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Posts Tagged ‘Alex Nicholson’

What to do About DADT Before It’s Repealed

October 14th, 2009 No comments

There’s some reason to be optimistic about DADT’s long-overdue repeal; maybe Obama wasn’t just talking last Saturday night, after all. This story about legislative stirring is a good sign. So is the newly “out”spoken military brass; this devastatingly effective essay against the policy by Air Force colonel Om Prakash appeared in Joint Forces Quarterly, and thus constitutes a clear (if not universal) military endorsement of the repeal. (Here‘s a more homely, yet effective brief against these inane discharges.)  Where Clinton failed to get buy-in for his “gays in the military” plan — and thereby impaled into legislation what had only been policy — Obama apparently has been doing the heavy background work needed to bring the military on board.

But no one thinks the policy will be repealed this year, and there is virtually no chance that Obama will issue an Executive Order halting the discharges in the meantime. He could, but he won’t: So let’s move on. Right now, we have the untenable situation that should remind one of, say, being the last to die in a war that’s been declared useless.

For the record, I don’t mind if actual gays use the policy to get out while they still can– come out and get out! They didn’t create this policy, and they shouldn’t hesitate to leave if military life under DADT becomes unbearable.

Most men and women in the military, though, don’t want to get out. Straight or gay, they define themselves as soldiers. (This is what’s most struck me in getting to know a few of those discharged under DADT, especially Alex Nicholson.) And it’s plain unconscionable for people to continue to be shown the door now that the policy looks dead.

My solution? Obama should let it be known, in whatever subtle or more directive ways are at his disposal, that discharges from now on should be limited to clear cases where someone “tells” –otherwise, the policy’s original intent that service members’ sexuality not be pursued should be revivified. This way, Obama avoids issuing an Executive Order, but stops the bleeding. I don’t care whether we know about this or not. (We’ll surely learn at some point, when the discharge numbers for 2009 and beyond are released.) Is there any reason not to do this?

DADT’s Disproportionate Effect on Women

October 10th, 2009 1 comment

You can hardly watch a cable news show or read a blog without running into yet another story of the intensifying drumbeat for repealing the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”  policy (among other signature issues for the LGBT community). Congress has finally woken up to the issue, with local war hero, Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.), and Clinton-replacement Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)  leading the charge. Now if Mr. Nobel Peace Prize will pledge some concrete steps to get rid of the policy when he speaks at tomorrow night’s (Saturday’s) Human Rights Campaign fund-raiser, maybe DADTwill be history within the next year or so.

I bring this up (again — see earlier posts on a particularly outrageous case and my interview with the delightful Alex Nicholson) to highlight a new — but hardly surprising — finding that women are being kicked out under this daft policy at much higher rates than men. In some cases, the raw numbers of women expelled are higher, which is eye-opening when one considers that women account for a small percentage of all military.

Part of it, Nathaniel Frank suggests, may simply be due to a higher percentage of lesbians than gay men in the military. But I’d guess that it also has a great deal to do with the male-drenched military culture, and its prerogatives. Women who resist the advances of male soldiers are in peril of being deemed lesbians. For too many male soldiers even today, the idea of a powerful, resistant woman may be more threatening than a sufficiently macho gay man (as long as no one talks about it).

Or maybe gay men are just better at inauthenticity than lesbians. In today’s military, that’s a job requirement for some soldiers. Now it’s  up to Obama to repeal the thing, or lose what credibility he still has with the LGBT community. Today’s NY Times analysis of the Peace Prize makes a point one hears more and more these days:

“[T]he award…was a reminder of the gap between the ambitious promise of his words and his accomplishments. It drew attention to the fact that while much of the world was celebrating him as the anti-Bush, he had not broken as fully as he had once implied he would from the previous administration…And it set off another round of mocking criticism from opponents….”

Perhaps the Prize will embolden Obama to take bolder steps, rather than to bask in the light that, so far, is generated at least partly by illusion.

Voices of Honor Tour

July 26th, 2009 No comments

Just a quick post to encourage anyone and everyone in the Philadelphia area to attend tomorrow evening’s Town Hall meeting on the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. The event is co-sponsored by the HRC and ServicemembersUnited.org. It’s at the WHYY building (6th and Arch) at 7 pm. There’s also a Veterans’ Roundtable discussion preceding it at 6 pm; this should interest both gay and straight vets.

Tomorrow’s event, kicked off by a press conference  at 11 am featuring local Congressman Patrick Murphy, is the first leg of the Voices of Honor tour. (Find details here.) Murphy has taken on a leadership role in the effort to have DADT repealed.

I’ll be at the 7 pm event — because the event is so important, but also to support my friend Alex Nicholson, who is a co-founder of ServicemembersUnited. Spend a few minutes talking with this interesting and dedicated fellow who was discharged under DADT and be further convinced of the lunacy of the policy. Let’s help make this event a success.

Supplement to Radio Gig on “DADT”

July 1st, 2009 No comments

I had a great time on NPR affiliate WYPR‘s Midday Show today, discussing the indefensible “don’t ask, don’t tell policy” with host Dan Rodricks and Alex Nicholson (whom I profiled here, and who was discharged under DADT).

You can listen to the broadcast here. I wanted to add a quick note to what was said on the radio, though. During one of the breaks, I explained to Rodricks that the policy’s cost went far beyond the gays and lesbians kicked out of the service (or who don’t reenlist). He then asked me to say this on the air, but the chance didn’t arise.

In a point I elaborated from Nathaniel Frank‘s excellent book “Unfriendly Fire,” this policy creates a weird, sexually perilous, atmosphere for gays and straights alike. If “gay” is grounds for discharge — and, really, it is, despite the initial and now abandoned effort to separate “status” from “conduct” — then many men are forced to act like self-conscious incarnations, sometimes bordering on parody, of the Hyper Masculine Male. In one laugh-or-cry story detailed in the book, a guy who was suspected of being gay because of his metrosexuality made it a point to stink up the joint with bad breath: poor hygiene is apparently a buffer against both intimacy and the accusation of homosexuality.

Less amusing are the grisly stories of women either harassed, beaten, or sexually assaulted who are then afraid to come forward for fear — sometimes justified, unfortunately — that by complaining they’ll be seen as lesbians. And once someone has the idea that you might be a lesbian, then any and all “evidence” from musical taste (yes, k.d. laing) to sports interests (do not follow the Dinah Shore golf tournament), to taste in art (I give up, here) can and has been used in the witch hunts that DADT has accelerated rather than stopped.

Until DADT receives its long-overdue legislative interment, the Department of Defense must issue memoranda (and regulations, although these take longer) moving the policy back toward its less vicious intent. (Here‘s a small reason to hope.) Stop asking, stop investigating, take complaints of harassment seriously, train officers and troops alike about respect for all. Enough, already.