The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Coming Out Under Fire

Pop quiz. Does this phrase refer to the present or the past?

“The United States government wants its citizens to be liars, and to be unaccepting of themselves rather than, say, gay or homosexual. Be invisible and shut up.”

Would the speaker be talking about the Larry Craig affair? Or, for that matter the Ted Haggard and Mark Foley affairs?

Would they be talking about “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” and the Arabic linguists discharged from service in the middle of a war in which their skills are extremely valuable?

Or would they be talking about World War II, and how the U.S. government looked the other way when it needed warm bodies in uniform and patriotic queers rushed to sign up just like everyone else, and then began dishonorably discharging those gay & lesbian service members once the war started winding down? (And, inadvertently, contributing to making San Francisco and some other port cities the gay meccas that they are today?)

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If you picked the last one, you’re right. But, all things considered, how much has really changed since then?

I read the book Coming Out Under Fire when I was in college, and I’d forgotten about the documentary, until I stumbled across the video above while going through my RSS feeds last night.

How much has changed since then? Well, we’re no longer sentencing people to “confinement at hard labor in a federal p”, but when they want to serve their country in the armed forces and happen to be gay, it turns out that no matter how much they want to serve — or how well the do serve — their country doesn’t want them. And, instead of looking the other way while their skills are needed, we’re tossing them out when their skills are most needed.

Maybe being near a military base for the last few days has gotten me thinking about this. We’re generally pretty obvious as a family — the hubby, Parker, and me — but here we stand out even more. And from time to time the hubby and I would pick up a certain “vibe” from some of the military boys here, or even exchange a knowing look with some of them as they stopped and took a second look at our family.

But that’s as far as it went. They didn’t dare approach us or stop and talk much. And we didn’t dare go out of our way to reach out to them beyond those glances that were barely perceptible to those around us, because we knew even that much could potentially be the equivalent of an IED to their military lives and careers,

I laughed yesterday, over the army recruitment billboard in arabic, in the context of the discharges of gay service members who were also Arabic linguists.

But it’s less funny when I consider it in the context of the video above. At least is is to me, because it reminds me of something I said many years ago about “tradition for the sake of tradition”, because it seems to apply here too: If you always do what you’ve always done because you’ve always done it, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the right thing to do. It may just mean you haven’t gotten any smarter.

So, how much has changed?

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