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American soldiers who are gay - an update. 
8th-May-2009 01:31 pm
homosexuality
I mentioned yesterday that Dan Choi had been dismissed from the army after publicly outing himself on National Television. Last night, the Rachel Maddow show - which is my only source of news outside my LiveJournal friendspage - had Dan back on to talk about his dismissal.



The segment opens with information about another gay soldier - 2nd Lt. Sandy Tsao - who outed herself in January, and at the same time wrote to the newly inaugurated President to tell him of her situation. This week, he replied. With a handwritten note, the contents of which read:
Sandy - Thanks for the wonderful and thoughtful letter. It is because of outstanding Americans like you that I committed to changing our current policy. Although it will take some time to complete (partly because it needs Congressional action) I intend to fulfill my commitment! — Barack Obama.
This isn't action. It's not initiation of procedures. It's just a promise and some words. But I'm going to take this as a good sign, that a particularly busy man thinks this fight is a worthy one and that he intends to join it. If in a year's time I've seen nothing except yes, I'll get to you gays after I've sorted out the economy and the wars no really this time, I may or may not decide to admit to disappointment. Right now, though, a re-affirmation of his commitment is a good sign to me.

As is his charming misspelling of the word 'fulfil' - a deliberate ploy to get us to like him more because of perceived foibles? I bet  FOX think so!

So that's good news. Anyway, what Lts Choi and Tsao* have done is, as I mentioned in comments in the last post, effectively martyred their careers for values they feel strongly enough about. Both knew they would probably lose their jobs, and both decided the principle of not having to lie about who they are more important than obeying that one rule - which Choi says goes against his oath as a West Point alumni - to follow and execute every order unless it was immoral, unethical or illegal. (source), because the DADT policy is all three. So they came out, and did so publicly, so that the consequences of this outing could also be public. Unless people see and talk about the effects of the current policy, it can't be overhauled.

wickedtrue pointed out in comments that the response of the National Guard in dismissing Lt. Choi was the only response they could give - this is the law and they have to obey it. A possible response would be to take Choi's words back at them: they only have to obey it if it's not immoral, unethical or illegal, so someone involved in the decision process that led to Choi's dismissal must have decided it wasn't. But as Joe Stestak pointed out to Rachel, the US Government in particular has to tread really carefully right now in terms of picking and choosing which laws to follow. The last administration did that, and those of us lefties who care about American politics would really rather they hadn't. So the dismissals need to happen in order for people to realise that they shouldn't happen, and in that light what needs to happen now is discussion, which we can hope will be followed by action.

I realise that I'm preaching to the choir here; I think I have more queer people and allies reading this than I have feminists and allies, but I wanted it said anyway, because it's better to say it than to not say it; enforced silence means forcing someone to lie by omission. van's comment has also inspired me to link to this old post on Shakesville: Take My Arm, My Love.
Spend an entire week pretending that you're not a couple. Don't write a check from a joint bank account. Hide all the photographs in your home and office which would identify you as a couple. Take off your wedding rings. Touch each other, and talk to each other, in public, in ways that could only be interpreted as you being "friends". Refer to yourself only in the singular "I", never in the "we". When you go to work on Monday, if you spent time together on the weekend, include only information which would indicate that you went somewhere with a friend, rather than your life-mate. If someone comes to stay with you, sleep in separate beds. Go intentionally into the closet as a couple. For a week.

My life involves a certain amount of self-editing. Every time I mention my girlfriend in conversation (which is often, I'm a 'relate anecdotes from my life' kind of person), I have to make a conscious decision to decide how to refer to her. Usually, yes, she's my 'girlfriend', but there's also 'partner' and 'friend' in circumstances where I just don't want to deal with the potential reaction. When I'm with her, every PDA is a political statement. Every hand-holding, every kiss, every hug. I'm aware, all the time, that most people who sees us is going to see lesbians first, lovers second (a close second, sure, but still). I'm as out as anyone, but I still (feel like I) have to be careful.

I can't even imagine the pain of having to keep up the pretence every minute of every day on pain of losing my job. And that's why this matters to me.

*is that the correct way to refer to them? Or should it be "Lt. Choi and 2nd Lt. Tsao?"
Opinions 
8th-May-2009 12:37 pm (UTC)
As is his charming misspelling of the word 'fulfil' - a deliberate ploy to get us to like him more because of perceived foibles? I bet FOX think so!

FOX will probably air a 15 minute segment in which they rant about Obama using a gel pen instead of a ballpoint pen like a real American.
8th-May-2009 12:46 pm (UTC)
FWIW, the 'congressional action' thing is the kicker. If Gordon Brown promises action soon, he can tell the MPs to do something and they do it. Or he resigns from office. You can still hope, right?

But the US President doesn't have that power, he has to ask Congress. Nicely. I'm hopeful, but there's a good chance he might use it as a 'placate the base' issue for a bit.
8th-May-2009 12:52 pm (UTC)
Honestly, I think I prefer the American system. It (in theory) prevents the president from being a power-mad dickhead. And I, like you, am being hopeful. I think there are other priorities. I will get impatient if he keeps promising without action, but so far he has acted on a number of issues I hoped he would.
8th-May-2009 01:10 pm (UTC)
I don't. At all. The reverse is actually true. Thatcher became power mad, Blair was getting that way, both were forced out by MPs, the former openly the latter less so.

Parliament currently doesn't work properly, that's an artifact of the electoral system, but someone with a personal mandate once every 4 years has more direct power over executive authority than someone that is under the constant supervision of Parliament.

If MPs don't like what the PM is doing enough, they can get rid of him easily. Or make him look a complete arse like they did twice last week. Congress has to jump through massive hoops to deal with a President, and it's politically inadvisable to even try these days. That's bad, as Bush proved.
8th-May-2009 01:48 pm (UTC)
FYI: Fulfill is a totally acceptable spelling in the US dictionaries, basically interchangeable with fulfil. I'd say his spelling is used more commonly.
8th-May-2009 01:53 pm (UTC)
Your adopted country is weird.
(Deleted comment)
8th-May-2009 04:16 pm (UTC)
Someday I'll be fluent in YOUR FACE.
8th-May-2009 02:24 pm (UTC)
Came here to post this.

It's kind of like "judgment" and "judgement," only I can never remember which one of those is "correct" in the US.
(Deleted comment)
8th-May-2009 02:34 pm (UTC)
"Judgement" LOOKS right, but apparently it isn't and that's SO CONFUSING.
8th-May-2009 02:38 pm (UTC)
Judgement is British; judgment is USian.

But they're both right :)
8th-May-2009 02:39 pm (UTC)
I forgot to put quotes around "right." XD
8th-May-2009 02:41 pm (UTC)
Funny; I forget that same thing a lot of the time. :)

But as a USian transplanted to the UK, I'm very sensitive about what's right. And what I'm told is right. As these are often not the same!
(Deleted comment)
8th-May-2009 04:16 pm (UTC)
Really?

'Cause I think I'd rather you use my name.
(Deleted comment)
8th-May-2009 04:24 pm (UTC)
:*

I only use names in conversation if I know the person knows the person. Otherwise it's 'my friend' or 'my sister' or 'my girlfriend'. SO throwing in "Bing" goes against what I'm used to in conversational etiquette.
8th-May-2009 08:26 pm (UTC)
My life involves a certain amount of self-editing. Every time I mention my girlfriend in conversation (which is often, I'm a 'relate anecdotes from my life' kind of person), I have to make a conscious decision to decide how to refer to her. Usually, yes, she's my 'girlfriend', but there's also 'partner' and 'friend' in circumstances where I just don't want to deal with the potential reaction. When I'm with her, every PDA is a political statement. Every hand-holding, every kiss, every hug. I'm aware, all the time, that most people who sees us is going to see lesbians first, lovers second (a close second, sure, but still). I'm as out as anyone, but I still (feel like I) have to be careful.

I can't even imagine the pain of having to keep up the pretence every minute of every day on pain of losing my job. And that's why this matters to me.


This. Yes.
8th-May-2009 09:38 pm (UTC)
I'm amazed- and immensely pleased - that Obama has taken the time to write a handwritten message. I think that says a lot. God knows what will come of it, but hey, he actually bothered!

And thanks for the rest of the post, too. As a straight male, believe it or not I understand that every expression of love can be a political statement. (Maybe I just think I do...) Because I think anything can be - and is - a political statement.
8th-May-2009 09:45 pm (UTC)
I can't believe how unfair that whole "ZOMG OHNOES GAYS IN THE MILITARY!!" bullshit is. It's right up there with the Red Cross policy not to allow male donors who have had sex with other men and men or women who have had sex with a man who's had sex with another man. You'd think they'd have a little more common sense and worry about the fact that heterosexual women are the fastest-growing group of HIV infections. Can you imagine the uproar if they decided to block straights from donating blood?

My fiance and I are both bi. I have donated well over two gallons of blood to the Red Cross over the past 14 years. Now suddenly because I fuck a guy who's been with another guy, my blood's TAINTED somehow and not good enough to save three lives? FUCK THAT SHIT.

Edited at 2009-05-08 21:46 (UTC)
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