Saturday, February 6, 2010
Don't Ask, Don't Tell - My Take on the Issue
During my lifetime, I have worked with and developed friendships with many homosexual people. When you work in the restaurant industry for about fifteen years, you can't help but work with some gay men and lesbian women.
Some of the best times of my life were spent getting through a busy night at work, and then going to a bar and downing beers and shots with these people. I've gone to "their" bars, and they've gone to "my" bars. The environment made no difference, it was the company I kept that mattered, and at the time I was keeping good company.
My gay male friends have been some of the funniest people I've ever met. Perhaps it is the difficulty they deal with on a daily basis that I'll never understand, but I rarely met a gay man who wasn't a riot to hang out with. It was either that, or they were rat bastards with insufferable attitudes who hated the world and everything about it... but I know plenty of straight people who are just as miserable.
Gay women, generally speaking, were much more difficult to get to know - but once they trusted me I knew I had a good friend. Again... there is a part of life gay people experience that I'll never fully understand, no matter how much of their lives I witnessed as a close friend.
I have had some great friendships over the years with some good people who just happen to have a different preference about their private life than I have about mine. So be it.
So - you're probably thinking I am in favor of the recent quest to repeal "Don't ask, don't tell," aren't you?
You couldn't be further from correct.
While I have had great friendships with some gay people in certain environments, none of these experiences was while serving in our Armed Forces.
The United States Military in all of its branches has one specific purpose: the defense of The United States of America, and when called upon, the forward and aggressive agenda of winning war. The military is about getting the job done.
The military is not a night club, and it is not a classroom. It is not hanging out with your neighbors at a backyard party. It is not a baseball game. And while I don't question the integrity of gay people or their straight counterparts, I do question the idea of using such an environment to further an agenda.
Whether gay people like it or not, their lifestyle is not accepted by everyone. Sorry, folks - that's just the way life is.
In this instance, if you're gay, it is you and whatever biological or emotional issue it is that has told you that you prefer same sex relationships that may not be universally accepted. I'm okay with whatever you do in the privacy of your own home, and I really don't get phased if I happen to see a gay couple holding hands in a store or anywhere else.
But... there are people who do not wish to be confronted with this part of your life. These very same people might be the ones to throw themselves on a grenade to save your life, so don't you think it's better that if you choose to serve (and we all thank you for your service) that you simply show up and do your job for your committed period of time, and leave your personal life at home?
Now, I understand that this makes life different for you. Some other guys may come in after a Friday night out on the town and discuss chasing skirts, and you can't discuss your night out in the same way. I understand that might be difficult. I know that some others might discuss their home life and their kids, and again I know your life is different and you might feel uncomfortable in not being able to share the same details about your home.
However, you didn't sign up for a cubicle, and you're not waiting tables. You don't own this place of business, and your job is very different than jobs in civilian life.
I know that some years from now you think it just won't matter, because if DADT is repealed today then everyone who enlists will do so knowing that they are serving with openly gay people, but trust me... it will matter.
In the split seconds that determine the difference between life and death, your fellow service-persons do not want to wonder if you've got what it takes, and unfortunately that may happen if you're "out."
And should the day come that you need them, you don't want to wonder if they'll have your back either.
Service in the military is not just a job - it is a different kind of commitment on every level. With that commitment come certain expectations and certain sacrifices. For gays and lesbians, one of those sacrifices has been and should continue to be the fact that your private life must remain private. If this is not acceptable, you as a gay person have plenty of other choices, and while we thank you for considering service, service may not be right for you.
If you'd like another person's take on this issue, I recommend Donald Borsch Jr.'s post on the subject. You can read it here.
Also well worth a read are this piece at Blackfive, as well as this article at The Wall Street Journal.