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Thursday, December 02, 2010

My confusion about "don't ask, don't tell."

For many years, I've had confusion about why people were so upset about the US military's "Don't ask, don't tell," policy.  This confusion grew in the last few years as more people fought to repeal the policy, which seems to be reaching a fever pitch these days.

Let me explain.

As I understood it, "don't ask, don't tell," simply meant "we don't care what your sexuality is, as long as you can do the job."  It seemed to mean that a person's sexuality was irrelevant - no one wanted to know, no one cared to know, it's your own business.  Isn't this a good thing?  Isn't this ensuring equality?

So when people argued to repeal the policy, it seemed to me that what they were saying is that a person's sexuality did matter, and that everyone should know or care what each individual's sexuality was.  Considering the sort of homophobia my husband witnessed in the military, this just didn't seem like a good idea.

I finally mentioned my confusion to my husband who explained to me that, in the US, it's actually illegal for homosexuals to serve in the military.  "Don't ask, don't tell" was implemented as a way for gays to serve in the military, so long as no one knew they were gay.  Once it became known, because it was illegal, the military would then be forced to boot them out.  What a bizarre concept!

So this leads me to a new confusion.  People are calling for the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."  Don't they really mean that they want it to no longer be illegal for gays to serve in the military?  Shouldn't they be protesting the law, not the policy that allowed for a loophole around the law?

I think in the end, it's a matter or semantics.  The protesters really are wanting to repeal the law, but the policy is so connected to the law, they're viewed by pretty much everyone as one and the same.

Personally, while I think it's ridiculous to bar people from serving in the military simply for being gay, I still think my original interpretation of "don't ask, don't tell" is a good thing; unless that person's sexuality is somehow causing them to not be able to do their job (and I really can't think of how that would be), who cares?  Sure, it might come up socially, but that's a different issue.

In the end, as long as the person can perform their military duties, who gives a rip what their sexuality is?

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