“Don’t ask, don’t tell,” that most Heller-esque of military doctrines, seems to be limping into the final, senile stage of its brief and ridiculous life. Now it seems soldiers can tell some officers they are gay, and in fact one officer is even asking for that information, but these conversations totally doesn’t count as gay or something. You know, like college. Or jager-bomb night.
Congressional bathroom-reading daily The Hill is reporting that Secretary of the Army John McHugh is not a completely homophobic lunatic, and is actually interested in creating and maintaining a competent, volunteer military. He will talk to gay men and lesbians and get their opinion on DADT without outing them to the Army at large. This is a good thing! McHugh is doing the right thing here — allowing service members to discuss a backwards, ignorant, and discriminatory policy without having to fear reprisal. Colin Powell, SecDef Bobby Gates, and Adm. Mullen all favor repealing DADT, while the military considered reprimanding a general who urged his soldiers to write letters to their congressperson asking to keep the policy in place. Though he won’t face any disciplinary action, General Mixon does look like a modern-day segregationist in the news coverage.
All of this suggests to me that we will see DADT repealed during Obama’s administration, even if it won’t be as quickly as many gay rights groups had hoped. (As for repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, I’m more skeptical.) But more than anything else, McHugh’s compassion here highlights the idiocy and childishness at the core of DADT. So, a private can tell the Secretary of the Army she’s a lesbian, and not get outed. But what if she tells the Secretary of the Navy? OH MY GOD, is she still gay? Is she half-gay? And what if the Sec of Navy tells McHugh about the soldier’s sexual orientation? What is McHugh compelled to do in that situation?
AND. Gasp. What if McHugh is gay? Who could he talk to about DADT? I suppose he could talk to Obama, who is a civilian, but also his commander, but, but, how are we going to keep track of all the dangerous gay people with all these rules getting in the way? Why, it’s hard enough to spot ’em nowadays anyway! God, other people’s sexuality is so confusing, I wish it simply weren’t my business at all. That would really simplify things.
The fear of being discharged from the service for being outed is far from purely academic, even now. Just a few weeks ago a soldier was discharged after local police learned she was a lesbian. They later informed her commanding officer in the Air Force. She neither asked nor told, and is now filing a law suit with the help of the ACLU.
As a brief historical aside, I just read about the appaling treatment Walter Jenkins received at the hands of the Washington DC political establishment and press corp after being outed in the final days of the LBJ/Barry Goldwater presidential race. It was common at the time to believe that homosexuality was a mental disorder, and that those who were “weak-willed” enough to succumb to those “urges” would also likely be vulnerable to Communist infiltration. Jenkins was LBJ’s top advisor and close friend for 25 years, and, the thinking went, Johnson had compromised national security by including Jenkins in high-level meetings. That was in 64 — the era of Doctor Strangelove. In 2010 the military is still not without its procedural absurdities, and the sooner DADT is repealed the sooner this bizarre “who knows what secret” farce can end.