Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Gays In Uniform

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Officially, gay men and women can now serve in the military without concealing their sexual orientation. Realistically, it is going to be a long time before they can openly express themselves without fear that there will be consequences. People's attitudes don't change that fast, and the military is probably among the slowest institutions to change. Heck, the military still thinks that killing people is the way to settle disagreements.

There are a lot of reasons the military will change slowly. Among the biggest impediments to change will be the homosexuals who hold high rank. Some of them will now be afraid that their partners will talk about their own sexuality. They will worry that people will put two and two together and figure out why a particular general and a particular lieutenant spent so much time together.

Military recruiters will also resist the change. Until now, they were able to promote the idea that joining the Army or Navy or Marines was a good way to make people believe that you were a manly man. It was a good ruse for gays who weren't ready to come out of the closet. Now they will need a new beard.

Straights will also resist the change. What guy on leave wants the ladies to think that he has spent months at a time with no one to kiss him goodnight except one of the other fellas in his unit?

There have been gays in the military for as long as there has been a military. Surprise! But what happens if, now that soldiers and sailors can tell the truth, we find out that the military is actually more gay than the rest of society? What may happen is that it becomes ever more gay, as gays flock to be part of an organization where they know they will find people who are like them. That happened a long time ago in some parts of the country. There are cities with famously large gay populations, and neighborhoods in other cities where gays have elected to reside, and professions where gays were not kept out.

The repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell does more than just rescind a policy that sought to prevent gays from being interrogated about their personal lives. The military is implementing the new policy as a right of military personnel to identify themselves as gay. This protection is not given to people who work for private employers in a large part of the country. Most employers are still allowed to discriminate against gays. They can refuse to hire gays and fire them just for being gay.

So, the U.S. military is now one of the most gay-friendly employers in the country, and it has better benefits than many other employers. There will be resistance to change, but big changes may very well come anyway. Or maybe there won't really be any change at all, just a little more honesty about what has been going on all along.

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