As of Thursday of this week, “Don’t Ask” has been dead for a month. To this point, the outreach I’ve received from peers and coworkers has been extremely positive, which appears to be the trend across all branches of the services. Contrary to all of the hullabaloo raised by those against the repeal, to my knowledge there hasn’t been a single issue with openly gay troops serving in their units across the board — that’s HUGE!
In my personal experience, the only negativity I encountered was a comment I overheard from a single person in a large group. On my first day back after DADT’s repeal on 20 Sept, I heard a fellow airman mention how he still doesn’t want to have to see two guys in pink camo holding hands. His comment got me thinking…
It’s clear to me this airman has yet to have the inequality faced by every gay American hit close to home for him. The invisible, nameless, faceless military-gay is easy to put down. It’s another beast entirely when being stared in the face by a person who has gone through the experience first hand.
In the book ‘Conduct Unbecoming’ by Randy Shilts, she details how Gen Eisenhower once learned of the presence of lesbians under his command. He turned to one of his staff members, who he was particularly fond of (and also happened to be a lesbian) and asked her to compile a list of lesbians to be discharged from the service. She promptly informed him that her name would be the first on the list, to which Eisenhower responded: “Forget about it.”
Eisenhower’s case is a prime example of how letting the issue hit close to home influenced his views on homosexuality within the military. With the policy banning gays from the military out of the way, the cultural shift away homophobia is already in motion.
The mandatory training conducted this past spring in preparation for the final repeal of DADT was the perfect preface to an important dialogue which allows this to happen on a large scale. Its easy to underestimate the capacity for maturity our military members have and assume everyone is homophobic and ultra-conservative. In reality it’s an accurate cross-section of American culture, the majority of whom are in their 20s.
The military culture is one which fosters learning, growth, and mutual respect — all of which sounds to me like a pretty safe environment to be open to me. I have gay friends who are still afraid to come out to their fellow brothers in arms. I hope they soon see they have nothing to fear.