The recent focus on the military Donít Ask, Donít Tell policy of dealing with sexual orientation is forcing us all to reflect on our own comfort levels around sexual identity. For over seventeen years we have preferred silence and lies to the truth about the sexual identity of fellow soldiers. It is not just in the military that this preference has directed our lives and it isnít just around sexual orientation that we uphold the silence and secrecy which impacts what sexual identity means to all of us.
Frankly it is a breath of fresh air the day that District Court Judge Virginia Phillips ruled that this policy of selective ignorance and enforced lies about sexual orientation was both in violation of first amendment rights and unconstitutional. Her immediate worldwide injunction against the policy is a significant leap, requiring all of us to re-think our discomfort with sexual identity.† The fear that open acknowledgment of different sexual preferences would be disruptive to military performance is as archaic and untrue as the historic fears that kept African Americans and whites from serving side by side.
In fact, several reports and studies of armed forces around the world have demonstrated repeatedly that not only would the repeal of the donít ask, donít tell policy not create any substantial disruption, but would actually improve the morale and cohesion of the service units.† ďResearch has uniformly shown that transitions to policies of equal treatment without regard to sexual orientation have been highly successful and have had no negative impact on morale, recruitment, retention, readiness or overall combat effectiveness.”
This is not surprising because the truth is that maintaining lies and secrecy is at least as disruptive as facing the truth. The military policy is perhaps the largest institutional example of the silence, fear and discomfort that most people associate with most aspects of sexual identity. Our historic policies of non-education about everything sexual is an even more primary example of how we live and die by the Donít Ask, Donít Tell policy which the military has put into code.
Letís be clear that it is not just sexual orientation that creates moral judgment and discomfort, although that is the topic that draws most of the media attention.† Maybe that is because it allows us to all look away from the myriad other sexual dysfunction issues that plague our society.† Little media attention is paid to the 27 million sexual slaves that make up a vast underground sexual economy. We avert our eyes to the sexualized culture that promotes hooking up as a form of teen recreation.† Sexual dysfunction issues that plague millions of marriages–all these topics and more fall squarely in the donít-ask-donít-tell category of life.
Human sexuality is one of the most basic elemental and essential ways that we know who we are. Everyone is born sexual and the range of sexual orientation, preferences and confusion that exists today is well documented throughout most of human history. In some historical periods it was the religious institutions that passed on the rituals and rites associated with coming to understand ourselves sexually, in other cultures sexual self understanding was part of coming of age. Dismantling the donít ask and donít tell mandates that have imprisoned all of us may just be the breath of fresh air that we all need to forgive, normalize, accept the mystery and beauty of being a sexual human.
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