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DADT- It comes down to integrity

Thinking about the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell debate reminds me of the old comic strip Andy Capp. Andy was Archie Bunker before there was an Archie Bunker; a drinking, smoking, gambling bigot who regularly beat up his wife. In our current terminology, you could say he was not P.C. In one strip, Andy was hanging out at his local pub, and the bartender introduced him to a young man applying for a job. “You don’t mind if he wears a beard?” asked the bartender. “Not at all,” answered Capp, “as long as he doesn’t wear it at work.”

So the argument continues about gays and lesbians who want to serve in the military while being open about their sexual orientation. I heard one serviceman say on a radio talk show that he had nothing against gay people as long as they were not gay on the job. Even if it was possible for our service people to leave their “gay” at home before coming to work, it gets even more difficult when they eat, sleep, and work at the same place.

Football player Garrison Hearst knew he wasn’t being P.C. when he asked about another NFL player’s coming out. “I don’t want any faggots on my team,” the then 49er told the Fresno Bee in 2002. “I know this might not be what people want to hear, but that’s a punk. I don’t want any faggots in this locker room.”

So what is the difference between being closeted in the military or on the football team and having one’s sexual orientation known to the world? We gay men have stood next to countless heterosexual men at urinals. We have undressed and showered in the same locker rooms. The strangers we encounter in these public environments know no more about our sexual orientation than we know about theirs. Somehow, all this is supposed to change when you know the person next to you is gay.

Have I ever been in a locker room with another man I found attractive? Of course, though most of the men I have seen naked there haven’t interested me at all. In every situation, I have been able to control myself, and I believe we can expect the same from the men and women who share the same barracks. So don’t kick people out of the military because of who they are instead of what they do. If someone behaves badly, he or she should face the consequences. It shouldn’t matter if that person is homo or hetero.

As a Quaker, I am opposed to war and militarism. However, I do not find it a contradiction to support the right of lesbians and gay men to join the armed forces. In addition to being pacifists, Quakers have a testimony on integrity. We believe we must be honest in all our relations with others. A good description of what integrity means to Quakers can be found in Pacific Yearly Meeting’s Faith and Practice:

The testimony of integrity calls us to wholeness; it is the whole of life open to Truth.When lives are centered in the Spirit, beliefs and actions are congruent, and words are dependable. As we achieve wholeness in ourselves, we are better able to heal the conflict and fragmentation in our community and in the world.

Integrity is a demanding discipline.We are challenged by cultural values and pressures to conform. Integrity requires that we be fully responsible for our actions. Living with integrity requires living a life of reflection, living in consistency with our beliefs and testimonies, and doing so regardless of personal consequences. Not least, it calls for a single standard of truth. From the beginning, Friends have held to this standard, and have often witnessed against the mainstream. When they suffered in consequence of their witness against secular order, their integration of belief and practice upheld them in adversity.

A person living in the closet is not being honest with himself or others. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen agrees. In his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee he said, “For me, it comes down to integrity — theirs as individuals and ours as an institution.”

Our wholeness as human beings include our sexual nature. Science is confirming what we gay people have known in our hearts from the beginning. Being gay is not a choice. More importantly, being gay is not an affliction or a dysfunction. So don’t tell me that, if I come to work for you, I must leave my homosexuality or my integrity at home.

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February 4, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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