Saturday, July 29, 2006

Telling Times

Talk about an ironic juxtaposition.

This weekend is Gay Pride in San Diego, one of the largest gay pride parades in the world and all of the attendent festivities. It brings about $20 million dollars to San Diego annually and is one of the largest civic events. It happens in my neighborhood. This year saw 40,000 attendees.

Yesterday, the kick-off day for Pride, Carpetbagger Report presented the case of an Army sargeant, an Arabic langauge specialist, who has been thrown out, despite an impeccable service record, because an anonymous stalker demanded that his superiors kick him out for the sole reason that he is gay. We are dealing with a large portion of society that would rather their son be shot dead in a war based on a lie than be alive and kiss another man. Their terror of difference is greater than their love of country, or even their own children.

Telling the truth is frightening, but hearing it is far more terrifying because the one telling has already come to some kind of terms with what is real, and the listener need not have gone through that experience. As the founders of the SD Pride festival explained, when they first paraded down Broadway in the 70's, they had no idea what the impact of telling the truth was going to be. Would they be attacked? Fired from their jobs?

For whatever benighted reason, this country is unable to come to terms with almost any sexuality, even garden variety het. We're closer to acceptance of homosexuality than in my youth, when it really was considered something deeply shameful, even criminal, but that's not enough. We're closer to gender equality, too, but closer is a relative term.

Being rid of formal discrimination against homosexuals in the military has to end, if only to retain people like Sgt. Copas. Why is it so pernicious, in a way that including non-whites and women (of any color) may be resented, but fails to rile this visceral, terrified reaction? If you are white and/or male, you're not suddenly going to become non-white and/or female. But what if you could become gay? What if you find out something about yourself you have been trying to keep hidden?

Of course, there always have been and always will be gays & lesbians in the military because homosexuality is part of the human condition. When I worked at the Naval Hospital, the medical people seemed to take it in stride that a significant number of their staff were homosexual. As one of my friends said at his retirement ceremony (the *ceremony*, with all the brass in attendance), in reference to how much the Navy had changed since he signed up - "We didn't have any of this 'Don't ask, don't tell' - we all knew. At least, we thought we did."

So, the city that the Navy built is celebrating Gay Pride all weekend, and there are dozens of vehicles parked right around my apartment with Dept. of Defense stickers in their windows, waiting for their owners to come back from the festival.

I think that tells it all.


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