Serving in silence….
Published Thursday, 30-Sep-2010 in issue 1188
While many Americans are unable to find immediate work in this current economy and as we as a country try to rebuild after billions spent on a never ending war, you would think our government would need all the help it could get. Not apparently from GLBT service members though, all living under the threat of joining the countless other Americans who are unemployed.
Those who defend our freedoms on foreign borders do not ask very much in return from us. They feel the need to serve their country even when their country refuses to support them. They fight alone most of the time hidden away from themselves and others they rely on, hoping no one suspects that they are GLBT. It goes without saying that to live two different lives under the best of circumstances is hard for anyone and this uncertainty leaves our GLBT troops broken and feeling hopeless. They are being made to contend with a completely different set of problems that their heterosexual counterparts do not even have to deal with.
For those who serve their country it is more than just a job, it is a calling that engenders dignity, respect, honor, dreams and livelihoods, all of which are shattered by this divisive policy. Since 1993 when DADT was put into place banning GLBT people from serving openly in the military over 11,000 service men and women have been discharged. It is important to note, however, that data has only been collected since 1997 making that number a lot higher in actual terms.
Most GLBT service members, despite the treatment that they have faced or are facing, would like to be able to serve openly as GLBT people and even when discharged would reenlist. For many who have served and are used to the rigid structure of the military they can find themselves abandoned and unable to survive without that structure and the job that they were trained to do. Life as they knew it has gone in a flash, through no fault of their own. Their life laid bare and empty for all their peers and superiors to see and judge.
Those GLBT men and women bravely risk it all for our freedoms and ironically for the freedoms of those who are hell bent on denying those same GLBT people the same rights and freedoms. Add to this the pressures that war puts on a human being and it is no wonder that our GLBT people are coming back with a whole slew of problems.
It is important to remember that while other service men and women can email, Skype and speak freely with and about their loved ones, gays and lesbians cannot under the current policy. If you were to ask heterosexual service members how they were able to get through a tough overseas posting in a war zone, most overwhelming state family, kids, wife, husband, boyfriend or girlfriend. Second to that would be those they served with and depended on for survival. But this basic human right is not available to our GLBT men and women. They have to serve in a vacuum and are expected to become mere automatons with no emotions and no soul. Quite simply it is outrageous. This is meant to be the most civilized country in the world. Those who perpetrate this outrage should hang their heads in shame and face up to their betrayal. Of course like most ill conceived legislation this has not been thought through and this evil policy puts the lives of all of our soldiers at risk as it creates unnecessary additional pressures on many of their colleagues.
Last week the Senate declined to even consider a modified version of what was originally proposed and not one of the Republicans were willing to debate a bill that contained anything to do with DADT. This left those who were hopeful that this nightmare might be over feeling that the battle was lost. However it is important to remember that this is the first time it has been taken to this level and most first tries are met with a sense of failure.
It is important that DADT is acted on and taken just as seriously and met with as much activism as Prop 8 and gay and lesbian marriage, along with all our social and civil rights as Americans. This is not defeat; this is simply the start of a long battle, with much bloodshed and tears, on the way to freedom.
Now more than ever we need to provide help, counseling and support to those who not only have been discharged but who are gay and lesbian vets. It is time to come together and celebrate these men and women and honor them regardless of whether our country will or not. They are the true heroes and they are the ones who ensure our freedoms. Let’s ensure theirs and legislate for them and listen to them. This issue affects us all and it is our collective responsibility. Let them know they do not serve in silence.

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