The Department of Defense has sent surveys to roughly 400,000 active and reserve service members to obtain information on how a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell will affect them, their unit and the readiness of our nation’s military. Of note is the fact that no such survey was done to implement the discriminatory policy.
The survey begins innocuously enough with questions about living quarters for the service member, marital/relationship status, and questions about whether they feel their unit works together as a team. It doesn’t get into the full meat of the issues until page 10 when the statement is made in blue highlight, “Throughout this survey, “gay and lesbian” and “homosexual” are used interchangeably.” The first question under this heading gave me a start, “Do you currently serve with a male or female Service member you believe to be homosexual?” It continues, asking about all the units the Service member has served under with the same question – do you believe someone is gay? It then goes on to ask how believing such person to be gay affected the unit’s ability to work together, morale and performance.
It was painful for me to get through the survey. With each question I felt the sting of discrimination, but gained insight into the ideology of why people are so frightened to work with a gay person. Concerns, as indicated by the survey, range from the inability to hold Service members to high standards in spite of their sexual orientation; the inability to treat Service members equally because of their sexual orientation; the inability to set sexual orientation aside when considering opportunities to be provided to the Service members, etc… etc…
Eventually though, the survey goes to the living quarters issue. It asks the following question:
If Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is repealed and you are assigned to share a room, berth or field tent with someone you believe to be a gay or lesbian Service member, which are you most likely to do?
The options provided do not include, “beat the f*ggot;” however, such could be listed under “something else” and filled into a provided blank.
In the end, the survey generally focuses on two issues regarding the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: (1) will gays serving openly be afforded the same opportunities as heterosexual Service members (i.e. will they face discrimination); and (2) will gays will make heterosexual Service members uneasy?
In response to the first issue, it seems to me that discrimination being condoned by commanding officers, the U.S. Congress and the U.S. President should be our first concern. Once the discrimination is no longer sanctioned by the government, we can then confront the social and intra-rank aspects.
As to the second point, I invoke Estelle Gette’s character, Sophia, from the Golden Girls: Picture it, Afghanistan, 2010. An improvised explosive device has just charred dozens of innocent people on the street. Three soldiers run to assist the wounded, carry them off for treatment and contain the scene. They are exhausted, emotionally drained, a wreck… yet the gay soldier, all he can think about is getting back to the barracks so that he can check out the homophobic Service member’s tiny man part in the shower… yeah, that makes sense.
The full text of the survey can be found here.