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Truth To Power

the strong do as they wish, and the weak suffer as they must

Why the repeal of DADT matters- to me

I’m not gay.

I think anyone who enlists in our military is a fool.

So why do I consider the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to be a landmark day?

Because I loved my father, and I wished I could have known him better.

My father joined the army the day after he graduated high school. He did so, I imagine, for two reasons. One was to be able to attend college under the GI Bill. The second reason was to get the hell out of Cario, Georgia. You see, my father was gay- although I never heard that from his lips. I have to imagine that his sexuality was a major factor in his life, as it is in most peoples. But he wasn’t able to talk to his only son about one of the core issues of his life, and now, twenty years past his death, I’ve been giving a lot of thought as to why.

It’s because he wasn’t just gay- he was queer. The dictionary defines “queer” as strange or odd from a conventional viewpoint; and of a questionable nature or character; suspicious; shady. I can only ponder how “odd” my father felt in south Georgia in those days, how different he pictured himself from his town, his friends, and his family. It never left him. And the reason he felt this way was because people made him feel that way. He was made to feel ashamed of being different, and it silenced him his entire life. He escaped the small town of his birth and became an army radio operator at Fort Benning, and then onto the University of Georgia, but he never escaped that feeling inside him that he had something to be ashamed of, something to hide, even from me.

He felt ashamed because society as a whole found homosexuality repugnant and unnatural. It wasn’t until 1973 that the American Psychiatric Association declassified it as a mental disorder, but I doubt that made any difference to my dad. I was 11 then, and my parents were still married, such as it was. It wasn’t long after that he left the house and began life on his own, a life of community theater and risky behavior, that ended with his death from AIDS in a VA hospital. He died alone, other than me, his mind rotted away from dementia. When I closed out his house I came across things I wish I hadn’t, things that confirmed my suspicions about his lifestyle, and while they shocked and saddened me then, that wasn’t as sad as my realization that he had left them there purposely, so I would know. I wish we could have talked. I wish he hadn’t hated that aspect of himself so much that he felt he had to hide it from me.

DADT was one leg of a table called discrimination. It is a table that allows a small group of people to stand above others and look down upon them, to ostracize them, to shun them from “normal society”. DADT mainstreamed hate, gave homophobia the government stamp of approval. It was just one more door slammed in a persons face, one more avenue closed, one more reminder that you are different, wrong, something to be avoided and feared and loathed. DADT was a leg of table that stood forever between my father and I, and kept us from fully being a family. That table robbed me of a part of my father, of a part of my life that I’ll never experience. There are still many legs to that table, more than I’ll live to see gone. But maybe by the time my son is my age, he’ll live in a different world, a world where haters are shunned, not championed. A world where whom a person loves is no ones business but their own. A world where foolish gays can serve the American empire in its final days, if they so choose.

A world, I hope, where fathers can talk to their sons.

7 Responses to “Why the repeal of DADT matters- to me”

  1. pam Says:

    fabulous~

  2. antipatriot Says:

    Guess what kid: not to put too fine a point on it, but your dad’s pain, and yours in no way justify joining and taking money from an organization that has killed millions of innocent people.

    There are a whole lot more kids who won’t get to s…ee their parents because of that evil institution your dad was a part of- save your sympathy for them, not their horrendous, violent oppressors, members of the Imperialistic US Military, gay or straight black or white man or women, they are oppressors, not oppressed.

    Id rather live closeted in GA than burned alive by white phosphorus in a village in Iraq or Afghanistan or to see my children bombed or shot at checkpoints or killed in front of me.

    Sorry you and your dad had pain, others have had it A LOT WORSE because people like your dad thought improving their lives (college! get out of small town!) was worth joining a gang that made sure so many millions of others would never get those exact opportunities!

  3. James Mann Says:

    I guess you missed the second line of the piece, jackass.

  4. antipatriot Says:

    Guess that line wasnt enough to justify the millions of dead, jackass

  5. patrick Says:

    this is a pr stunt geuss what the military didnt repeal it for gay ppl they did it for whjat my dad a vietnam vet calls bullet cushions yea gay/lesbian ppl get ready for it your gonna end up like my dad agent orange cancer du cancer an youll be used as a hate target by the social engineers when they cant use black ppl or mexicans to destroy this country

  6. James Mann Says:

    Guess that line wasnt enough to justify the millions of dead, jackass

    Ok, obviously you have an axe to grind against the military. Good on ya, I agree. You might want to read the other nearly 4000 posts on this blog, and you’ll find I harbor no love or respect for those who currently serve.

    But that has nothing to do with eliminating discrimination by our government. The piece wasn’t about the military, and if a person should serve or not. It was about the civil and human rights of a person close to me. Of course nothing justifies the “millions dead”…but that’s not what the piece was about.

  7. Thorne Cassidy Says:

    @ antipatriot,
    Most of the folks in the South that join the military, join believing that they are doing something noble and good–often for religious reasons to defend God’s people. I was one such man decades ago–Southern, uneducated, gay, and devoted to a fundamentalist, Christian faith. This can hardly be fairly described as a selfish act, though today I regard it as ignorant.

    It was difficult, but I soon left the military, the South, and a conditionally-loving God with my new-found perspective. Perhaps this gay father had similar reasons to join. Besides, I doubt you can understand the hell this man went through even if escaping the South were his only goal.

    If you eat meat or desserts, or wear nice clothes, then you’re selfish in the face of 3 billion hungry and destitute human beings around the world. To condemn this man for escaping the South without all the facts makes you demonstrably ignorant and without all the facts as well.

    It eats at a man’s soul to cower in lies and fear–that you so glibly call “closeted”. This is not living. Striking down an injustice in the way our govt treats its own citizens can only be a good thing–unless you purposely twist this argument from what it is.