Sex and the Military: Thoughts on “Don’t Ask”

By Allison Schoenauer

Elm Staff Writer

How many people reading this article have been watching the Republican Debates?  If it’s not a priority to you, then take this writer’s advice: start watching them.  It’s good to watch debates because you’re kept up-to-date with the candidates and what is happening in the party.  You’ll get to learn far more about the candidates than what their websites, and Google, will tell you.  Yes, they’ll push their beliefs and plans, but it’s not the planned self-promotion that lets you in the psyches of the candidates.  It’s the gaffs, the little escaping moments of humanity between the half-dozen-or-so people fighting for the same high-profile job.

Sometimes, it’s hilarious.  For instance, watching the debates, you will bear witness to the seething hatred between Senator Mitt Romney and Governor Rick Perry.  Or you could see Michele Bachmann make ridiculous statements regarding taxes.

Sometimes it’s really pathetic.

At a debate aired on Fox News on Sept. 22,  an openly gay soldier currently serving in Iraq asked the candidates over video whether they would reinstate Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, a policy requiring gay and lesbian service members to keep quiet about their sexuality, lest they be thrown out of service.  The video ended to a rousing “boo” from the predominantly hyper-Conservative audience.  Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania spoke first.  He said that, if he became president, he would reinstate DADT, since, as he puts it, “any type of sexual activity has absolutely no place in the military. And the fact that they’re making a point to include it as a provision within the military that we are going to recognize a group of people and give them a special privilege to…  [T]he military’s job is to do one thing and that is to defend our country.”  When a follow-up question is given by one of the moderators, Santorum restates that the purpose of the military is completely separate from sex, so gays and lesbians should stay in the closet while serving in the military.

If one ignores Santorum’s persistent and near-obsessive phobia of gay sex, (he always brings up sex when talking about gay rights—always.  His Google problem doesn’t help) you access a kernel of sense from the rambling statement.  “The military’s job is to do one thing, and that is to defend our country.”  Yes, that’s right.  The military is made up of volunteers who agree to put their life on the line to defend the United States and its people, which, it just so happens, includes gay men and women.  So why should they not be freely represented in the military?

Your sexuality should not be an issue when you join the military.  For the most part, the soldiers and officers in the military don’t think of it as an issue.  DADT makes it an issue.  DADT creates an atmosphere of paranoia and secrecy for both homosexual soldiers and heterosexual soldiers.  The homosexual soldiers can’t let their fellow soldiers—the guys they are fighting and living with— find out about their personal lives, or else they’ll be kicked out.  The heterosexual soldiers have to undermine a system of survival based on trusting another person with your life by reporting homosexual soldiers to higher-ups.  The military loses important translators, officers, and trained soldiers because they were discovered to be gay.

The loss of important soldiers—ones trained to operate tanks and to translate the language of the country you are occupying—and the sense of secrecy and paranoia for some soldiers are more likely sources of the undermining of the system that causes danger than the people you know and are working with in very close quarters knowing your sexuality.  Sex has nothing to do with the military.  Trust between individuals does.

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