“Vocation is the place where your greatest gifts meet the world’s greatest suffering.” – Frederick Beucher
I caught this article over at On The Issue Magazine; it argues against the importance that many in the queer community have placed on repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Considering how unpopular the current wars are, I question why the right to serve openly in the military is at the forefront of LGBT activism. Why are gays and lesbians eager to join an institution that has traditionally upheld the rigid gender roles against which the LGBT movement has been rebelling? Why seek membership in an institution that takes advantage of the poor to fight battles that serve the goals of the elite? And what of the civilians whose rights are infringed and cast aside by a U.S. invasion? – are we trading their civil rights for our own?
I have a lot of concerns with this article. My primary issue is the way that the author seems to be arguing that there is only one way to be gay. The kind of “gay” (or QUILTBAG) person who conforms to all of the culturally-defined characteristics of the queer community. Call me crazy, but that seems about as as rigid as boot camp.
Ironically, the author of this article argues that queer folks who support the repeal of DADT and/or the military are trying to “assimilate” into heterosexual culture. As opposed to the assimilation one’s political/cultural opinions into the author’s own? Are we on an episode of “the right way to be gay?”
I’m attracted to sentiments from queer liberationists, who are against the repeal of DADT because they are anti-military. Queer liberationism teaches that queer issues should be examined not just as they relate to the LGBT population, but to all aspects of social justice. This view is in opposition to gay assimilation, which seeks to normalize queerness and codify LGBT people as the same as their heterosexual friends and family. By striving for blanket acceptance, gay assimillationists fail to analyze the implications of participating in certain institutions — achieving sameness is the most important goal.
It seems to me that “gay assimilation” is working both ways. It also, of course, assumes that queer folks couldn’t possibly have legitimate reasons for joining the military. I would say that a queer person joining the military is about as far from “achieving sameness” as you can get.
One of the most glaringly flaws in this article is that the author FAILS TO INTERROGATE WHY PEOPLE JOIN THE MILITARY. Yes, it is about honor and serving one’s country, and those are reasons I very, very much respect. But guess what? It’s about money, too. And here we get into the realities of “gay assimilation” – the notion that all QUILTBAGS folks are middle-to-upper-class. Guess what, they’re not! You heard it here first – the gays can be poor! Joining the military is a way to escape poverty and has been for years, in poor communities it can often be the best choice available. Guess what? The military pays for you to go to college! And I know a lot of people who chose it for that reason. Not everyone can pay for college or take on crushing student loan debt. Guess what else? The military trains you in incredibly well in many, many fields – training that will make you a VERY competitive candidate when you reenter the civilian job market.
I know a lot of people in the military. I know gay people in the military and I know QUILTBAG folks who support the military. I know gay people from military families. I know gay people with aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children, oh, and friends who are active duty military. I also know aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, children, and friends who have loved ones that are gay and in the military.
I guess what it comes down to, in my mind, is the cruelty of double exile. And what I mean by that is this: lots of QUILTBAG folks are without the community that they had from birth. Some people retain relationships family and old friends… lots don’t. People make new, chosen families…how terrible to reject them once again because they believe in the wrong causes, work for the wrong people, or in some other way transgress the fluid boundaries of their chosen community.
I’m not going to get into how I feel about the military. And my point is that no one has the right to tell you how to feel about it either. My legitimacy to claim any type of expression, self-indentity, or community as my own is not and should not be dependent on me choosing the “right” political views, the “right” career, the “right” faith, or the “right” life. My hope for the QUILTBAG community(ities) is that it will never be a gated one and no one will have to provide their credentials upon arrival.
Cross-posted at Oh my sainted Aunt!