Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that outlawed same-sex marriage. He also predicted that the 18,000 gay and lesbian couples who have already wed would not see their marriages nullified by the initiative.

On Sunday, he urged backers of gay marriage to follow the lesson he learned as a bodybuilder trying to lift weights that were too heavy for him at first. “I learned that you should never ever give up. . . . They should never give up. They should be on it and on it until they get it done.”

And then from MSNBC’s Kieth Olbermann. It’s kind of long (6:30 minutes), but he covers a LOT of ground. I was actually kind of shocked.

I Want YOU!

Posted November 10, 2008 by Troy
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Okay, I’ve calmed down from my Prop 8 tantrum. I had a great epiphany as a result of going through it and it was that gay people need straight people.

Of course we always have, but what I mean by “gay people need straight people” is that John and I will never have marriage rights without the stand-up support of our straight friends and family members. Here’s why:

Mother Nature only makes between 2% and 10% of the population gay. And despite what the religious right nutjobs will tell you, it is not possible to recruit people to be gay. Unlike ethnic groups who can grow their numbers by going forth and multiplying, gay people will always be a statistical minority.

The only way we will win equality is if more gay people come out and fight AND if our friends and families stand with us. What does that mean?

Be vocal. If you’re at a party and someone starts talking about how “wrong” gay marriage is, remember they are talking about us. You don’t have to knock ‘em out or anything. In fact, being loving is recommended, but you could say something like:

“My (friend, brother, cousin, son) is gay. He and his partner have chosen to commit their lives to each other and as tax paying citizens they have a relationship that deserves the same rights and protections as any other married relationship.”

Or if you don’t want to get into all that, just say, “I disagree with you.” Many otherwise good people simply spout off what they’ve heard all of their lives, UNTIL they hear someone they respect disagree with them. All of a sudden that person has permission or a challenge to think differently.

Be educated. I can help with that. I read a lot of gay political news. A LOT! I post only a fraction of it here. I realize only about half of my readers are gay, so if I bother to post something gay related, it’s because it is a pretty high profile item. Never be afraid to e-mail me with questions. Maybe you aren’t even sure what you think about John and I getting married. If you have specific questions, don’t worry about offending us. I was raised a conservative Southern Baptist boy. There probably aren’t many morality related questions on this topic that I haven’t considered.

Be brave. This goes for my gay friends, too. Don’t be afraid to have the courage of your convictions. Gay people either learn to be brave or to hide. Ethnic minorities are more likely to face prejudice in the midst of families and friends like them who can say, “don’t listen to those racist jackasses, this is who you really are.” Many gay kids, on the other hand, grow up in families who not only don’t understand them but who reject them outright. Family members and friends may see them as other, less than, immoral, dirty, wrong. That’s a hard mountain for a gay kid to get on top of. Don’t be part of the problem. Learning to be brave is a challenge, but hiding is death.

So just so you know, John and I need you. Please help.


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