Thursday, May 22, 2008

We're Better Off Without You

Last week, the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality. “Separate but equal” is not constitutional. Yesterday, according to an article from the Associated Press, a federal appeals court took another step forward ruling that the military can’t automatically discharge people because they are gay.

It wasn’t a ruling against the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy requiring the discharge of service men and women who acknowledge being gay or engage in homosexual activity. However, the court placed the burden on the military saying that they must prove that the “dismissal furthers the military’s goals of troop readiness and unit cohesion”. The article added that military officials “need to prove that having this particular gay person in the unit really hurts morale, and the only way to improve morale is to discharge this person.” It sounds to me that this will require justification for every application of the policy.

Yes, because this person is gay and in our presence, none of us can do our jobs. None of us are safe!

Um yeah, prove that. We’ll see how long that will last before someone up there figures out that this policy doesn’t make sense, is unjust, and/or these court cases challenging dismissals due to the policy are costing a lot of money. It’s been suggested in the article that because of this court ruling, the days of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” are numbered.

Read the article here: "Federal Court Rules Against Military Gays Policy"

It's interesting how sometimes we'll sacrifice truly valuable members of our family, organization, community, or society for the sake of other people's discomfort. We'll be willing to release them from communion in order to preserve The Communion. I don't think injustice to preserve justice makes any sense to me . . . .

I'm not simply talking about asking a disruptive voice to leave the room. I'm talking about ejecting someone from fellowship or service for the sake of morale citing race, gender, or orientation as the cause for diminishing morale.

In 1995-ish, I was part of a co-ed fraternity. I joined this fraternity with a close friend of mine. Actually, she was an ex-girlfriend from high school. At the time we had realized that “it wasn’t working” and our break up led to the development of a pretty strong friendship. So when we got to college joining the co-ed frat was something we could do together. We learned about fraternal bonds of friendship and we got to participate in community service and we got to exhibit leadership and we were both viewed as assets to our fraternal community. Then she began a personal journey of her own and started dating a female to male transgendered person “in transition” (taking hormones and had plans for surgery).

This whole thing was new to everyone and the reaction and responses weren’t something to be proud about. I liked the person my friend started dating. I had never met someone like “him” before and I learned a ton. We became friends and it was my first exposure to the GLBT world. My friend had never experienced those feelings before and at the time she viewed it as a heterosexual relationship, albeit different and unconventional. Our fraternity brothers and sisters had never experienced this before and so the conversation during the official business meeting was about what to do about our “lesbian” sister. Emotions got pretty heated and people took divided stances on this “issue.” But since I was in the closet and Side X, I stayed silent. Neutral.

But I should have spoken up for my friend regardless of the position I took on the issue for myself. I can choose to be Side X for myself but that doesn’t mean my friend should be denied the right to make her own choices or that she should be disrespected for the choices she made. Being in the closet, I was pretty confused about the situation. I didn’t want to draw attention to myself or the dark secret that I held – especially after seeing which of my fraternity brothers and sisters would not have been supportive. It hit way too close to home for me and I needed to stay invisible.

My silence wasn’t my neutrality. By not speaking up in defense of my friend and fraternity sister, I catered to my own discomfort and I catered to the discomfort of my fraternity brothers and sisters. We were having a discussion that shouldn’t have taken place in the first place – that is, to consider disowning someone from our fraternal family because some were uncomfortable about whom she chose to date.

Who cares if they felt uncomfortable? What about her discomfort with being judged? Why was she dismissed so easily for the sake of the majority?

I can see that my journey didn’t begin in 2005 when I chose to try reconciling my faith and sexuality. I was on my journey, even back then 10 years prior, when I was seeing firsthand the injustice towards the marginalized. I’m ashamed that I participated in it.

The sad part to our journeys and stories that I wish the mainstream would begin to empathize with is that many of us have little options but to live a life in the closet, in secret and in hiding out of fear of being rejected only to be proven right when we’re released, dismissed or discharged from communion or service when the news is “out”.

What we hear is: “We’re better off without you.”


1 comment:

Stan said...

Excellent blog, Eric! This was exciting to hear last week or a couple of weeks ago when it hit the news. [On a side note, I'm reading an incredible book right now called, Conduct Unbecoming: Gays and Lesbians in the U.S. Military, by Randy Shilts. It's a great book filled with stories drawn from hundreds of interviews with Gay and Lesbian servicemembers.]

Being back on active duty for the time being (after being away from the military for a while), it's been hard to try and draw a line on when to say something and when to let it slide... knowing how to pick my battles. It's difficult when a comment could start people questioning ... and who knows how it will end up. But I know that I need to be that catalyst where I am right now. I need to challenge the thinking of people around me. From something political in the news like gay marriage in California, to something as simple as challenging people when they ignorantly proclaim, "That's so GAY!" "Oh, really? What's gay about it? Why is it gay? Would anyone be offended if I said, 'That's so BLACK!'? Or, 'That's so ASIAN!'?"

Anyhow, it's tough being in such a homophobic environment. But I trust God to guide my words and protect me for as long as He wants to keep me in this environment. And I know one day, hopefully within the next two to four years, Don't Ask Don't Tell will be gone. And when the ban is lifted, servicemembers will start coming out. I'll be one of the first ones. I believe there will be some violence at first, and it will still be difficult to fight through the prejudice once servicemembers are out of the closet. There will still be homophobes. And they will still be in high places, low places, and sitting next to me. I just pray that when that time comes, God uses me and His people to be there for them and be the support they don't currently have and may not have much of when it happens.