A Taste of Equality

imageLate last Thursday evening, as I was watching Rachel Maddow, she showed live video of the vote going on in the House on the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell Repeal Compromise amendment. I was pretty happy when I saw the vote count go over 217 and frankly it got me to remembering my own time in the Military and how, in an indirect way, the ban on gays serving openly affected me personally.

In 1993, when Don’t Ask Don’t Tell became law, I was an Airman 1st Class in the the Air Force, and stationed at Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage, Alaska as part of the Air Mobility Squadron (which today is called 732nd).  I spent most of my time there working passenger service for both Military and Civilian Aircraft such as the 737-400 (Alaska Airlines), the C-130, C-141, and my favorite at the time, the C-5 Galaxy.

It was also probably one of most chaotic points in my life, as I was just starting to come to terms with my sexuality, which, combined with my being away from home for the first time, led me into alcoholism as I was trying to fit in with the nearly frat party style social atmosphere of a coed Dormitory. From Thursday night, though Sunday morning it was drinking and parting.

Even though I had suspected that I was gay since about 9th grade, I would from time to time date (women). I never really felt any attraction towards any of them, but it was what I felt was expected of me by my peers, and after spending much of my time growing up feeling like an outcast in a small Iowa town because I lived out on a farm which prevented me from being active in school activates, I so desperately wanted to fit in.

During this time, I also got into the habit of occasionally sneaking a gay magazine into my dorm room to read. It was my only real outlet for what I was feeling and dealing with, this being before the wide spread public use of the Internet. I would look through them and then get rid of them as quickly as possible because I knew that being gay and being in the military simply wasn’t allowed. Sadly, my roommate found one of the magazines one day. He confronted me and threatened to turn me in to our commander. I did my best to convince him that I had simply bought it as a gag gift for a friend of mine and while he seemed to buy into the excuse I could tell he had some doubts.

Well, I obviously couldn’t let it become known that I was gay so I panicked. I had been casually seeing a girl for about a month and so I drove to her apartment and proposed that we get married. She accepted and month and half later I was married and beginning what would turn out to be the worst 11 months of my life and put an end to my military career.

Had the ban on gays in the military not been in place at all I would most likely still be serving my country today.

And while the news that the House had passed the amendment the fact that it still has not yet passed the full senate, and that Republicans like John McCain, who has gone back on his word of abiding by the wishes of the Military commanders are threatening to filibuster the bill unless the DADT repeal is removed, reminds me that there is so much farther to go. 

Even if the Pentagon review goes well and DADT does end up being repealed, we are still only one small step closer to full equality. And while I would much rather take a small step forward than no steps at all, I just can’t keep from wondering why, in the 21st century, why is treating everyone equally under the law even a question.

Everywhere i turn I see the lack of understanding, the lack of compassion, the lack of love for one human being for another and it frankly scares the hell out of me. I can’t stop being gay. I can’t turn this off like flipping a switch. Being gay isn’t simply about getting your rocks off and indulging in some sort of self destructive behavior like drugs or alcohol. It’s who I am, it’s a part of my identity.

When someone tells me that I should stop, tells me that I don’t have the right to marry the person I love, or quotes Leviticus to me, which I’ve had members of my own family do, it’s as if they are telling me I’m no good, that there is something fundamentally wrong with me, and that I’m not worthy of even living on the same planet as they do. They can’t get passed their irrational fear of something different, something that doesn’t fit within the narrow-minded world view to see the person I really am, the person God made me to be. A person who has dreams of love, marrying, and raising a family. Dreams of living a life without fear, where I can walk down the street holding the hand of the person I love, or maybe stealing a quiet kiss in the park, without being harassed, or worse.

You would think that after hundreds of thousands of years of Human evolution, and nearly 10,000 years of civilization that we would have finally moved past the petty idea that everyone must live their life by one supposedly divinely ordained path and that we would have realized by now that the greatest strength of Humanity is in our diversity.