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Soldier's Legacy
August 2, 2008 11:22 AM   Subscribe

"The blogger Andrew Sullivan linked to the Blade account and encouraged readers to complain to the Post. “I can see why outing someone who is alive and closeted is unethical,” he wrote. “Inning someone who is dead and was out is a function of utterly misplaced sensitivity, rooted in well-intentioned but incontrovertible homophobia.”" A Soldier's Legacy.
posted by wittgenstein (16 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
This is commonly done by family members of gay people -- once you're conveniently silenced forever, they're able to reimagine you and represent you in whatever whitewashed way they see fit. I can't say I expect better of the military, but it is really, really frustrating to hear about.
posted by [NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] at 11:53 AM on August 2, 2008 [2 favorites]


Sullivan is back blogging again, btw.
posted by homunculus at 11:57 AM on August 2, 2008


Q&A with the author.
posted by Oxydude at 12:01 PM on August 2, 2008


> This is commonly done by family members of gay people -- once you're conveniently silenced forever, they're able to reimagine you and represent you in whatever whitewashed way they see fit. I can't say I expect better of the military, but it is really, really frustrating to hear about.

Neil Gaiman touched upon this with one of his characters in Sandman, Wanda, whose family buries her as Alvin at the conclusion of the A Game of You story arc.
posted by WCityMike at 12:47 PM on August 2, 2008


Inning someone who is dead and was out is a function of utterly misplaced sensitivity, rooted in well-intentioned but incontrovertible homophobia.

In this case, though, there seems to be some question as to whether or not Maj. Rogers was actually "out". He apparently kept at least two entirely separate sets of friends, and was open about his orientation with only one of them. It's no surprise that his colleagues at the Pentagon might feel as though he "wouldn’t have wanted [his orientation] made public"; after all, it seems that he was careful not to make it public, at least not with them!

This is why Don't Ask, Don't Tell sucks -- it's meant to keep soldiers from engaging in "problematic" behavior, but the policy itself tends to lead to actual problems with secrets, lying, harassment, blackmail, etc. At this point, even if you're assuming that gays in the military break unit morale (funny how most of the soldiers in those very units don't agree), you've got to admit that the constant threat of being kicked out due to a witch hunt is also affecting morale in a serious way. That goes double for female soldiers, who have been disproportionately affected by DADT.

In short, it's long past time for a policy change. They're here, they're queer, get used to it already!
posted by vorfeed at 1:46 PM on August 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


I prefer "We're here, we're queer, so what?"
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 2:12 PM on August 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


The saddest part about this whole thing is that he was so devoted to the military, that he never had a serious partner for fear that it would cost him his job. Reading about his "letter of intent" where he writes that his biggest regret was not finding that special someone to watch the sunset with - ouch.

That is the problem with "Don't ask, don't tell" - it's essentially saying to gay members of the military "You can be devoted to your job, or you can be devoted to a romantic partner, but not both." This is a horrible choice to ask someone to make, and one that very few hetero-normative people ever have to think about.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:24 PM on August 2, 2008


[NOT HERMITOSIS-IST] writes "once you're conveniently silenced forever, they're able to reimagine you"

"Reimagine" makes me think Disney, and then a dead gay guy being turned into one of those happy singing bluebirds from "Bambi." Or maybe that warthog from "the Lion King"? Creepy as hell.
posted by orthogonality at 4:20 PM on August 2, 2008


The saddest part about this whole thing is that he was so devoted to the military, that he never had a serious partner for fear that it would cost him his job

That's not necessarily the case though. Why did he leave his entire estate to Shay Hill, who insists he had no clue he was gay, or rather, insists that he was straight? Because of all the secrecy and lies, it makes one speculate that they were lovers. Makes no difference that Hill is married. Of course, since so many key players in this story refuse to be truthful or deal with reality we'll never know.
posted by zarah at 5:37 PM on August 2, 2008


zarah, the article states that Shay Hill wasn't part of Rogers' "gay life," but that Hill and his wife did know that he was gay. Read the section starting a little over halfway through the article that begins, "Broadly speaking, Rogers’s friends could be divided into two camps...."
posted by Zach! at 7:39 PM on August 2, 2008


When I was in the Navy I practiced a personal policy of "Pick Who to Tell". Some guys in the squadron new I was gay, others I made sure to keep it a secret from out of fear they would turn me in.

Why did I join the Navy even though I knew I was gay?? Because a) I literally wanted to serve my country, b) I wanted to fly planes, and c) I had no idea that there would be no such thing as a personal life - at least not without some concerted effort that involved lying about what I did when I wasn't on base.

DADT from my experience was detrimental to unit cohesion - it kept me from being totally open with the squadron, less apt to engage in social functions with them, and pretty much kept me living two separate lives. I remember being stationed in Ventura, CA - I had my military squadron buddies who I did very little with except for my job and then I had all my gay friends down in LA who I hung out with on the weekends - when not deployed that is.

If I hadn't been so afraid of getting turned in, I probably could have been much more integrated into the squadron and felt like I was 'part of the team'. That's not to say I didn't do my job well, but in the aircraft I flew all members pretty much had to know each other inside and out - being able to read how each other was going to act and react under whatever circumstances came our way. Most people didn't really know me at all.
posted by matty at 8:36 PM on August 2, 2008 [3 favorites]


The saddest part about this whole thing is that he was so devoted to the military, that he never had a serious partner for fear that it would cost him his job.

the saddest part is how many good, honest people like this have died for this stupid, pointless fucking war.

it chokes me up every time.
posted by paisley henosis at 9:07 PM on August 2, 2008 [1 favorite]


Speaking of Sullivan, guest blogger Chris Bodenner on his site yesterday had a fascinating post, Gays (Already) In The Military, with a moving story about homosexuals and acceptance in the Vietnam era army. The picture makes it a home run.
posted by LarryC at 9:11 PM on August 2, 2008


I read this in the print edition and was confused at how someone could be so successfully closeted among colleagues and certain friends....and also maintain very active membership in a support organization for gay servicepeople. From the article:

"Shortly after Rogers moved to Washington, in 2004, he joined AVER, and served as the local chapter’s membership coördinator and treasurer, participating in “pride” festivals in Baltimore and Washington and organizing rafting and movie trips; among the latter was a trip to see “Gunner Palace,” a documentary about the experiences of soldiers in Iraq."

From aver.us:

"Throughout our history, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and two-spirit Americans served in the Armed Forces. They took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies both foreign and domestic. We aver that it is the right of these Americans to express personal aspects of their lives, and, in particular, aspects of their sexual orientation and/or gender identification. Furthermore, they should be allowed to do this in an environment free from harassment and discrimination based on prejudice, fear, ignorance, or intolerance in order to fulfill their human potential to the fullest."
posted by availablelight at 4:41 AM on August 3, 2008


In this case, though, there seems to be some question as to whether or not Maj. Rogers was actually "out". He apparently kept at least two entirely separate sets of friends, and was open about his orientation with only one of them.

That's not necessarily the case though. Why did he leave his entire estate to Shay Hill, who insists he had no clue he was gay, or rather, insists that he was straight?

Zach! said it, but you guys missed part of the article. Shay Hill and others of that "set" totally knew he was gay. They just didn't think that he wanted them to "parade it" (whatever that means).

I agree that the facts in the article leave it semi-ambiguous as to whether Rogers wanted to be publicly mentioned as gay, but in his letter of intent, he did bequeath money to the AVER group ...

Interesting article. Thanks.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:00 PM on August 3, 2008


Yah, it was a very long article for me to be reading after a long work day, so I totally missed that. But even so, my original supposition still nags at me as having some truth.

He was a very smart person, maybe he knew there would be this sort of fall out after his death one day, maybe he figured it would be ok to let his memory be duked out in public, maybe he thought that it would lead to discussion and change. Or maybe he thought he still had time to bring the two halves of his world together openly.

Something that really bothered me was how his friends extolled his virtue as a listener and sounding board, a friend who could comfort through his steady nature, but that only now that he's dead have they realized he never said much about himself to them. How self involved can you be to let a friendship be so one-sided? I think that a lot of people let this man down.
posted by zarah at 4:53 PM on August 3, 2008


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