Homosexuality and the Service
When the Clintons first moved into the White House I was working at a small software company in California. One of my colleagues had joined the team immediately following a stint in the Army.
If you recall, one of the first issues Bill Clinton took up in his presidency was to attempt to force a rule change in the military to allow gays. He failed to get the reform he sought while his efforts ended up producing the current "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that exists today.
At the time, I remember asking my ex-Army friend and colleague his take on the issue.
"Hey - what's your take on the issue of gays in the military?"
I'll never forget his answer:
"I don't know what the big deal is - they're already there!"
I always thought that that was a pretty damn grounded answer.
What do you think is the state of affairs for gays in the American military deployed in Iraq? Is "don't ask, don't tell" the strict rule? Does this comprehensively prohibit openly gay men and women from serving? Or is the situation more relaxed - instead of "don't ask, don't tell," have another set of de facto rules come into play?
How do you feel about the issue itself - as a soldier, a parent, a conservative and a born-again Christian?
I'm looking forward to your response and to comments from our guests.
Most military I've worked with or known wish that Clinton had left the whole thing alone. Yes, there have always been gays in the military, but the timing of his change in policy days after his inauguration smacked of political payback and something he thought he could weather early and have it forgotten by the re-election campaign. Especially given his draft-avoidance via college deferrment, Clinton was in very low regard throughout the military. (That and making us wear berets.)
But that's just background.
Like many lifestyle and behavior related rules in the military, how this one gets handled depends on the command and how much of an issue it becomes.
There are no openly gay members of the military unless they were motivated to make that kind of statement beforehand. Once they "come out," the military will follow through although generally with a good conduct discharge. Generally speaking, no one in the military really wants undue or unfavorable attention. Often, the orientation may be known, but it's not dealt with or talked about, unless someone wants to get even over something else. And the gays who do serve in the military really don't want the kind of attention that fighting this battle would bring. They want to serve their country with honor, that's why they joined.
Of all the situations I am familiar with, in all but one, gay soldiers were not punished in any way or discriminated against (that I could tell) even though their commanders and fellow soldiers had to know or strongly suspect that they were gay. But then again, they held up their end of the don't ask don't tell. In the one instance in which this wasn't the case, a senior NCO in a training environment was involved with some of his students (same sex). This got him busted and drummed out, but this happened to instructors for heterosexual encounters with students as well.
There are many good reasons for the military to enforce certain standards of professional relationships, and sexual relationships between soldiers inevitably create problems: in good order, discipline, and morale. When relationships cross the line or involve supervisory relationships, the military has good reason to discourage them.
The military had to deal with the integration of women into non-combat roles, and now even that distinction is greatly blurred in a non-linear battlefield or in low intensity conflict. Anyone can suddenly find themselves under fire. There are many aspects of men and women sharing the battlespace that have caused a lot of problems. That doesn't mean there aren't advantages, but it hasn't been all good. Bringing in the additional problem of same sex relationship just expands the pool of problematic relationships.
The military is probably more conservative on this issue than average. Forget the brass, I don't think your average soldier would be very happy about fellow soldiers who were openly gay. I think any thought that you can "legislate" such a major change in attitude is naive and hopelessly counterproductive. To what end? And I don't think the military is the place to experiment, there's too much at stake.
The military is the most racially and gender integrated and non-discriminatory organization in the world. It sets a very high example for other organizations and businesses that don't even come close. But asking it to navigate the politically correct extreme of openly gay relationships in the barracks, that's just asking a little too much.
The military demands so much of its soldiers, to put their lives on the line, to risk everything, to deprive themselves, to sacrifice, and the rock bottom single most valuable piece of the whole enterprise is the trust between soldiers. And the fact is, most soldiers don't care what way the wind blows for the guy they sleep next to, fight next to, celebrate survival or mourn a loss with. As long as they can trust each other.
Personally, I really appreciate a remark I heard attributed to President Bush. When confronted by an aggressive reporter who asked him about his views on gays and what he thought of them, he answered, "We're all sinners here, buddy."
I know and have met people who I believe for whatever reason, were born with a physiological disposition to be gay. I have also met and known others who I believe for whatever reason made a set of decisions that led to them being gay. I don't understand that, and I think any kind of sexual immorality, premarital sex (any kind) is a sin. A very common one, but God in His word advises us against a lot of different behaviors for our own good. And this is one of them.
I believe that the overwhelming majority of those who profess to be gay report being sexually abused. (It's something like 93% I believe, although I can't point to an authoritative source.) I don't think that's an accident. I know that many first time homosexual experiences are either predatory, involve sexual abuse, or sex between an adult and a minor child, or between minor children where one has been sexually abused by an adult. I likewise don't think that's an accident either. I think peer pressure can be tremendous, and low self esteem, matched with hormones and a hostile environment can be very confusing to a young person. Figuring out your sexuality and making your way through the post modern, post sexual revolution cultural morass we find ourselves in only makes matters more difficult for young people.
I also happen to believe that marriage between a man and a woman is a gift from God, and one that helpfully is designed to give children the best possible environment for a healthy growing up, and ensure that human life will be sustained in a healthy and positive way from generation to generation. Now that's not possible for everyone, things happen, death and divorce and children born out of wedlock, and people have to do the best they can, and sometimes make the best of a less than ideal situation. But I don't think you help in the long run when you create situations that are less than ideal if there are other choices. And for me, my primary concern is for children.
Adults will do what they will do. And yes, I'd prefer people keep private matters private. As a leader, I really don't want to have to get involved with or have to deal with the public consequences of the fallout of relationships of any kind. This goes for affairs and sexual relationships of any kind outside of marriage, or for marriage problems when they erupt into or effect the workplace. I'm not naive, but I expect my soldiers to be professional and honest and disciplined in keeping their private lives to themselves and off the job. Of course, when they have personal problems, I'll get involved, and get them any help that's available or appropriate.
We won't ask, if you won't tell. It's not a perfect solution, but in the world we find ourselves in, with the unusual environment of the military, I think it's the best we can do.
Thank you for your thoughtful response.
One of our commenters challenged my suggestion of a statistic I thought I had seen somewhere, that 93% of gays were sexually abused, and thought it absurd. I can't find whatever reference I may have seen, so I wanted to say so. I could find no mention of the 93% statistic.
But what I did suggests to me the number might actually be close to that. From studies, I am finding support for 40-50% of homosexual males reporting sexual abuse, and I think the dynamics documented by researchers strongly suggests that figure may be underreported.
Anecdotally, I have been involved with 12 step and other couseling groups for 15 years. In these and contacts in other walks of life, childhood sexual abuse is very prevalent among people who are gay. Of course, many may feel that their initial homosexual experiences as minor children with adults doesn't constitute sexual abuse, but as a parent, I certainly consider it so.
While I found nothing conclusive, the research suggests that sexual abuse and early sexualization of children by same gender perpetrators has very damaging consequences for sexual and emotional development, with many lasting effects, among others, commonly a high degree of confusion about gender issues and sexual orientation. Those who deny any correlation merely make the statement that gays do not chose to be gay, they are born gay (and apparently espcially vulnerable to sexual abuse), and there is no causal connection, and that's that. I would suggest that itself is a position unsupported by evidence.
My results from Google (really, you folks can try this too, if you want to challenge someone else's data). A sample only. Do a google search on "sexual abuse" and homosexual and you'll find what I found.
1. Via Family Research Council:
The Archives of Sexual Behavior reports: "One of the most salient findings of this study is that 46 percent of homosexual men and 22 percent of homosexual women reported having been molested by a person of the same gender. This contrasts to only 7 percent of heterosexual men and 1 percent of heterosexual women reporting having been molested by a person of the same gender." Marie, E. Tomeo, et al., "Comparative Data of Childhood and Adolescence Molestation in Heterosexual and Homosexual Persons," Archives of Sexual Behavior 30 (2001): 539.
A study of 279 homosexual/bisexual men with AIDS and control patients discussed in the Journal of the American Medical Association reported: "More than half of both case and control patients reported a sexual act with a male by age 16 years, approximately 20 percent by age 10 years." Harry W. Haverkos, et al., "The Initiation of Male Homosexual Behavior," The Journal of the American Medical Association 262 (July 28, 1989): 501.
Noted child sex abuse expert David Finkelhor found that "boys victimized by older men were over four times more likely to be currently engaged in homosexual activity than were non-victims. The finding applied to nearly half the boys who had had such an experience. . . . Further, the adolescents themselves often linked their homosexuality to their sexual victimization experiences." Bill Watkins and Arnon Bentovim, "The Sexual Abuse of Male Children and Adolescents: A Review of Current Research," Journal of Child Psychiatry 33 (1992); in Byrgen Finkelman, Sexual Abuse (New York: Garland Publishing, 1995), p. 316.
2. Sexual Abuse in a Sexualized Culture Part 2: The Impact of Sexual Abuse on Males
, By Kathy A. Goodrich, CSW-R:
Sexual Orientation: Sixty-four percent (64%) of male survivors in the 1988 study by Dimock had masculine identity confusion. They doubted their masculinity, called themselves "wimp" and "gay", and struggled emotionally with their inability to protect themselves from sexual abuse. Several researchers have found higher rates of sexual abuse among homosexual than heterosexual populations, or higher rates of homosexual orientation among those who report childhood sexual abuse than among the general population (Mendel, p. 117).
Johnson and Shrier's 1985 and 1987 studies of adolescents in an outpatient medical clinic indicate that homosexual identification is seven times greater and bisexual identification six times greater for victimized males than for a comparison group of non-abused adolescent boys.
In their second study in 1987, the above researchers compared the 11 adolescents molested by females with the 14 adolescents abused by males and found that the sexual orientation effect was specific to the male-molested group. Approximately one-half of those abused by males identified themselves as homosexual and often linked their homosexuality to sexual victimization (Mendel, 118). An earlier 1982 study (C.G. Simari and D. Baskin, "Incestuous Experiences Within Homosexual Populations: A Preliminary Study", Archives of Sexual Behavior, 11, 329-344) found that incest was reported by 46% of male homosexuals, with about two-thirds (64%) of this involving the extended family and one third (36%) involving the nuclear family. The most frequent perpetrators of incest were male first cousins (60%) and brothers (32%). Simari and Baskin state that 96% of their study participants indicated "they identified themselves as actively homosexual before the occurrence" of the abuse incidents. This leaves us to speculate regarding how, if these self-reports are accurate, some of the perceptions and behaviors of the sexually wounded may contribute to vulnerability that is taken advantage of by sexual predators.
3. Sexual Abuse: A Major Cause Of Homosexuality?
The following books, with page numbers, refer to the fact that many many homosexuals were sexually abused when young:
Teen Prostitution by Joan J. Johnson (NY & Chicago: Franklin Watts Publishers, 1992), p. 53.
Female Perversions by Dr. Louise J. Kaplan (NY: Doubleday, 1991), p. 437.
Invisible Lives by Martha Barron Barrett (NY: William Morrow & Co., 1989), p. 140.
Incest and Sexuality by therapists Wendy Maltz and Beverly Holman (Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1987), p. 72.
The Secret Trauma by Prof. Diane E.H. Russell (NY: Basic Books, Inc., 1986), p. 199.
The Broken Taboo: Sex in the Family by B. and R. Justice (quoted in the book Incest: a family pattern by Jean Renvoize [London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1982], p. 127).
The following books refer to the fact that many young victims of sexual abuse later experience confusion over their sexual identities:
The Consumer's Guide to Psychotherapy by Drs. Jack Engler and Daniel Goleman (NY: Simon & Schuster/Fireside, 1992), p. 414.
Desires in Conflict by Joe Dallas (Eugene, OR: Harvest House Publishers, 1991), p. 187.
Betrayal of Innocence by Dr. Susan Forward and Craig Buck (NY: Penguin Books, 1988), p. 96.