Who Celebrates Our Queer Servicemembers on Memorial Day?

danchoiThere will be parades all across the country this Memorial Day commemorating our U.S. servicemembers who died while in the military. But not all of our servicemembers will be honored for their acts of bravery and patriotism.

Back in the day, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer servicemembers who served our country were either closeted about their sexual orientation or were discharged under “honorable conditions” called “Fraudulent Enlistment. ”

Unfortunately, today not much has changed.

“I refuse to lie to my commanders. I have served for a decade under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ — an immoral policy that force American soldiers to lie about their sexual orientation. As a result, the Army sent a letter discharging me on April 23, “ stated Army Lieutenant Daniel W. Choi, a gay Asian American,in an open letter asking President Obama not to fire him and to end the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

Choi, a West Point graduate, infantry officer, Arabic linguist, and Iraq War veteran, is also one of the founders of “Knights Out”, a West Point alumni organization that advocates for open service for LGBTQ American servicemembers.

“I am not accustomed to begging,” Choi wrote, “ but I am begging President Obama today: Do not fire me.”

As a campaign promise to LGBTQ voters President Obama empathetically stated he would repeal the discriminatory policy “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT),” that has either discharged many of our patriotic LGBTQ servicemembers or have them pleading for their lives like Choi.

However, in wanting to avoid the missteps of the Clinton administration on this hot button issue, Obama has taken no steps to repeal DADT because he hasn’t committed to a timetable.

Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that he is aware of the president’s “intent to do this,” but “there are no more specifics with respect to when.”

The conservative Center for Military Readiness sent an “open letter” to Mr. Obama saying they were “greatly concerned” about the impact of repealing DADT on recruitment, morale and unit cohesion.

But the military’s belief that servicemembers who are LBGTQ endanger “unit cohesion” only maintains a policy of segregation and fosters a climate of queer hatred. It also maintains the military’s history of intolerance, as its argument is eerily reminiscent of the one it used before it was forced to racially integrate its ranks.

The privacy rationale is another argument that advocates for the banning of LGBTQ servicemembers in combat. This argument states that all service members have the right to maintain at least partial control over the exposure of their bodies and intimate bodily functions. In other words, heterosexual men deserve the right to control who sees their naked bodies. According to the privacy rationale argument, the “homosexual gaze” in same-sex nudity does more than disrupt unit cohesion. Its supposedly predatory nature expresses sexual yearning and desires for unwilling subjects that not only violates the civil rights of heterosexuals, but also causes untoward psychological and emotional trauma.

However, the 2002 study titled “A Modest Proposal: Privacy as a Flawed Rationale for the Exclusion of Gays and Lesbians from the U.S. Military,” states that banning LGBTQ servicemembers would not preserve the privacy of its heterosexual servicemembers, but instead it would actually undermine heterosexual privacy because of its systematic invasion to maintain it. And, in order to maintain heterosexual privacy, military inspectors would not only inquire about the sexual behaviors of its servicemembers, but it would also inquire into the sexual behaviors of the spouses, partners, friends, and relatives of its servicemembers.

According to this study, heterosexuals already shower with known LGBTQ service members, and very few heterosexuals are extremely uncomfortable with LGBTQ service members.

Robaire Watson, an African American gay veteran from San Francisco, can attest to it.

“I spent six years in the navy serving on the USS Kansas City. I was the one and only barber onboard the ship. I’m a psychologist with a comb and a set of clippers. This is why I was able to interact so well with the entire crew.”

irene-headshot.jpgSupporters of lifting the ban argue that allowing queers to serve openly would improve the military because it would draw tens of thousands of additional recruits. And government reports have shown that many of our LGBTQ servicemembers who have been discharged under DADT had critical skills, such as foreign-language proficiency, that are in great demand for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Homophobia, like racism and sexism, in our armed forces is militarily dangerous because it thwarts the necessary emotional bonding needed amongst servicemembers in battle, and it underutilizes the needed human resources to make a strong and democratic military.

Let this Memorial Day be the last one that our queer servicemembers are forgotten.

Rev. Irene Monroe

About Rev. Irene Monroe

Rev. Irene Monroe is a Ford Fellow and doctoral candidate at Harvard Divinity School. One of Monroe’s outreach ministries is the several religion columns she writes - “The Religion Thang,” for In Newsweekly, the largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender newspaper that circulates widely throughout New England, “Faith Matters” for The Advocate Magazine, a national gay & lesbian magazine, and “Queer Take,” for The Witness, a progressive Episcopalian journal. Her writings have also appeared in Boston Herald and in the Boston Globe. Her award-winning essay, “Louis Farrakhan’s Ministry of Misogyny and Homophobia”, was greeted with critical acclaim.

Monroe states that her “columns are an interdisciplinary approach drawing on critical race theory, African American , queer and religious studies. As an religion columnist I try to inform the public of the role religion plays in discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. Because homophobia is both a hatred of the “other ” and it’s usually acted upon ‘in the name of religion,” by reporting religion in the news I aim to highlight how religious intolerance and fundamentalism not only shatters the goal of American democracy, but also aids in perpetuating other forms of oppression such as racism, sexism, classism and anti-Semitism.”

Comments

  1. Jennifer says:

    Great story. Why not let anyone who’s of age serve if that’s what they want to do? It’s time to throw out homophopia.

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