Thursday, December 16, 2010

Open the Closet Door

A Cocktail Party Position

Opponents of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy toward gay servicemen and women are trying to ram through repeal legislation during the dying days of this Congress. The Cocktail Party hopes they succeed.

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” is bad policy. The American public recognizes that, as poll after poll shows a growing body of opinion that all our citizens deserve equal treatment under the law. Recent polls show most military personnel hold the same view, although some, primarily in the Army and Marines, disagree.

The policy was different, and more unfair, when the Cocktail Party chairman served in the U.S. Army in the late 1950s. At that time, any member, or potential member, of the military could be asked about their sexual orientation. An admission of homosexuality kept the individual from enlisting in the service or resulted in a speedy dishonorable discharge.

The 1950s policy apparently was effective in keeping “queers,” “homos,” or “dykes” (today’s “gays” sounds much more civil) out of the military, or deeply hidden within it. Your party chairman served nearly two years in a huge unit (850 enlisted men) in the Sergeant Major’s office, where just about everything was known about everyone. Not a single man was discharged for gay conduct or admitting to being gay. No one was even suspected of being gay.

A WAC battery right down the street was home to several hundred women. The old soldiers among the men claimed that most of the older enlisted women and many WAC officers were lesbians. Your chairman never saw or heard of any concrete evidence to back up those assertions. Certainly, there was plenty of evidence that a large number of the younger WACs were straight. Pregnancy discharges were fairly common, and intimate boy-girl conduct was commonplace.

No doubt gays have served in our armed forces throughout history, but they had to stay deep within the closet to continue their careers. The prospect of immediate discharge, or worse, must have been a constant nightmare for them. In the 1950s, a gay soldier would have been shunned by his comrades at best, and probably would have been subjected to physical violence in many units. Then, he would have been discharged.

“Don’t ask, don’t tell,” adopted during the Clinton administration years, made service by gays at least more possible and safer. But, this is 2010, not 1955 or 1995. It’s a good thing that attitudes and policy have changed on the side of justice, but now the policy needs to change once again to match current public attitudes and meet ethical standards.

The Cocktail Party firmly believes it is morally wrong and indefensible for any human being to be forced to lie, or worse, to live a lie, to have the opportunity to begin or continue any career, including military service

2 comments: said...

Barry Goldwater said it best, "You don't have to be straight to shoot straight."

JHawk23 said...

I agree, it was high time, and I'm glad to see this legislation passed. While DADT is now much maligned, I think with hindsight we can see that it may have been a necessary stepping-stone to yesterday's outcome in Congress, as the military force could get accustomed to the idea that there WERE gays among them, but without being able to make them a target. Thus the results of last month's polling on the subject, in which most military personnel saw no problems with abandoning DADT. Whether the stepping stone occurred by accident or by prescient design, we may never know, but the result has been a fairly seamless - albeit slow - shift in attitude and policy.