Jan Weatherhead writes from San Diego: As a gay I say I’m pleased that the Department of Defense has allowed personnel to wear uniform at the Gay Pride Parade here in San Diego. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Community and Public Outreach (I mean, where do they get these titles?) Rene Bardorf said this is just a one-off permission.
How’s that? Rene says that it’s fine to march in uniform as long as folks are doing so in a personal capacity and they have to remember they’re in Service uniform and this is no show-time. Respect the uniform.
At last year’s march people wore T-shirts with their Service name across the front and back. Lots of cute Navy in grey & blue and kissing each other. Rene seems to be saying careful boys and gals. Mouth-to-mouth stuff is fine in T-shirts but remember, respect the uniform. No designer tops with lieutenant’s bars that sparkle in the Californian sun.
Before you bite the top off another Bud and get pretty redneck about the whole deal just think how important this is.
It’s only ten months back that military personnel could be open about their sexuality. Until then we had the Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell understanding. Now the movement is a little easier.
Take the fine bunch of people who run Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride. You can tell just from the title (try LGBT for easy listening) just how complex an issue this is. On the one hand gays want to celebrate this freedom (and thank you Mr Obama for making this possible) but on the other, people like one of the San Diego organizers Dwayne Crenshaw knows this is one-step-at-a-time stuff.
He says the parade is about dignity and respect. He should know. Like a lot of us it took Dwayne a long time to come to terms with crucial aspects of society. He’s gay and black and that’s a challenge that still sends a chill down his spine. Ask him about isolation.
But there really is another side to all this. Why should gays behave so raucously and throw their sexuality in everyone’s face? Why should their view be the only one that matters? Sometimes gays dare everyone else to question them. All very amusing maybe. But let’s pause for a moment and remember that gays in uniform may get the networks going, but it is not sexuality that’s hitting the headlines, it’s sexuality in uniform.
Uniform is the key because that really is the issue. The marching we do is done professionally by the guys in uniform. But if the gays think they’re sidelined in a sometimes lousy society then let’s pause and think about some of our military personnel – a much deeper conundrum for Rene in whatever bit of her job title she wears at San Diego.
Three hundred thousand U.S. troops are suffering from major depression or post-traumatic stress; more than 16,000 recent veterans are alcoholics.
Three hundred and twenty thousand have a traumatic brain injury. Many people – and don’t forget their families -struggle with the transition from combat to civilian life. Many don’t make it.
Injured heroes are wounded in deeper ways, too. Many face intense cognitive and psychological issues, fall into substance abuse, experience depression and anxiety.
One in five US vets from Iraq and Afghanistan are unemployed. How do you employ someone whom you don’t understand what the military has taught her or him to do other than kill? So just maybe the big issues are not gay pride, but is America proud enough of its Service people to help them more than it does or are we still where we were once during Vietnam: you military? Don’t ask don’t tell.