Monday, June 21, 2010

DADT: Truth and Sense Gone AWOL

The things they say.

Politicians and advocates opposed to the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) have provided a chain of ignorant remarks and fantastical claims. I suppose when fear is your main motivator, your lips come out swinging.

In May, Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., chatted on American Family Association (AFA) radio about DADT. "You have women, men, then you'd have a third group to deal with," he said.

A third group? What, Smurfs?

Inhofe continued, "A military guy—I happen to be Army, and Army and Marines always feel that when we're out there, we're not doing it for the flag or for the country; we're doing it for the guy in the next foxhole. And that would dramatically change that."

Apparently every straight soldier would forget his training and duty, emerge from his foxhole and announce to the enemy, "Stop shooting! There's a faggot next to me so I've decided to just go home."

A couple of weeks later, AFA radio treated listeners to a history lesson. Host Bryan Fischer, as part of his discourse on DADT, declared that Hitler was "an active homosexual" who recruited gays to be Storm Troopers.

"Hitler discovered that he could not get straight soldiers to be savage and brutal and vicious enough to carry out his orders, but that homosexual soldiers basically had no limits," said Fischer.

If he twisted history any farther he would decapitate it.

The truth is that several leaders of the SA, the Nazi Party's paramilitary, were gay. That Hitler was gay is unlikely. That Fischer chose to trot out a crazy picture of gay soldiers as vicious animals during the national DADT debate suggests he's desperate and delusional, his head full of Brownshirts doing a Bavarian folkdance.

That's what the American Family Association offered to the debate. Not to be outdone, fellow social conservative group the Family Research Council stepped up to the fantasy plate at the same time. Senior Fellow for Policy Studies Peter Sprigg released what he said was the first study of "homosexual assault" in the military.

According to the TPM Web site, Sprigg told reporters that gays in the service "are three times more likely to commit sexual assaults" than straights.

His facts are about as trustworthy as BP's.

Should DADT be repealed, said Sprigg, the situation would become more dire. "The number of homosexuals would grow, the threat of discharge for homosexual behavior would be eliminated and protected class status for homosexuals would make victims hesitant to report assaults and make commanders hesitant to punish them for fear of appearing homophobic."

And Liza Minnelli would join the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Returning to politicians, consider Al Krieger, the mayor of Yuma, Ariz., who supports DADT and whose remarks at a Memorial Day ceremony in a cemetery included, "I cannot believe that a bunch of lacy-drawered, limp-wristed people could do what those men have done in the past."

What will it take for a person like Krieger to grasp that some of "those men" were gay? That some of them are now? He's as ignorant as a head of cabbage.

Krieger proved that again when he defended himself to TV station KYMA, saying, "We need solid strong men, not pacifists, to fight those battles."

Finally, in June, Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he thinks DADT should stay, in part because Congressional debate could force families to discuss homosexuality.

"What do mommies and daddies say to their 7-year-old child?" Skelton asked media members.

They say sometimes girls fall in love with girls, and boys fall in love with boys, you great big coward.

Cue the irony--the congressman wants a policy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell on Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Lit and Flicks Sustain the Newly Out

After we finished working out and I had breath again to speak, I asked my friend Louisa about her weekend plans. She said she intended to cozy up with a lesbian romance.

It's not that Louisa doesn't have anyone real with whom to cozy up. She's a year into her first lesbian relationship, and that's the point. Because she's in love, because she's new at this Sapphic thing, she gets sustenance from LGBT books, publications and movies.

Even a trashy romance. Especially a trashy romance.

Whether you're in a relationship or not, when you're in the process of coming out, gay books and such affirm that process. They tell you, most basically, that you're not alone. They help you make sense of what you're feeling. It doesn't matter if you're 13 or 75. LGBT books offer clues for the clueless.

I asked Louisa if her romance was a Naiad book, referring to the defunct publisher of all kinds of lesbian novels. She said yes. Ah, I said, Naiad helped many newbies through their lesbian adolescence, including me. Good thing the fruits of that company's labor are still around, helping other, um, fruits.

Louisa's voice held only a tinge of embarrassment for reveling in a romance. For a professor, that's pretty good. As an academic who teaches literature, she's practically required to dismiss romance as being as unworthy as rude limericks. I'm just glad she has tenure.

Of course, she also subscribes to the journal The Gay & Lesbian Review, a fact she can remind herself of should she start feeling a bit too plebeian.

When my partner Anne served as the advisor for a new lesbian support group at Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Lynchburg, Va., in the late '80s, the first thing the organizers did was head to a gay bookstore in Washington, D.C. Before returning to Lynchburg, where Jerry Falwell ruled, they loaded up on books that would've made his hair ignite.

The topics of the fiction and nonfiction included relationships, sex, discrimination, coming out and other baby-dyke essentials. Anne says the students chose books that provided "a chance to see how others had survived. And thrived."

My experience tells me that sometimes the works we seize on in our early days are just lousy. Take the lesbian movie "Claire of the Moon." Hardly a soul in the film can act, lesser characters are achingly stereotypical, and did I mention hardly anyone can act?

But I watched that movie more often than film buffs watch "Citizen Kane." Because my lesbian celluloid options were limited. And because of one hot sex scene, if I'm honest. And absolutely because I could relate to the emotions and longings, despite their being so badly packaged.

That's how desperate we can be as gay people to see ourselves on the screen or on the page. We need to see our lives represented at any time, but when someone is newly out, the need is especially primal. Gimme a gay fix. Now.

I'm thinking Lesbian Starter Kits might be a good idea. Buy one for the rookie lesbian in your life. Choose from a variety of books, magazines and movies. Suitable for housewarmings, birthdays, bat mitzvahs or any occasion.

I can't remember the last time I watched "Claire of the Moon," and I haven't read a Naiad novel in a long while. I think for most gay folks the hankering for gay books and films doesn't evaporate, but it does become less acute. No longer do I yearn to acquire written or filmed lesbiana.

But I haven't forgotten what it's like to be newly out. I should write a book.