Thursday, February 4, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

It goes without saying what I think of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, right? So instead I'll just tell you what LabRat thinks of it, since she phrased it rather well:

When I’ve seen people speaking out against repealing DADT- or advocating for a return flat-out to a total ban on gay soldiers- they are almost always men, and they very frequently cite some variant on a common theme. Apparently, it would be just horrible if they had to think about other men being attracted to them, and worry about being ogled, and maybe even worry about being raped, because there’s always the one creepy guy that’s willing to cross that line, and we just can’t do that to our soldiers. (Lesbians, as usual, are never mentioned, either because what the wimmens do is boring, or because that’s kind of hot and therefore okay.)

To these men, I have the following reply: welcome to what every single human female on the fucking planet deals with from puberty onward. You don’t like the idea that some man you’re not attracted to might be fantasizing about having sex with you, might be eyeing your fun bits, that there’s even a remote but existing chance he might rape you? Harden. The fuck. Up. Fifty percent of the population has to cope with this every day as a fact of life, and we’re called paranoid deranged feminazi man-haters if we even bring it up outside a feminist consciousness-raising session.

And I'll tell you a personal story: back when I worked 24-hour shifts, I shared a very small quarters with three people who were attracted to my gender. We slept together, shared a bathroom, and frequently changed clothes in front of each other. If I didn't want to sleep next to someone whose orientation made them potentially aroused by my gender, I'd have to sleep out in the truck.

But of course I didn't do that, and not just because I didn't want to freeze to death while being robbed and contracting MRSA. I was fine sharing a bunkroom with straight men, because they didn't give me any trouble. Maybe they were faithful to their wives and girlfriends; maybe they feared legal and career consequences; maybe they were attracted to some women but not to me specifically; and maybe they just had a smidge of maturity and human decency. I can't be sure no one ever looked at me in some unsavory way, but as no one ever spoke to or touched me in any inappropriate manner, I could care less about Schroedinger's Ogle.

Of course some female EMTs do face abuse. What if they had harassed me? Then the problem would be the harassment. "He was all heterosexual at me" isn't a complaint; it's "he was all disrespectful and abusive at me." It'd be nice to ban abusers from service but unfortunately we rarely ask and they never tell.

One of my political principles is that when you believe "X might lead to Y, and Y is bad," that gives you no justification to ban X. Just stringently enforce a ban on Y and deal with it at that level. Pot might lead to heroin? Ban heroin. Guns might lead to murder? Ban murder. Gays in the military might lead to harassment? Ban harassment!

(Or, following the logic often used to exclude women, ban heterosexuals. They're the ones with the problem, right? Some hetero gets his boxers in a twist and files a frivolous complaint and your whole career goes down the tubes, I tell ya.)

Anyway, none of this affects the actual presence of gays in the military, which has been going on for only about ten thousand years with no collapse of civilization so far. It's only whether people are allowed to admit they're gay. (And getting "caught" with a partner, even in an entirely appropriate and decorous relationship, is tantamount to an admission.) I'm having trouble picturing some sort of trouble that gay soldiers would cause that closeted gay soldiers wouldn't. I guess it might attract enemy attention if a Pride Parade breaks out in a combat zone.

(Side note: Have you ever noticed that the use of "homosexual" as a noun is almost entirely restricted to homophobes? It's gone from being a relatively objective term to a de facto slur. Then again, so is "don't ask, don't tell." I've heard a whole lot of Neanderthal types react to a guy's failure to conform to strict male roles with "I'm not asking, Rob, so don't you tell me, hurrr hurr hurrr.")


  1. "It'd be nice to ban abusers, but unfortunately we rarely ask and they never tell." I just wanted to respond to this -- there's this one part in Gavin de Becker's "The Gift of Fear" (book about how to use your intuition to avoid violence) where he dicusses the fact that parents are often paranoid and anxious about their babysitters, in part because when they're interviewing a possible babysitter, they don't ask any of the questions they really want to know. Questions like "have you ever abused a child?" Of course that's partially because parents assume any real abuser will just lie, but De Becker points out the response could be revealing anyway -- for instance what if the babysitter says "define 'abuse'" or "why, what have you heard?".

    In a similar way, asking potential soldiers questions about whether they think it's ever okay to abuse/harass someone could actually have informative results. A lot of people have fucked up ideas about what constitutes "real" rape, in what circumstances the victim "deserved" it, and so forth. If questioned closely, some of the wouldn't be able to keep that a secret. So, if the military really cared about its soldiers being abused on the job, I think it'd be a good idea for them to start asking some diagnostic questions.

  2. ...Anyway, none of this affects the actual presence of gays in the military, which has been going on for only about ten thousand years with no collapse of civilization so far.

    Well, there've been a couple in that time. But your point's taken. ;)

  3. It is said that the ancient greeks embraced gay soldiers, because "a man fights harder when his lover's life is on the line." Also, from what I've heard, problems with women and gays being in the military is mostly limited to the US military, at least in the western world.

  4. lastnightsclothes - That's a very good point. In psych hospitals, they ask patients flat-out "are you going to harm yourself or anyone else?" before releasing them from restraints. The first time I heard this I thought it was ridiculous, but then I learned--a lot of dangerous people really do say "yes," or give an answer like "I will if anyone messes with me." Sometimes it is worth asking the obvious questions.

  5. Being heterosexual female in the military myself, I see a vast amount of intolerance toward gays on a daily basis. But the fact remains that a man is probably going to be ogled by gays whether he knows it or not, and the other issue is that you are, without exception, not allowed whatsoever to fraternize while on duty. Period. If you're hitting on someone, even your spouse, while on duty, you are out of line and behaving unprofessionally, and can be punished.

    I personally was blessed with certain endowments, and in a particularly male-dominated career field, I encounter a lot of comments and attitudes that I could probably take offense to. But everyone knows better than to touch me. I'm pretty sure gays are not as stupid as heterosexuals make them out to be in that situation, and yes, there is always the person who is willing to get out of line, no matter what the orientation is.

    The thing about this I hate most happens to be just this: ...getting caught with a partner, even in an entirely appropriate and decorous relationship, is tantamount to an admission.

  6. Whoops, I'm sorry, I hit the wrong button. What upsets me is that a soldier/sailor/airman who's caught in a homosexual relationship or doing things that may indicate him being a homosexual, can (and probably will) be forcibly separated from the military. While I believe that DADT is something of a necessary evil (as much as I despise it), I don't believe that what someone does outside the work place is any single person's business, ever. If I see my boss at a bar with his boyfriend, who gives a flying shit? He's off duty, in civilian clothes, and it's none of my fucking business. I just don't care one bit. I'd be a lot more bothered if he was holding hands with someone in uniform.

  7. I just finished reading The Ethical Slut and it made a really interesting point: men assume, automatically, that they're on equal footing with each other. Therefore, if a gay man hits on a guy and gets rejected, "no" really does mean NO. Not "I want to be forced", not "If you keep trying I'll eventually cave", but NO. Gay men assume that the object of their attraction is capable of asking for what he wants and rejecting what he doesn't want.

    Therefore, gay men are way less of a threat to straight men than straight men are to women. So yeah, let's ban the straight guys from the military; that's where all the problems are coming from!

  8. I know this is a fairly old post, and that it's a moot point now as gay people are allowed to be *gasp* openly gay in the military and the world still seems to be spinning on its axis just fine...

    But, I remember when DADT came out, and I felt like it really was a kind of stupid way of dealing/not dealing with the whole thing.

    I was in the Navy from 1986-1990, and the military was much more of a "boy's club" than it is now. I experienced major sexual harassment on a routine basis- the kind of thing that would ruin careers and make for big fat lawsuits in the civilian world nowadays. Mind you, I had known I was entering a pretty rough, male dominated, less-than-enlightened environment, and I pretty much dealt with stuff, and mostly it was- well, it wasn't OK or anything, but it's not like I went back to my bunk and cried every night. I was 18 when I joined, and I'd already been through a lot of stuff, and it was much better than being at home.

    So when I heard about DADT, my first thought was of my own personal experiences, and that it would have really sucked if there had been the possibility of being sexually harassed when I was in my own damn barracks room with the door shut. Because I got hassled EVERYWHERE ELSE. So if I was bunking with someone who happened to be an aggressive lesbian who happened to be attracted to me, and they were pushy about it, that would be pretty damn depressing.

    But then I wound up thinking about it some more, and realizing that that was a fairly unlikely scenario. I have (in my whole entire life) met 3 women who didn't want to take no for an answer, and 2 of them were pedophiles who wanted me because I was a child, not because they were gay. The third was someone I met in the Navy, (we were in the same training school) who tried to sexually assault me WHILE she was

    A. Drunk driving. (I was in the passenger seat, she was stone cold sober when we left the base, and then once we were on the highway she pulled out a 6 pack and started slamming beers.)

    B. Playing chicken with oncoming traffic.

    C. Talking about how she wanted to die.

    D. Grabbing at my crotch and ripping my blouse.

    So, clearly not a typical example of run-of-the-mill lesbian behavior in any way, shape, or form. More of a good example of someone who is having some kind of total mental meltdown who needs to spend some inpatient time.

    Every other time in my life that I've been hit on by a woman, it's been in a very polite, perfectly nice way. If only all guys were that polite!

    And I realized that while DADT was still a stupid wussy way of not dealing with the basic issues head on, it was better than nothing. And I really didn't think that a whole bunch of men and women were suddenly going to be attacked by lust crazed homosexual people in uniform.

    And now, of course, it's sort of officially ok to be gay and in the military, and that probably means that military people are learning to be less homophobic- which is a wonderful thing. (Although a lot of the homophobia was just talk, IMO, even when I was serving, because people seem to feel the need to PROVE they are not looking with lust upon the other naked people in the communal showers, because well, enforced shared nudity can be awkward, and yeah, well, whatever...)

    So, anyway, great post. Thanks.