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As President Bush prepares for a holocaust in Afghanistan and possibly Iraq, it's time for gays in the military to get out, and stay out. No amount of mayhem brought down on other countries is going to bring back the people who died in the World Trade Center or the Pentagon.
President Bush issued an executive order September 14 that directs the Secretary of Defense to decide whether the armed forces will issue "stop loss" orders. Those orders could include ending all discharges for disclosing gay identity because the U.S. armed forces need every competent serviceman and woman they can get.
According to media reports, the Defense Department is saying anti-gay discharges will now stop, but I hope the proponents of gays in the military aren't applauding the demise of the "don't pursue" portion of "don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue." Service Members Legal Defense Network cautions this is not a done deal; however, the likely suspension of the anti-gay policy exposes how important it is that the self-appointed movement leaders who set the LGBT agenda must drop the gays in the military demand faster than you can say Barney Frank.
That's what happens when our movement tries to gain equality within a war machine. During peacetime, it may be alluring to fight for poor gay people or young lesbians stuck in a small town in the heartland to have a government-sponsored route to training and a college education. But the U.S. military doesn't just provide educations. What was that recruiting poster spoof from the 70's? Essentially: "travel the world, meet interesting people...and kill them."
At other points in history, the ban on gays in the military served us quite well. My very straight brother-in-law sashayed down to Manhattan's military induction center in 1965 when the army tried to draft him. This six-foot young man in the prime of his life acted his way into a 4F classification by pretending to be gay. (For those of you too young to know draft lingo, a 4F classification meant the army would never want you.) He caught some flak for his actions, but I say more power to him. He never had to go to Vietnam or serve a day in the U.S. armed forces. Instead, he worked as a college professor and served his country by joining the anti-war movement along with his students.
The freeze on don't ask, don't tell discharges has nothing to do with any change in the attitudes about homosexuality among Pentagon brass. No. According to Charles Moskos, a Northwestern University sociologist, the Pentagon is afraid that straight soldiers will claim to be gay in order to "bolt" from warfare. Just as people like my brother-in-law did before they ever set foot on a base during Vietnam.
I hope that every gay man and lesbian currently in the U.S. armed forces marches right up to their commanding officer and asserts their sexual identity. I'd like to see every one of those young men and women save their butts (and ours, the Afghanis, Iraqis, Palestinians, etc.) with a reasonable package from the military arranged by one of those top-notch lawyers who've been helping gay people deal with discriminatory discharges all along. In my book, it's the most honorable thing to do. I know the lawyers will have a tougher time if the armed forces don't want to discharge people, but the generals are hypocrites.
Certain movement leaders think that gays and lesbians have to prove their mettle in battle in order to gain equality. Fighting for the right to be cannon fodder in a so-called "war against terrorism" that doesn't even have a clear political definition gets us nowhere. If enough soldiers refuse to fight in what looks like an inevitable war, we might have a chance to change the world before it's too late. Not to mention push forward a clearer concept of just what it is the LGBT movement is working towards.
Judy Gerber is a San Francisco-based freelance writer. She has formerly worked as news producer and editor at Gay.com and co-directed the News Watch Project, which analyzed coverage of people of color and lesbians and gays.