EQUALITY – No Surprise, Actually

Well, well – it’s Gay Pride month, and the Pentagon is holding its own gay pride event. I know this may surprise some, but it shouldn’t.

The repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell is going more smoothly than expected and the much feared damage to unit cohesion and retention has not materialized, despite all the dire predictions of people like Elaine Donnelly, who had no real stake in this anyway. (I mean it Elaine. If the national defense had were that important to you, you had every opportunity to enlist.)

This is not just a reflection of the military just doing as it’s told. The military did that with racial integration and that was anything but smooth. Truman ordered the military to integrate during the Korean War and there were still severe racial tensions in Germany, and probably everywhere else, nearly into the 80s. The integration of women into the military has been glacially slow and is not yet complete. This has been different, and for a couple of reasons.

This has been different from sexual integration because the concerns about physical capabilities don’t apply to gay men and lesbian women as gay. A gay man is quite often completely indistinguishable in that respect and every other one too from a straight man, and a lot of gay men are very skilled at maintaining that indistinguishability. It’s called the closet.

And I credit the closet for making this transition different from racial integration. Whatever negative attitudes you may have about gays and other races, the difference is you can see that someone is racially different from you immediately and your prejudices kick right in. But with a gay man you don’t see that; all you see is another soldier, good, bad or indifferent, and you judge him on that basis. Then later even when you somehow find out he’s gay, your opinion of him is already formed, and in the absence of your prejudice.

There are swarms of anecdotes to that effect. “Him? He’s gay? How about that…Give a fuck less; he drove us up out of that ambush. You got a problem with him? Fuck you.”

This kind of attitude goes way back and you hear stories like this from decades ago. The Special Forces – Green Berets – in particular were generally known the be quite breezy on the topic of homosexuality in their units. (And who knows, they may even have enjoyed having yet one more way to affront the sensibilities of the stodgy old conventional forces they loved to look down on.) 

But on this mainstream a scale, something else is going on beyond this. I think a lot of the difference is generational. MTV did a lot of heavy lifting in the 90s with this generation of what are now mid-grade officers and NCOs. Times have really, really changed when it comes to general acceptance in society.

But it’s not all generational across the board. It may be generational for the generation that is in mid-grade positions now, but that doesn’t account for the change of heart among generals. When someone like GEN Colin Powell says in the mid-nineties, after he has retired, that DADT is good policy and then later, like last year, reverses himself, that’s not generational. And let’s be sure here to get some level of detail here – these attitudes may or may not have reflected these people’s personal opinions or attitudes about gay people; they much more likely reflected their assessment of what civilians and soldiers in the ranks would think. (And generals generally have only a faint idea of what civilans other than Congressmen think. IIlustrative story available upon request.) In fact it is almost certain that by the time a person makes general he has worked with, and knows he has worked with, gay and lesbian soldiers, and probably has always thought the ban was stupid. For instance it was obvious to anyone who cared to look that GEN “Mad Max” Thurman was playing on the team.

Now if the military could start figuring out how to deal with trans soldiers with some degree of humanity…

So history moves on without raising much dust. I just wish Randy Shilts could have lived to see the day.

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  • http://valeriekeefe.livejournal.com Valerie Keefe

    Now if the military could start figuring out how to deal with trans soldiers with some degree of humanity…

    There’s a reason I love coming to this blog. Cis person mentions that DADT doesn’t cover trans people, which makes you more of an expert on DADT than Rachel Maddow. (Though I imagine she knows too, she just can’t be bothered to care.)

  • Ginkgo

    You get most of the credit for consiousness raising, frankly, although I would not have any excuse even without your help after the mess of ENDA ignoring trans people.

  • dungone

    Gingko, I noticed the closet effect, but I haven’t noticed a similar effect for atheists (although we’re talking about a lesser extreme in the discrimination). I mean, when I was in I saw similar things – so what if he’s gay, he does his job well. You didn’t even have to say anything, guys would volunteer it to you lest you thought otherwise. But I’ve never heard anyone defend an atheist that way. I guess it’s a mixed bag.

    On a somewhat related note… what do you make of this?

    “One of the main reasons we came up with this product is that we’re in a recession, or a difficult time with the war,” she said. “You always think of the classic lipstick and stockings doing well in wartime.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/01/fashion/01SKIN.html?pagewanted=all

  • Schala

    This article is funny dungone.

    They have a sort of Freudian explanation of why women would spend more on lipstick and gloss during downturns of the economy, and they say it’s about splurging into something cheaper than they otherwise would, and something feminine and sexual (goes on mouth, mouth is very sensible, has nearly the most dense nerves).

    As someone who’s never used lipstick, they’ll never get me, and their logic sounds so alien it looks like a parody.

    If I feel my budget is too tight to buy videogames, I probably don’t buy any. I usually do wait for their prices to drop around 30$. Because games I want at 65$ are only those I’ve been waiting for in forever. I won’t just go for the 5$ bin hoping to find anything at all to my taste.

  • Schala

    And seriously, who buys 855$ Ralph Lauren dresses? The 1%?

  • Ginkgo

    @dungone
    \”On a somewhat related note… what do you make of this?
    “One of the main reasons we came up with this product is that we’re in a recession, or a difficult time with the war,” she said. “You always think of the classic lipstick and stockings doing well in wartime.”

    OMG. How clueless can one person be?

    Yeah no shit, lipstick and stockings do well in wartime. It\’s the \”Verstehen Sie headjob?\” effect. I bet there\’s a Korean equivalent too. Ever wonder why the word in Welsh for prostitute is \’pwt\’? It\’s from Latin, waaaay back in the day. Prostitution termnology is part of the military semantc domain, like weaponry, organizational terminology and terminology for various tactics.

    \”I mean, when I was in I saw similar things – so what if he’s gay, he does his job well. You didn’t even have to say anything, guys would volunteer it to you lest you thought otherwise.\”

    That is another interesting thing – it has become almost a point of pride to show off how tolerant and accepting you are for this generation. Except it doesn\’t go across the board, as you say:

    \”But I’ve never heard anyone defend an atheist that way. I guess it’s a mixed bag.\”

    People don\’t generally defend religious diversity in the same fashionable way, at least not any more. In my parents\’ day it was fashionable to be all open-minded about that, in reaction to what they convention had ben when they were little.

  • HidingFromtheDinosaurs

    Schala:

    I don\’t know, there\’s some sense to it. I know that when I\’m tight on cash I become a lot less likely to buy console games or brand new bluray discs, but I probably do end up buying more small items, like books and games for handheld systems, because I do still enjoy the feeling of buying something nice for myself.

    I really don\’t know who buys those dresses, though. That would be expensive for a suit, and women\’s clothes generally can\’t be worn for nearly as long. I suspect that no one who was even looking at the 5 dress in the first place is very badly off, even in this economy.

  • Schala

    Hiding:

    I only buy small items really. My computer took over 6 months of planning and saving up for. I’ll buy a Lego videogame maybe one every 2-3 months (when the price is low). I’m more likely to spend some monthly on a MMO I’m playing.

    I don’t feel like spending itself is a good feeling. Only if the goods I’m getting is making me feel good. Say in July I’m getting a 2nd extra inventory bag in my MMO game. That’ll make me feel better than a book, or a handheld game would. It’s not even tangible, but it’s actually useful to my purposes.

  • HidingFromtheDinosaurs

    Schala:
    I agree, it’s the thing itself not the money spent, that makes me feel good. If that weren’t the case, less expensive items wouldn’t be able effectively take the place of more expensive ones in terms of providing that feeling.

    I think there might be a division in our perceptions here on account of my being something of a bibliophile. I’m constantly reading and I need to buy books fairly often to fuel that obsession. When money gets tight, I generally drop more expensive hobbies and just buy more books to fill up the free time that creates. The physical dimensions and sensations associated with books are also important to me. I always buy new copies if I can not just to support my favorite authors, but also because the touch and smell of a pristine, cleanly cut volume are some of the most relaxing things in the world for me.

  • dungone

    Those dresses are there as part of a classic marketing ploy: they trick buyers into thinking that the lipstick they\’re about to overpay for is a bargain. The article is chock full of women making that rationalization. My ex used to ask me for those things, though. I bought her a few items up to 0 (she was also physically abusive and I was really distressed). Now she is broke as shit and buying herself lots of lipstick. I saw some of her modeling photos for a vintage clothing catalog… she was wearing the prada sunglasses I bought her and lipstick that is way too dark for her light skin tone. Anyway, it was a shade that she had picked out on a shopping trip with my mother… she was really changing her look around for a time right up until she walked out on me for a guy who offered her a job or something.

  • dungone

    The spam eater chewed on my comment… here it is again:

    Those dresses are there as part of a classic marketing ploy: they trick buyers into thinking that the lipstick they’re about to overpay for is a bargain. The article is chock full of women making that rationalization. My ex used to ask me for those things, though. I bought her a few items up to $600 (she was also physically abusive and I was really distressed). Now she is broke as shit and buying herself lots of lipstick. I saw some of her modeling photos for a vintage clothing catalog… she was wearing the prada sunglasses I bought her and lipstick that is way too dark for her light skin tone. Anyway, it was a shade that she had picked out on a shopping trip with my mother… she was really changing her look around for a time right up until she walked out on me for a guy who offered her a job or something.

  • Ginkgo

    It may be like the way that bars do well in bad times. glamor is (relatively) cheap comfort. Back in college I worked in a Chinese restaurant and my boss said once that the restraurant busines was really reliable in bad times “because people always have to eat” I told her she had no excuse for knowing so little about Americans, as long as she had lived her. Americans will eat dogfood at home, but a drink in a bar now and then is sacred. It’s ancestral with us – ever notice how the only edible things on the entire island of Britain are all liquid?

  • Ginkgo

    dungone, here’s another article saying the same thing.
    http://www.businessinsider.com/lipstick-effect-mating-pscyhology-2012-6

  • Valkina

    Since I have been longing here for quite some time,I suppose it is time I post something.

    I don’t know hao mach this is on topic.
    In 2010 ,Serbian military decided to accept gays and lesbians to join.And far as I record there was no big back clash(I cod be wrong,I don’t spend much time watching news on TV).At the same time they also announced that they will lift combat restrictions for women.Which also did not receive beck clash as far as I know.(Who ever some historical events might had help in softening the blow).

  • Valkina

    Sorry I meant to say:”Since I have been lurking here for quite some time…”.
    LOL,I make first post in several months.And the first thing I do is make the mistake.

  • Ginkgo

    Valkina, that is totally on topic. Thank you thta bit; I would probably never have heard of it otherwise. You may already know this, but actions like this by European countries played a big roel ibn changing opinion among decision-makers here. They could see from other people’s experiments how this would proabaly work out here.

    Glad you have been lurking and glad you spoke up! As for mistakes, anyone around here will tell you I am in no position to call anyone out on that. I don’t even bother to go in and edit my mistakes. Just speak freely and let the rest of us figure out what you mean.

  • Valkina

    LOL,Ginkgo.Be careful what you wish for. 😛

    I never understand people who make big fuss about gays and lesbians being aloud openly to serve in the military.I mine the all point of DADT was then there were people like this already in the military.But we were not aloud to talk about that.So obviously liking your on gender didn’t impact people’s performance.Because someone would have made connection but now.

    When it comes to women in combat,looking back at history.(And I am not talking about Amazons and that stuff). I think there is enough evidence to at last warrant some further investigation.Here in Serbia the combat life is in effect for over a year now,and there was no hormones effect does far.The same is with Israel and other countries that did the same.As far as I can tell.

  • Ginkgo

    Valkina, I know exactly what i am wishing for. You are a resource, whether you know it or not. One of the besetting sins of US blogs is they they get provincial and ignore the rest of the world. Well, one of our bloggers is Canadian, but how mcuh diversity is that, after all. It’s huge that someone from Serbia comes by and comments. You bring a wealth of inofrmation we hae no access to, and more than they even is just the perspective you bring.

    There are real physical considerations when it comes to bringing women into combat, because in combat everybody trusts ther life ot each other. But actual combat is not the only life-risking part of war. women should be very good at removing land mines. Women alreadyt drive trucks, and trucking is obviously going to be specifically targeted for attacks. So there you go.

  • Valkina

    Most people don\’t like when I come in with non American perspective.

    I am just trying to offer another perspective.I am not saying that you are wrong or anything.You were in the military,so it logical to assume that you know more about this then I do.

    But i didn\’t say it must be done but all costs.I just said that we should look into it.In WW2 there were female volontirs as combatants in Yugoslav partisans(Not medical nurses but actual combatants). One of my grandmother\’s sister was one of them.She was 19 when they recruited her.And we have all herd of Rassan female sniper,and French also had them as well.

  • dungone

    @Ginkgo, the whole lipstick thing is fascinating to me even on a personal level. Like Schala pointed out, the Freudian rationalizations that these people make are downright bizarre to me, it’s as if they just can’t grasp the fact that they’re reacting to a perceived scarcity of men. I just thought it was just so visceral for someone pointing out that it always does well in wartime. I just think it’s so weird to juxtapose a discussion of hetero men gaining respect for gay men in a time of combat while the women back home are slathering on lipstick as some sort of a “sacrifice” for the war and the recession. It makes me question humanity.

  • dungone

    I should have probably expanded on that thought… why it makes me question humanity. It’s just that I remember waking up those nights in motel rooms in some backwards town in the middle of nowhere with 5-8 guys from my platoon and 2 strippers who had spent all night blowing everyone there, thinking what the fuck is this kind of a life, to live this way and then have to go off to Iraq. I get so many weird thoughts walking around Soho or Williamsburg and seeing these masses of girls dressing up to the 9’s, and it’s like I understand why, first of all because there’s this unnatural separation of men and women during a war, and second of all, because in spite of it, unlike the men, the women don’t seem to be willing to make do just with what’s available… there are fewer men, who earn less, and yet instead of allowing themselves to live casually and stop trying as hard to impress someone, they try even harder still. It’s ironic to me how they claim it’s about saving money by giving up the “expensive” spa treatment… to me it’s about trading in the pampering they lavish on themselves when they have a good provider male and turning more towards the visual queues, trying to attract one of those provider males once again. Sorry to juxtapose it with a conversation about tolerance for gay military men… it’s just that for men, whether gay, atheist, immigrant (I served as both an immigrant and an atheist), the military is this crucible where men try to win respect not only for themselves, but for their particular group within society. There’s just this whole dynamic of it all that seems so fucked up to me.

  • Ginkgo

    Valkina,
    Peoplw who don’t want to hear non-US or nonAnglosphere perspective are losers – they lose out on what you have to offer; and they are ungrateful shits who don’t know enough to appreciate it when someone goes to the effort of expressing their thoughts in Englsih. Spoiled little shits who have the luxury of communicating all in thier own language.

    I have watvhed this happen. A dicussion is going on. Someone offers some information form the other isde of the planet, but it happens ot contradcit the amin particpants. Suddenly they all gang up to shout down the new person. Chidlsih bullshit.

    So you are very, very welcome here.

    And the fact that some of have military expeirecne here does not somehow mean that oyur observations of information you have is not valid. That’s not a very rigorous approach.

    And in particular your information on women combatants in WWII – it’s new to me but I do not doubt it a minute, especially in partisan groups.

    Dungone, the whole subject of women and military men is enough for a whole series of posts. “They love a uniform” and all that.

    And that whole Conan the Barabarian schtick back in the rear got boring years before I ever went anywhere. The most pathetic time was on a fly-away from Ft. Lewis to Ft. Chaffee in Arkansas (yeah, weird, but it used to happen). They opened the NCO and all the local buffalettes came by to take a look at all the new dick. They seemed desperate – totally without cause – Arkansas men compare with the best..

  • Valkina

    Thanks Ginkgo,that means a lot.

    Regarding women partisans.It would be unfair of me to respect that you take my word for it.Most of articles referring to the are on Serbian.But I did manage to find some on english.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_Yugoslavia

    http://what-when-how.com/women-and-war/yugoslavia-women-in-the-military-during-world-war-ii-combatantsmilitary-personnel/

    http://yugoslavian.blogspot.com/2011/10/1944-chicago-tribune-shocked-by-number.html

    http://ww2total.com/WW2/History/Orders-of-Battle/Partisans/Russian-Yugoslav-partisans.htm

    Short video of women march.
    http://www.criticalpast.com/video/65675065802_Yugoslav-Partisans_partisans-march_picture-of-Marshal-Tito_automatic-rifles

    Also this is not directly related to WW2.Two women who served in WW1.
    Milunka Savić woman war heroine from the First World War,and most-decorated female combatant.She was wounded nine times.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milunka_Savi%C4%87

    Flora Sandes the British nurse who also served in WW1.
    http://www.firstworldwar.com/bio/sandes.htm

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flora_Sandes

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/article-2161051/Front-line-Flora-Remarkable-story-Western-woman-enlist-fight-First-World-War.html

    I know ,I went off topic regarding this.But I dont want to end this discussion with shouting at list some evidence.

  • Clarence

    Congrats.

    Glad the gay integration is going better than the female “integration”.
    Of course I think it’s partly for the reasons you elucidated, but also because straight male attitudes about gays are rather binary. You are either friendly toward them or you hate them for religious or “sexual ickiness” reasons. But you can’t tell who is who just by looking anyway. With women it is much different. The military still hasn’t figured out what it wants women FOR after 50 or 60 years. And so we get the mixture of feminism and Victorian era peternalism that we know so well.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HUv02VxAcNU MaMu1977

    Thank you for acknowledging that *most* of us could have cared less about DADT. I knew about a dozen \”kinda out\” gay/bisexual airmen during my enlistment, and I could\’ve cared less about what videos they watched or what clubs they frequented on their off time (the fact that my choosiness in dating led to me being \”tarred\” with the \”closet\” brush is neither here nor there. And yes, on the few occasions in which I had a +1 to bring to events, a few people would comment about my partner\’s femaleness.)

    Even among the dreaded \”lower/middle class white male conservative\” AD members, the most common mindset was this: if you show up to work on time, don\’t get in trouble and limit your PDA to \”appropriate\” times (its a telling point that the last L/MCWMC with whom I worked had kissed his wife in public a grand total of once in 3 years), we don\’t care how many peters you\’re puffing on/Ys you\’re dining at on your own time. The most conservative guy I knew (a man who didn\’t even kiss his wife at his *retirement* ceremony, waiting to find a private space for what he considered sentimentiality), used to *point closeted/DADT gays to other closeted/DADT gays* during his time in the service. He once told me, \”What makes people happy makes them happy, its not my place to judge anyone.\” To put things in perspective, he still believes that Obama is Kenyan.