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Don't ask and don't tell and especially don't tell your life partner
July 19, 2009 12:20 PM   Subscribe

'Silent partner' examines what happens when people 'don't tell' "We can really see the destructive effects of 'don't ask, don't tell' . . . when you see the pain that these spouses and partners go through". Lt. Dan Choi introduces a new documentary film about three gay partners of military personnel.

"One of the rarely discussed effects of the military's "don't ask, don't tell" rule is the burden it places on the civilian partners of gay and lesbian service members. When their loved ones go to war, they do not have access to any of the counseling, financial assistance or support networks offered to heterosexual spouses. And if their loved ones die, no one will come knocking at their doors to notify them."

""Silent Partners" is being launched as gay rights advocates are pressing President Obama to make good on a campaign promise to repeal the rule that bars an estimated 65,000 service members from disclosing their sexual orientation."
posted by VikingSword (19 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Are there really 65,000 gay and lesbian people in the US armed forces? That's, what, three to six divisions? Maybe 30 brigades? That's larger than the entire International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, including all contributing countries.
posted by pracowity at 12:46 PM on July 19, 2009


According to wikipedia, there are 1,454,515 people on active duty in the US armed forces, and an additional 848,000 reserves. Given those numbers, 65,000 would be 2.8%, which seems like a perfectly reasonable number. I believe in the general population, the number given varies from 4-10% depending on how you ask, and what you count as "gay" in the results.
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 12:56 PM on July 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


and what you count as "gay" in the results.

I've always wondered whether Don't Ask Don't tell prohibited disclosing that you are bi-curious.
posted by jayder at 1:23 PM on July 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


The Public Overwhelmingly Supports Lifting The Ban
• A July 2008 poll by The Washington Post/ABC News found that 75 percent of Americans favor allowing gays to serve openly in the military - up from just 44 percent in 1993.

• The poll found 64 percent of Republicans in favor of repeal. A 2006 Zogby poll found that 73 percent of military personnel are comfortable with lesbians and gays.
America's Allies Support Open Military Service
Most allied forces working alongside U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq allow individuals to serve openly regardless of sexual orientation. Studies of the militaries of Australia, Israel, Great Britain and Canada have shown open service to have no effect on enrollment or retention.

• The total number of countries allowing openly gay service is 26. The US and Turkey are the only two original NATO countries that still have bans in place.
posted by ericb at 1:33 PM on July 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm having gayfilter fatigue.
posted by greekphilosophy at 1:35 PM on July 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


'Gay' is no dirty word in other countries' militaries.
posted by ericb at 1:36 PM on July 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


And by "fatigue" I don't mean cute little military outfits as my fagginess might otherwise suggest.
posted by greekphilosophy at 1:36 PM on July 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


You think we should be sympathizing both with the families of the dead, and a subgroup of the people responsible for the deaths?

Are you so myopic in your views to believe that war cannot be tragic and terrible for all sides?

I feel sympathy for our troops who must work under enormous pressure, both political and from the enemies of humanity that let hatred rule their lives. I feel sympathy for those innocent lives we have interrupted or cut short, either unintentionally or in the misguided belief that we were doing the right thing. Those feelings are not mutually exclusive but a recognition of the horrors of human conflict, the endless cycles of violence that have threatened to consume us since the beginnings of civilization. War is never noble and is never glorious. No matter how we try to dress it up or even rightfully justify it, it's just killing.
posted by anifinder at 1:37 PM on July 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


And by "fatigue" I don't mean cute little military outfits...

Uh-huh! ; )
posted by ericb at 1:37 PM on July 19, 2009


I feel sympathy for those innocent lives we have interrupted or cut short

I guess that's one way of describing murder.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 1:45 PM on July 19, 2009 [1 favorite]


[Buncha comments removed. Maybe this can start over without the aggressive derail right out of the gate.]
posted by cortex at 1:58 PM on July 19, 2009


I've always wondered whether Don't Ask Don't tell prohibited disclosing that you are bi-curious.

I have a gay friend who was a civilian contractor in Iraq. He's told me that he's encountered a lot more... shall we say... flexible straight men than he does stateside.
posted by jonp72 at 2:05 PM on July 19, 2009


One thing that's always bothered me about these policies is how little they matter once troops are deployed. From what i've been reading Sen. Patrick Murphy pretty much sums up the political nature of Don't Ask Don't Tell, whereas in pratice it actually prevents the military from having otherwise very capable and valuable service members.

The part that personally bugs me about this policy in particular is that there are already rules against fraternization that have serious penalties. And for the most part, they are effective keeping troops focused on their duties. I have to agree with many on this, when you're in the trenches and bullets are flying overhead, you have little time to think about the sex, nationality, sexual orientation, religeon, or race of your fellow soldiers helping you survive...
posted by samsara at 2:06 PM on July 19, 2009


I've always wondered whether Don't Ask Don't tell prohibited disclosing that you are bi-curious.
Not absolutely, but it also doesn't absolutely prohibit disclosing that you're gay. By the letter of the law, you can disclose it as long as you also (somehow) demonstrate that you are "not a person who engages in, attempts to engage in, has a propensity to engage in, or intends to engage in homosexual acts."

And you can't have ever "engaged", unless you furthermore demonstrate such things as it being "unlikely to recur".

Of course, I'm not exactly sure how a gay person can demonstrate that they don't have a "propensity" to engage in homosexual acts, but hey, ignoring that, a strongly celibate homosexual has the law on their side! Yippee.
posted by Flunkie at 2:34 PM on July 19, 2009


I believe that The Onion has pinpointed the military's real reason for enforcing Don't Ask Don't Tell ...

In all seriousness, thanks for this post. I can't believe I'd never really considered this side of the story before, but how terrible must it be for partners to have to scour the news to see if their loved one's still safe! To have to hide all evidence of their relationship, to erase their existence as a significant part of their deployed love's life? So much pain for no good reason.

Obama really needs to repeal this one NOW. Let Rush & Co. squeal (or Glenn Beck screech, as the case may be). Everything to gain, nothing to lose, especially given the opinion polls ericb cited.
posted by Devika at 5:09 PM on July 19, 2009


I can't believe I'd never really considered this side of the story before, but how terrible must it be for partners to have to scour the news to see if their loved one's still safe! To have to hide all evidence of their relationship, to erase their existence as a significant part of their deployed love's life? So much pain for no good reason.

That's the reason I posted this. It may seem obvious once you say it, but it's an angle rarely highlighted in the mainstream media. As a result, even many people of good will simply have not been exposed to this aspect of the tragedy that is gay civil (lack of) rights in the U.S. And Obama is going to face increasing pressure here, though sadly probably not a full on campaign until after the 2010 elections.
posted by VikingSword at 5:22 PM on July 19, 2009


Obama really needs to repeal this one NOW. Let Rush & Co. squeal (or Glenn Beck screech, as the case may be). Everything to gain, nothing to lose, especially given the opinion polls ericb cited.

I think that's unlikely to happen until about 1pm on the day he's sworn in for his second term. Too many wingnuts can be pandered to by the opposition with "Obama doesn't care about our armed forces. He lets gays in!" etc. Way too easy to spin into a liability. I mean, I agree he should repeal it yesterday, I just don't think it's realistic.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 11:05 PM on July 19, 2009


I realize it may not be very practical, it just seems so ridiculous that we can have a sympathetic ear in the White House and STILL have to wait another four years. I didn't think it was feasible either until I saw those opinion polls.

Maybe if and when more states legalize gay marriage. I mean, Obama did extend benefits to partners of federal employees ... or was that just a stop-gap measure?
posted by Devika at 5:38 AM on July 20, 2009


I mean, Obama did extend benefits to partners of federal employees ... or was that just a stop-gap measure?

He extended a very small number of partner benefits to a tiny subset of federal employees. It was a placating move, at best. (To be fair, Congress had already passed laws preventing him from doing more.)
posted by hippybear at 9:09 AM on July 20, 2009


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