The ongoing issue of whether or not the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which restricts gay and lesbians from openly serving in the military, will be repealed recently reached an interesting point. As The New York Times reports, a recent Pentagon study states that 70% of people currently serving in the military believe that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would have either a positive impact, mixed impact, or no impact on military units.
With numbers like this, it seems hard to understand what the hold-up is with repealing the 17-year-old policy. Often, those who oppose the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” say that it will interfere with combat readiness and unit cohesion. That is, that having gays and lesbians serving in the units will cause trouble and prevent the units from doing their job. Also, homophobic concerns that are based in religious beliefs, fears of getting raped by gay soldiers, and general “discomfort” around gay folks usually come up whenever repealing the law gets talked about.
However, Roderick A. Ferguson’s essay “Race-ing Homonormativity: Citizenship, Sociology, and Gay Identity” mentions how the obsession with issues like gaining the right to serve in the military, getting married, and coming out of the closet all perpetuate homonormative ideals that focus on the needs/wants of white, middle-class gay men instead of focusing on urgent needs of other queer people like transgender people, queer people of color, working-class people, queer people who are immigrants, and other marginalized groups. There is nothing wrong with pushing for equality on all fronts, including the right to serve in the military. However, when many urgent needs like the need for job security, food, shelter, safety from violence, etc. are overlooked because mainstream queer organizations care more about being able to serve in the military industrial complex, then it is time to reprioritize.