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Posts Tagged ‘Nathaniel Frank’

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.

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.