Don’t Enlist, Don’t Serve

11 Nov

by Troy Williams

http://queergnosis.com/2010/11/11/dont-enlist-dont-serve/

There are many things worse than discrimination. Being hit by a mortar blast, losing a limb, living with post-traumatic stress disorder or killing another human all come to mind.

These are just a few of the deadly realities queers will face if Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is ultimately repealed. The one upside to a Republican-controlled House is that we may be able to maintain the protections of DADT indefinitely. However, if the pro-military faction of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender political movement succeeds in repealing DADT, closeted soldiers will lose the opportunity to easily escape the horrors of war. DADT has saved an untold number of queer lives. We should praise President Clinton and award every politician who works to keep it in place.

Now, I agree that DADT is discriminatory. It makes liars of soldiers who have sworn oaths of honor and integrity. But war is much worse than discrimination. The ongoing WikiLeaks revelations continue to expose what progressives have argued all along: war brings out the worst in humanity. We see clearly now how politicians, commanders, rogue soldiers and private mercenaries employ torture and thuggery to enforce American hegemony.

Yet I have absolute empathy for these soldiers. I don’t blame them for fighting to stay alive. Few go into the service because they want to fire a weapon at another human being. Most are inspired to enlist by genuine patriotism. Many who are economically disadvantaged need the military to finance college. When a soldier finally acknowledges her sexual identity she may be struck with the fear of losing her rank, career and college fund. Not to mention the shame of being dishonorably discharged.

Yes, it’s horrible to be discharged for being gay. But it’s even more horrible to be tortured by your fellow soldiers.

The culture of the military encourages hazing, misogyny and homophobia. Sexual assault against women and gay servicemembers is frighteningly common. Dr. Mic Hunter, the author of Honor Betrayed: Sexual Abuse in America’s Military lays out the ugly facts: one-third of all the females seeking services at the VA report experiencing an attempted or completed rape. Thirty-seven percent experienced more than one. Four percent report being gang raped. Not by insurgents, mind you — by fellow soldiers. Between 20 and 24 percent of female veterans and 10 percent of male veterans report being raped. Research on civilian rape regularly concludes that only 60 percent of sexual assaults are reported. This number is presumably much lower in the military.

People who do report are often stigmatized and possibly retaliated against. Hunter writes, “Only 12 percent of those who had been sexually harassed used the formal complaint system, because they believed the reporting system was merely in place to protect the chain of command.” (p. 187)

How well do you really think an out gay soldier will fare in this military? Honestly?

War fucks people up. When you kill you lose a piece of your soul. When a soldier dehumanizes people in order to kill them, the effects are equally devastating on that soldier’s psyche. The gay community is rightfully concerned about youth suicides. But suicide rates for veterans are also escalating. The Wall Street Journal reported, “A 15-month-study on the rise in suicides over the last two years found 160 suicides among active-duty personnel, 1,713 suicide attempts and 146 deaths from high-risk behavior, such as drug abuse, in the year ended Sept. 30, 2009.”

And the numbers are rising. The Army reported a record number of suicides for June 2010 — at least one per day. Today we have more vets dying of suicide than in combat. Returning soldiers experience high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. Divorce rates have also soared. Drug and alcohol abuse is rampant among Iraq veterans.

Homelessness is also increasing among them.

Yes, there are worse things than discrimination.

Again, I don’t blame individual soldiers. They make the ultimate sacrifice. Our country should give them absolutely everything they need, including free medical and psychiatric treatment, full-ride scholarships, job training and abundant financial reimbursement. We should hold back nothing.

Our gay leaders have little to say for the plight of veterans. Their only plea is, “Let us in! Let us in so that we can be equal!” I respond, “No. Keep us out! Keep us out of the corporate war machine. Don’t let gay kids kill other gay kids in foreign countries. Protect DADT so queer soldiers have a way to get the hell out of the military when a future hawk president like a Mitt Romney decides to invade Iran.

I get what military service means to the marginalized gay community. It is the ultimate symbol that we are at last “good” Americans. We want to prove that we will bleed and die for this nation. Our desire for inclusion has made us silent to the fact that the military structure itself is a corrupt and corrupting force. National gay leaders may personally denounce war but they won’t mobilize against militarism. They won’t defend queer Iraqis who have lost their lives because they were on the receiving end of a U.S. cluster bomb. Rather, they actually insist that gay people deserve the right to deploy the same cluster bomb. Have we all gone insane?

Repealing DADT will not be a progressive victory for human rights. It will not be a step forward for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. Rather, it will mean that we will perpetuate the same system of violent oppression. Worse, we will be fodder for future wars. Queers will fill bloodied body bags and flag-draped coffins. For which war profiteer are you willing to die? Halliburton? Bechtel? The Republican Party? They are not worthy of our sacrifice.

My advice to enlisted queer Americans is to get out while you still can. To those of you thinking of serving — don’t! To professional gay lobbyists, stop militarizing our politics. Instead, redirect the untold millions you spend on repealing DADT to college educations for low-income queers. Fund full health care for queer veterans. Encourage lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans to denounce war and proclaim peace. Let’s get back to the work of social justice. Long Live DADT.

10 Responses to “Don’t Enlist, Don’t Serve”

  1. j November 11, 2010 at 10:44 pm #

    a queer life is not worth more than any other, so i think you should redirect your title toward ALL individuals.

    with that said, if i see one more facebook update asking me to thank a fucken vet i’m gonna puke on myself.

    the notion that people enlist to pay for college is bullshit; see, they got this great thing called the US dept of Education, great interest rates. tuition will never justifiably pay for neocolonialism, torture, and u.s. terrorism.

    last time i checked, we had an all volunteer militia. if you are joining you are responsible for the horrors you encounter there (obviously, war-related, i am not making an argument in support of hazing or rape). queer or otherwise, if you are part of this shit, i am opposed to you.

    finally, i hardly think your justification for patriotism is a viable argument–if these folks are joining out of patriotism, that makes them even more idiotic. in other words, what are these people so fucken “patriotic” about? haven’t we, as progressive queers, put forward a long and sophisticated critique of the state?

    repealing DADT is fucken redundant, why not move to a critique of u.s. nationalism, state authorized torture, and heightened surveillance and loss of civil liberties! queer or not,” DON’T ENLIST, DON’T “SERVE” “.

  2. Equality Run November 14, 2010 at 11:15 am #

    This is another argument that is built on the premise that repeal will “let the gays in.” They are already serving. They already have lost limbs. They have already been killed in combat. They already have PTSD. They already have been gang raped. They are already commiting suicide. Add to the list that because of DADT they also get the lovely prize of being blackmailed by those who would “tell.”

  3. 9theory November 14, 2010 at 12:19 pm #

    Thanks so much for this concisely written article. It really helped coalesce my thoughts on the subject and on no better day to do so. Please keep sharing.

  4. Demand Equality November 14, 2010 at 12:38 pm #

    Children are beat up in school because some bullies decide that beating kids who appear or who are gay is a good idea, so since being beat up in school is worse than being discriminated against, children who are beat up at school should just stop going to school. Will Phillips, the boy who refused to say the pledge of allegiance did just that, he is now missing out on school and is being home schooled because he took a stand for equality.

    Being gay bashed on the job is worse than being discriminated against. I quit a job because I was being physically assaulted by a supervisor because I am a lesbian and this happened way before there were any workers rights anywhere. Did I do the right thing by giving up and not fighting back.

    An 81-year-old woman whose wife of more than 40 years who just died (they were married legally in Canada). Her deceased spouse left the widow her estate. The widow now has to pay $350,000 in estate tax because their marriage is not recognized by the federal government due to the Discriminatory Offensive Marriage Attack. Should she just pay the money silently or do what she decided to do and challenge the unconstitutional DOMA?

    What you don’t seem to get is that the reason we are discriminated against is because we are not considered Americans but once Don’t Ask Just Kick Gays Out of the Military and Replace them with Felons, Rapists, Fascists & TheocRATS is repealed, that will open the door to the beginning of unconditional constitutional equality, not because we are queer but because we are Americans. Hopefully the repeal will one day mean that the Will Phillips in America won’t have to leave school, 81-year-old women won’t have to pay estate taxes and no one will be gay bashed off a job.

    To make that happen go to http://site.umbrella-q.net/issues.html and tell every senator to repeal DADT – tell them on Facebook, Twitter, Email, Phone & Fax. Petition the government for a redress of grievances while you still have that right.

  5. Dino November 14, 2010 at 8:31 pm #

    Long live DADT????!!! Troy, exactly what planet are you on??? I assume that you have never served a day in the military!! I have and I am very proud of my service. DADT is the modern day separate but equal. Was that okay?? How about all the people such as the Service Members Legal Defense Network or Service Members United who are working very hard to get DADT repealed. Are they all wasting their time advocating for an unworthy cause?

  6. rozele November 20, 2010 at 6:06 pm #

    @Dino: yes.

    and, what’s more, making it harder for folks of any sexuality who’re conned into enlisting to get out of the military before they are
    – injured (by fellow u.s. troops or folks resisting invasions and occupations),
    – killed (ditto),
    – raped/sexually assaulted (by fellow u.s. troops: the rate is somewhere over 1 in 3 for women, less clear for men or trans folks)
    – forced to kill and injure other humans (often civilians, if that makes a difference to you).

    if you think that folks who briefly buy the recruiters’ con jobs should not have a simple way out, by all means support the repeal.

    @Demand Equality:

    out gays in the military has nothing but nothing to do with

    (a) queer & trans folks being attacked or discriminated against on the job (that would be the trans-inclusive Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which most prominent DADT-repeal advocates generally oppose);

    (b) students being attacked in schools (which is not a problem of ‘bullying’ but of systematic prejudice by school administrators, teachers, and parents, non of whom are held accountable in any way for their actions);

    (c) discriminatory inheritance laws (though to begin with, anyone whose estate is over $350,000 damn well oughta have most of it taxed away – a gay hereditary plutocracy isn’t any better than a straight one).

    the only thing that seems to link them even in your argument is the fantasy that military service somehow makes people 1st Class Citizens who don’t get discriminated against. can i remind you that african americans began serving in integrated units in the u.s. military in 1948, and women have served in integrated units (including units involved in combat) since the korean war. i hope you’re not going to argue that women and african americans live in conditions of equality with white men in the u.s. let’s learn that lesson.

  7. Rebel Girl November 22, 2010 at 1:48 am #

    Thank you.

    I am all for integrating some institutions (say, marriage) but the military – well, you said it best:

    “Repealing DADT will not be a progressive victory for human rights. It will not be a step forward for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. Rather, it will mean that we will perpetuate the same system of violent oppression.”

    Blame it on all those women studies professors of mine back in the 80s who taigt me how to think. I love ’em.

  8. Rebel Girl November 22, 2010 at 12:21 pm #

    “taught” me – I meant to write. They obviously did not teach me how to type. Whew.

  9. knownever December 2, 2010 at 9:31 pm #

    While repealing DADT will have important ramifications for LGB (the T pretty much medically disqualifies you from military service) soldiers, it is much more important to civil-military relations generally. If the military and service members come to see themselves as too radically distinct from US society as whole it is a going to be a serious problem. The prevalence of op-eds like this (http://www.politicsdaily.com/2010/09/09/in-the-10th-year-of-war-a-harder-army-a-more-distant-america/?a_dgi=aolshare_facebook) attest to the fact that that split is already there and growing, and as long as we keep relying on an all volunteer military, this gap is likely to widen more.
    Folks on the left seem unwilling or uninterested in figuring out a role for the military in US society or having conversations about how the institution should look internally going forward. Being opposed to war and militarization doesn’t let us off the hook for working with what we’ve got and taking the military as it stands seriously.
    I agree, DADT doesn’t warrant resources that could be better used on more pressing problems, but it’s not worth keeping around just for the oppression-loophole it leaves open. I’m, frankly, curious to see what interesting things might happen both practically for the military and theoretically for masculinity if it does get repealed.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Stop-Loss: repealing DADT on the Right and the Left « drift lines - January 5, 2011

    […] and the Congressional repeal of it in December, queer activist Troy Williams declared himself in favour of the ban. Though seemingly already outrun by the course of events, his reasoning is worth a close look. […]

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