How DADT Made Things Worse For Gays In The Military Than They Were

A Daily Dish reader’s first hand experience:

before DADT the policy was more about conduct at least in the minds of the commanding officers, not the mere mention of the fact that one was gay or had those inclinations.

I joined the Army National Guard in 1988 and was called up for a time in Korea, Desert Storm and Bosnia. When I was called up for Desert Storm in 1991, I went overseas with my local unit. Several men there were my best friends (straight), including my commanding officer. There was something about going off to war that made my life clear. I had come out only months before being called up. I felt it was necessary to tell my commanding officer and I did. His response was, paraphrased, “well, just conduct yourself like you always do.”

DADT ruined that detente.

Years later, I moved to New York and joined an Army Reserve unit. My commanding officer in my previous unit told me not to mention anything to anyone. I didn’t. Even the mention of my sexuality to anyone would lead to my discharge. No proven conduct, no proven anything. Just a mention. Whereas before DADT, I was circumspect about mentioning anything about my sexuality because of personal reasons, DADT codified that silence with serious consequences.

I wonder also if part of the shift was also an unintended consequence of the shift from viewing sexuality as behavior to viewing it as deep identity.  To this day, many conservatives insist on classifying homosexuality like it’s just another sexual fetish, no more integral to someone’s core personality and identity than any other particular thing they like or don’t like to do in bed.  This of course allows them to judge it as something malleable, even “fixable”,  or, at least, “manageable”.  And it was certainly not the sort of thing to found a marriage on!  I mean, what next?  Marriages built on shared proclivities for S&M?  Those aren’t the kinds of bonds that marriage is about endorsing!

The long overdue shift we have had in cultural consciousness to recognize the deeper ways in which homosexuality is not really about just having a kink for gay sex (which even some straight people have experimented with or resorted to when they’ve had no heterosexual options, like in prison) but about being gay, about having a full on psycho-sexual-love-orientation that comprises and filters into a substantial portion of a homosexual’s personality, the ways that having a full on psycho-sexual-love-orientation comprises and filter’s into a heterosexual person’s.

This new way of thinking about what homosexuality signified probably played no insignificant role in the minds of these military commanders.  The shift went from a behavior that  a soldier could abstain from to a kind of person certain soldiers could not help but be.  When you cannot help but be gay and being gay is now what is against the rules, you must go, regardless of what you do or do not do.  While it was already invidious enough to discriminate against gays for what the homosexual things they did, it strikes me as even more unfairly perverse to simply be discriminating against them just for who and what they are.

What a relief this injustice is coming to its overdue end.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • mikespeir

    It’s interesting that you call DADT an injustice. In fact, it’s turned out to be just that. But I remember all the hullabaloo when it was first implemented. Conservatives fought it because it meant that gays could be in the military as long as they kept it to themselves. In other words, there was no longer anything officially “wrong” with homosexuality itself; it was just thought to be a threat to morale and discipline if allowed to float to the surface. DADT was considered quite a progressive step at the time. It probably was, in that it was a bit looser straitjacket than the one gays had had to wear before. Still, it was a straitjacket.


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