Friday, August 01, 2008

And who will speak for the homophobes?

Jon Stewart must feel like manna is falling from heaven when people like Elaine Donnelly, President of the Center for Military Readiness, open their mouths to defend the indefensible. And sure enough, last Wednesday when Ms. Donnelly testified before Congress about why she felt the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy should remain in place, she did not disappoint.

And did Jon Stewart ever have a field day. Not only did he brilliantly cut through Ms. Donnelly’s pathetic homophobic bullsh*t, but he was able to boil her testimony down to one easy-to-understand line: If we let gays and lesbians serve openly, who will speak for the homophobes:

(Cannot get the video code to embed) Video can be seen here.

But crazy, hateful , homophobic rantings aside, there was something else that was really bothering me about Ms. Donnelly’s testimony and it went beyond the fact that she wants to keep able-bodied, patriotic gays and lesbians from serving their country openly and honestly without fear of dismissal. And it even went beyond her nutty screeds about “gay men sharing a cramped submarine with other soldiers,” and her stupid comments about “inappropriate passive/aggressive actions common in the homosexual community", and her irrational fears about "forcible sodomy," and her idiotic obsessions about "exotic forms of sexual expression," and her fear-mongering tales about “groups of black lesbians who want to gang-assault" fellow soldiers.

But I just could not put my finger on what it was that was bothering me more than the above mentioned craziness. And then I read this post over at Obsidian Wings and he articulated perfectly what I could not:

I imagine that it often happens that soldiers who are part of the same unit do not like one another. Sometimes, a soldier might even despise another member of his or her unit, or think that other soldier immoral or contemptible. And yet, when these feelings do not have to do with sexual orientation, we routinely expect soldiers to put their personal feelings aside and do their jobs. And when they don't, we assume that they, not the people they endanger, should be disciplined.

If, for instance, a soldier is racist, and cannot find a way to work with African-American soldiers, we do not discipline or expel the African-Americans. If a soldier dislikes another and cannot put her feelings aside and do her job, we do not punish the soldier she dislikes; we punish her. In all other cases, we assume that given a choice between two soldiers, one of whom is trying to complete his mission to the best of his ability, and one of whom is unable or unwilling to put his animosity aside and do his job, we choose the first. We expect this of our men and women in uniform, and we also expect that they will be given the training and the leadership they need to act like professionals.

I have never understood why it's different when gay men and lesbians enter the picture.

Bam! He nailed it. That was what was bugging me – that a crazy unhinged woman with no military service or expertise could look straight into the eyes of a retired Marine Staff Sargent named Eric Alva, a gay man who lost a leg to an IED in Iraq, and tell him and Congress, with a straight face no less, that she was worried – NOT ABOUT HIM -- but about her fellow homophobes. What in God’s name is wrong with our country? And why the hell was this woman even given a platform and a microphone to speak. What a slap in the face to all the brave gay and lesbian men and women who have selflessly served our country and defended Ms. Donnelly’s right to be a despicable homophobe. Share


Anonymous said...

I'm in total agreement with Obsidian Wings's assessment of the whole idea of "speaking up for the homophobe." I wish, however, that more people would publicly explore and force the homophobes to to try and defend their arguments about forcible sodomy and other such behavior.

That particular argument underlies much of the homophobia in this country. Anti-gay individuals love to portray gay people (especially gay men) as overly aggressive and even even predatory. Whether they imagine that we're trying to recruit children at younger ages or that we're chasing after straight men with a complete unwillingness to take no for an answer, it's all the same to them.

However, I think that one gay activist that I knew online back in the late 90's shed some interesting light on one of the factors that contributes to this idea that gay men will doggedly pursue and even force themselves upon straight men. He spoke of his many times he'd give presentations to local college students about homosexuality and gay related issues. He commented on the fact that more often than not, when the time came for questions, one nervous man in the back of the room would ask the question: "What should I do if a gay guy asks me out on a date." The activist would invariable give the same answer: Say "No thanks. I'm not interested." He noticed that this answer rarely satisfied the nervous youth who asked the original question. It seemed as though the youth felt something more was necessary.

My activist friend said that after several such exchanges, he began to consider how many college age heterosexual males pursued their female counterparts. He began to realize that many of them often refused to take a simple "no thanks" as an answer and would continue to pursue and uninterested woman aggressively, and even relentlessly. Most such guys never even considered there to be anything wrong with such an approach, until they realized that they could be the one being pursued some day. Suddenly, the fact that a simple "no" wasn't necessarily viewed as a "real no" was something to be worried about.

Of course, the irony is that most such guys never fully make this connection, and continue to pursue women aggressively while still not liking the idea of being the one pursued aggressively. (So much for the Golden Rule.) And I think that plays into this military situation, as well. The servicemen who are afraid of gay men are afraid because they know they treat women no better. So they expect gay men to treat them just as badly.

Of course, the hypocrisy of all this is that the military is equally concerned with keeping women safe from the aggressive heterosexual men, as well. (It's one of the most cited reasons why they still don't allow women in certain combat situations.) The interesting thing is that they keep the women "safe" by excluding the potential victim from "risky situations," but they keep heterosexual man "safe" by excluding the would-be "aggressors." So apparently, the proper way to prevent sexual aggression in any given situation in the military is to do whatever is most convenient for the heterosexual males. Even if it means being inconsistent and hypocritical.

-- Jarred.

Seething Mom said...

As usual Jarred you bring a valuable perspective to this blog. You always have me walking away from my computer thinking about what you wrote.

As a straight woman, rather new to seeing things (or rather trying to see things) through the lens of a gay person, I am always going to miss something.

So once again, I say thank you for the "food for thought".

Anonymous said...

The idea of DADT being repealed before, say, DOMA, always grates against me, because in the end we're giving people the right to risk their lives for a country that has active federal legislation to keep them from achieving equality (as opposed to passive lack of legislation to ensure it, which is still bad). That said, I do kind of want to print up some of those obnoxious magnetic ribbons that say "Support our troops (except the icky gay ones)"