I’m disturbed about the continuing discussion regarding gays in the military. It’s not like this is a new controversy. Even the late Barry Goldwater, “Mr. Conservative”, famously said “You don’t have to be straight to be in the military; you just have to be able to shoot straight.” And that was many years ago. So here we are, in 2010, still trailing (again) much of the industrialized world in allowing EVERYONE who wants to serve the nation (and is physically able to do so) to join the military. Why? One of the excuses I’ve seen for this is that straight soldiers will not want to serve with gay soldiers. Now you and I both know that this “reason” comes, at least in part, from the right-wing religious nuts, some of whom seem to have infiltrated our armed forces. Others are “projecting” in a futile attempt to banish their own “unacceptable” urges (“Señor Rekers…table for two…”), and still others are looking for ways to promote the “us-verses-them” environment in which they are the most comfortable, and which yields the greatest financial returns in the plate on Sunday. Why donate unless your money goes to fight a common enemy, whether it’s “Satan” or “The Mooslims” (the offspring of Osama bin Laden and Bullwinkle?) or “The Gays?” And so the cash rolls in. But in reality, there is no legitimate reason for this institutionalized discrimination to have occurred in the first place, let alone a reason why it should continue.
Consider the following case…
Mark Bingham was a graduate of University of California, Berkeley, where he was president of his fraternity and a member of the UCB National Championship rugby team. When United Airlines flight 93 was hijacked, Mark Bingham was on board. He knew from cellphone conversations that planes were being crashed into buildings, and he knew what was coming. He was one of the leaders of the counterattack that caused the plane to crash in rural Pennsylvania, rather than allowing it to be used to “take out” the White House, or the Capitol, or whatever. Everyone on board died…no one on the ground was hurt. At Mark’s memorial service he was eulogized by (of all people) Senator John McCain, who believed that Flight 93 was headed for the Capitol, and so posthumously thanked Mark for possibly saving his life. Mark’s partner, Paul Holm, shared the stage with the senator.
Can you imagine a soldier on night patrol in Afghanistan who would NOT want Mark Bingham next to him? And of course there are now, and there have always been, innumerable gay soldiers and sailors and pilots and…well..you get the idea. When our nation has needed them, gay Americans have stepped forward and answered the call, even though they have had to deny who they are in order to do so. Now, when we need them so much, and are so grateful to them for their service, why do we put them in this awful position? In this country, it should have NEVER been this way. But we can’t rewrite history…we can only stop playing it out over and over again. The gay soldiers currently serving have much in common with straight soldiers. They want to serve their country with honor and pride, keep from being hurt, protect their fellow service members, and get home safely to their families and to their futures. The worst thing that can happen if gay soldiers are allowed to serve openly is that the barracks will be tastefully redecorated and the uniforms will fit better (“desert fatigues are the new black”).
And GET OVER YOURSELVES my fellow straight people! Gay people want to be involved romantically with other gay people, just like you and I want to be involved romantically with other straight people. Gay people are NOT interested in your lush body. You are NOT irresistible. You can’t even count the number of people, both gay and straight, that resist you on a daily basis. Do you ever consciously set yourself up for rejection? If not, then why would you assume that gay folks would? Rejection is unpleasant, and you have to be a fool, gay or straight, to knowingly put yourself in a situation where you know you are likely to be rejected. You are not so amazing that everyone wants you (trust me…you’re not), and even if they do, they’ll leave you alone if they know that you’ll turn them down. That applies to straight people, and that applies to gay people. And this applies both inside and outside of the military.
If we allow men and women to serve together (another piece of good sense that was too long in coming, and which is now accepted as if it had always been so), despite the potential for romantic complications, then we need to do the same with gay people and straight people. And is it just me, or have you noticed that the straight people that are most concerned about being propositioned by gay people are those least likely to be? Nasty, ignorant, prejudiced folks are not usually highly attractive to ANYONE. Not to gay people, not to straight people, and not even to OTHER nasty, ignorant, prejudiced folks. As we all know…REAL ugliness, like real beauty, is on the inside. So like I said…GET OVER YOURSELF…
So it looks like we’re FINALLY going to see this silly “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy die a long overdue death. There will be a few fits and starts along the way, just like there were when President Truman desegregated the military in 1948. And when the new law, if there is one, is put into place allowing gay Americans to serve their country openly, let’s call it “The Mark Bingham Law.” Mark never served in the military, but aboard that doomed plane he bravely volunteered to fight for his country. He died doing so, and may have helped save hundreds or even thousands of lives in the process. And most important, on that awful September morning, the fellow passengers who fought alongside him didn’t care if he was gay or straight. All they cared about was the mission. And I can’t imagine the same not being true when brave young Americans, both straight and openly gay, fight side by side in the future to protect each other and the rest of us. “The Mark Bingham Law” has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?