Changing Perceptions


During the debates over Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, one of the recurring arguments used by the anti-gay side was that repealing DADT would hurt unit cohesion, as possibly the straight (male) soldiers would be uncomfortable having the gay (male) soldiers around, because the gay soldiers would maybe flirt with them or stare at their asses or something.

This is similar to the arguments that many people used during the debates about the Boy Scouts’ anti-gay policies. They said that having openly queer scouts and leaders would make the straight scouts feel uncomfortable, or would possibly lead to child abuse. Perhaps they are under the impression that queer people only think about sex, and that any queer scouts would be too focused on trying to fuck the other scouts, and unable to concentrate on tying knots or whatever.

But here’s the thing: Prior to the repeal of DADT, there were already queer people in the military. And there were queer people in the Boy Scouts years before they were ever officially recognized. I should know: I was one of them. These debates aren’t about whether to let queer people join these organizations, they’re about whether to let the queer people who are already there be open about it.

The only thing that changed with the repeal of DADT, and the only thing that changed with the decision by the Boy Scouts, is that now straight people in these organizations are aware of the queer people in their midst. All of the Bad Things that opponents of these changes keep saying are going to happen, won’t happen because queer people are allowed to be open about it. If they do happen (and they won’t) it’ll be entirely the fault of straight people who can’t cope.

When I was in the Boy Scouts, I didn’t make anybody uncomfortable by simply being a queer person. The vast majority of queer people in the Boy Scouts, and the vast majority of queer people in the military, don’t do anything to make straight people feel uncomfortable. And when they are allowed to be openly queer, they continue to not do anything to make straight people feel uncomfortable.

However, once they become openly queer, many straight people do become uncomfortable. They don’t become uncomfortable because the queer people change their behavior (they usually don’t) but because the straight people become aware that (gasp) there are queer people near them. Some of them might even be their friends! In other words, the only thing making those straight people uncomfortable is the knowledge that queer people exist. This is bigotry, plain and simple.

What the anti-gay advocates are saying is that everyone in the military, and everyone in the Boy Scouts, is a bigot, just like themselves. Which, of course, is bullshit. And saying “I’m a bigot” isn’t enough to keep queer people in the closet. Not anymore.

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