Should Gays Be Allowed to Serve in the Military?

President Barack Obama is on the verge of repealing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. What will that mean for straight servicemen and women? The White Guy addresses one reader's concern over sleeping and showering with LGBT soldiers.

Luke Visconti’s Ask the White Guy column is a top draw on Visconti, the founder and CEO of DiversityInc, is a nationally recognized leader in diversity management. In his popular column, readers who ask Visconti tough questions about race/culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age can expect smart, direct and disarmingly frank answers.

Ask the White Guy Luke ViscontiQuestion:
I agree with guaranteeing the rights of all Americans. But, there is a serious problem with allowing gays to serve openly in the military. The easiest way to make my point is to respectfully ask a question. “How would you feel if your daughter was forced to work, eat, sleep, use communal bathrooms and take showers with a group of men who found her sexually attractive”? If you want to do a social experiment why not fully integrate male and female service members first and see how it works out?

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The modesty solutions that allowed women to integrate themselves successfully throughout the overwhelming majority of the military work for single-gender interaction also.

Many homosexual men and women serve honorably today–and always have, throughout history.

What cannot be tolerated is predatory or oppressive behavior from either homosexual or heterosexual people. It is proper behavior, not gender or orientation, that is the standard we need to uphold.

I was recently saddened to receive an e-mail from a lesbian servicewoman who was extorted to have sex with a heterosexual serviceman who threatened to out her.

There is no doubt in my mind that there is just as much egregious behavior done by heterosexual people as homosexual people. Since there are far more heterosexual people, that’s where the majority of the problem is.

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  • Now that we have rid ourselves of the poison in the Executive Office, we should see a change in our country in regards to LGB people serving their country, openly. President Obama has finally taken the bull by the horns and has told America, “Get over it and get a life”. This should have been done a long time ago.

  • OF COURSE THEY SHOULD BE ALLOWED. And if anyone missed it THEY ARE ALREADY IN the military whether they have the permission to be in it or not. Your sexual preference doesn’t make you a better or worse person than the next. Just like having a religion or none at all. The better question should be why SHOULDN’T gay be allowed in the military?

  • What a uniquely American question.As Americans, we are SO all about our rights, that we become myopic.The military does not exist so that people can serve, the military exists to kill people and wreck things. We train our soldiers well, so that they can most efficiently kill people and wreck things, so that when we ask them to do this, they do it most precisely and with the least a mount of collateral damage. And so that they win, while minimizing death on our side.We have a volunteer military, and as such, the military chooses those people who will best accomplish their goals, theoretically. When they evaluate a specific person for service they are evaluating whether the person has what they need, and whether there are aspects to the person that would make the entirety of the organization less effective.It’s not about your RIGHTS. It’s about whether the military can use you… if they can’t, or they don’t want to, then go home… join the Peace Corps, do something other than kill people and wreck things.When we make the military about the rights of the individuals seeking to be part of the military, we’re making what was a force for the protection of the country, into a means for people to exercise their rights and get assistance in their college funding.So if the military doesn’t want to deal with the issues surrounding mixing gay folks with straight folks, or men with women, or any other combination that they determine does not best accomplish their mission, then I’m all for it. If the military is OK with having gay folks, but makes a line that says basically that “don’t ask, don’t tell” makes integrating both straight and gay folks, then why are we, the folks that are being protected, going to argue?

  • I agree with those who point out that the actual question is whether gays should be allowed to serve OPENLY in the U.S. Military. Today many do so honorably … but not openly. It is sad that, in the 21st century, we are still debating this question.It would seem that the real issue is not whether gays should serve openly or can serve honorably … the real issue is whether heterosexuals can handle serving with homosexuals. In essence, those with the problem (i.e. so-called straights) are the ones who have the power to decide how the problem is addressed. Much like Whites deciding that Blacks couldn’t serve in the military. Sure thay had a laundry list of reasons – all variations on a main theme that we Blacks were unfit/unable/unintelligent/un-whatever to serve. We weren’t the problem … they were. With gays in the military, it’s the heterosexual community with the hang up, not the gay community.Psychologists would call it projection … I’d call it homophobic bigotry.P.S. The original question …”How would you feel if your daughter was forced to work, eat, sleep, use communal bathrooms and take showers with a group of men who found her sexually attractive”? … is overly simplistic, onesided and sexist. How would you feel if your SON was forced to work, eat, sleep, use communal showers with a group of WOMEN who found HIM sexually attractive? The question implies a number of things: 1) gay women soldiers would be unable to behave appropriately around a straight woman soldier 2) any given group of gay women would find any straight woman sexually attractive under those circumstances; 3) a male in an inverse situation would behave differently.

  • I agree with Dan, we should kick the sexual predators out of the military and have open sexuality. The predators are the ones who give the military a bad reputation and take psychological and physical freedom from other service people, not the LG.

  • One of the comment writers suggested that gays in themilitary would work if the same techniques used to assimilate women inthe military were employed. We want and need women in our military, butin conditions of little or no privacy, men and women are separated tothe great extent possible. If the plan is to separate homosexuals fromthose who are not gay, how would this work, for example, on longsubmarine deployments that are not experienced by the sailors of othercountrie cited as role models for our military? Shouldn’t Congress beasking practical questions like this before acting to repeal the 1993law?

  • I spent eight years on active duty and can say that modesty for allservice people, hetero or homosexual, is not that big a thing to handlefor the overwhelming majority of people who serve. There are certainlyareas like active combat zones where this isn’t possible, but thenagain, people in active combat zones have more urgent matters thansexual orientation to think about.

  • When I was a soldier the sexual orientation of the person fighting next to me was not important; keep in mind that there was a time when people actually thought that black people were not fit to serve in the military? The vast majority of sexual harrassment in the workplace is betweenheterosexuals but no matter who does it it is not right or legal. Barney Frank is an elected politician but someone else who is gay can not serve his or her country? Since just about every family has at least one gay person in the fold; where does it end? The real truth is that we do not know and that is how it should be because it is none our business.

  • The respectful question poised is a loaded one: a single woman, forced, group of men, sexually attracted…that is not objective language for discussion.Gays and Lesbians have been and still are mingled among the troops so there really isn’t a “social experiment” going on. Inappropriate behavior should be addressed, once DA/DT is lifted just as it should be now.

  • This is timely as the military claims it wants to add 20k new members. The point that the military is well integrated already is a good one. The exception is among the combat arms, where the integration not found. What is found is objectification of women, sexism, and homophobia. This occurs because there is no one to complain or correct the behavior. Forcing our service members to be more mature about their sexuality with respect to the opposite sex and other sexual orientations is a side benefit (not detriment) of allowing all americans, regardless of sexual orientation), to serve our nation. Service is a privilege of civilization and should not be withheld on the basis of bigotry, ignorance, or squeamishness.

  • Gays and lesbians have been serving in the military since militaries were first created. They have been working, eating, sleeping and using communal bathrooms like everyone else. Why assume there will be an issue? I spent seven years in the military and never thought about this topic, as it wasn’t any of my business.

  • FYI Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines who are LGB ALREADY serve. The argument about “attraction” is an old one – and it is not valid. There are already rules in the DoD about Sexual Harassment – and they are not gender based. There are already rules about inappropriate behavior – and they are not gender based. If inappropriate behavior occurs it is a violation and should be dealt with accordingly just as it is (or in many cases is not) NOW. I served 20 years in the military, as did my husband. My father served in the 1940s and early 50s, My elder son served in the last several years. All of us served with individuals who were LGB. Enough already – let all individuals who meet the criteria and who WANT to serve do so.

  • Since when should heterosexuals have a monopoly on patriotism, love of country, courage, and brute strength.

  • What a pathetically misguided statement to assert that all gay men are attracted to any and all men, period. No matter what age, race ethnicity, hair color, weight, stature, religion, etc., Gays are a notoriously meticulous and discriminating group of people. We search for qualities in our partners such as kindness, sincerity, honesty, integrity and education, to name just a few. To claim that we’re attracted to any man who comes along is just disgusting. With an attitude like his, I can’t imagine ANY man would find him attractive.I’m guessing he’s so full of himself, and is such an egomaniac, that he thinks all women are attracted to him, too, regardless of what a miss-informed, self-centered person he has revealed himself to be. My advice to the author–don’t flatter yourself, buddy.And by the way, what about all the sexual assaults that servicemen commit against women? Oh, I get it, they’re just “playing around.” Or perhaps “she was asking for it.” It seems to me that we should kick the sexual predators out of the military. Not those who honorably serve and often die for their country.

  • Is there a belief that if someone is attracted to the other they have no more control over their actions than a wild animal? Just because some may find a colleague attractive (gay or straight) does not give them the permission to act on this attractions. One could argue that straight men have or have not demonstrated the ability to control those emotions.Also, the US is one of the last large scale military powers to condone this form of discrimination. The British, Australian, Canadian and Israeli armies have allowed gay troops for years. This is no longer a test. Just another case of the “land of the free” not really being free for all.

  • A. Gays already serve in the U.S. military. The correct question that should be asked is, should gays in America be allowed to serve OPENLY in our military?B. The answer to that is indisbutably YES! It is absolutely absurd to think that America is so far behind nations they claim to be behind us. We are the only developed nation that does NOT, I repeat, does NOT allow their gays to serve openly. When you are in war, the only thing you’re worried about, or should be worried about, is whether the person serving with you can do their job adequately and you all can get in and out as quickly and safely as possible. Our strongest allies allow their gays to serve openly in the military, why, because it’s one less thing to argue over. Since D.A.D.T. was put in place, over 13,000 men and women have been discharged for their sexual orientation, NOT sexual misconduct, but simply their orientation. Currently, heterosexuals are allowed to pressure ho,osexuals into doing things with the threat of “outing” them, BECAUSE it’s illegal. If they were allowed to serve openly, then there would be far less room for thoses types of things to happen. If we allow this to continue to happen, we will continue to lose valuable assets to, not only our military, but to our society. It’s time for America to start growing up, and start acting like the nation they CLAIM to be!

  • Our soldiers are trained to ignore the symptoms of sleep deprivation, exercise themselves into the peak of physical fitness, wade through muck and mud, crawl through land mines, and run head first into a gunfight…but people are more concerned about how they’ll have to shower and dress in front of someone who’s homosexual?

  • I have been in the Army almost 20 years, and there never seemed to be a problem until I went to Afghanistan for 15 months. We had one person who seemed to be a homosexual; all who met him believed him to be. When he walked in the shower area, most men scrambled to leave. I had always spoken to others about this subject, but I was unsure what would happen; now I know. Knowing what will be involved with implementing this policy, I will retire. I will not spend my time trying to adjust the mentality of the vast majority of the soldiers.

  • One of the main flaws of “don’t ask, don’t tell” is that it shifts the issues from where the real problem is. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” forces gays and lesbians honorably serving their country into silence about who they really are AS AN ACCOMODATION to the PERCEPTUAL discomforts of others. The problem is with the perceptions and the real focus should be on how those perceptions should be corrected – NOT in excluding gays and lesbians. Gays and lesbians already are there, serving in close quarters with heterosexual servicepersons. “Don’t ask, don’t tell” simply creates a fictional illusion that allows perceptual comfort in a denial of reality.

  • So we have 13,000 qualified and skilled servicemen and women discharged under the policy, and 1 who would retire if the policy is changed. I say change the policy, bring back the 13,000, let the 1 retire, and the US Military only has to recruit 7,001 new service personnel to meet it’s goal of 20,000.

  • To LukeThanks for providing a respectful and logical answer. Your answer is the kind that makes reasonable people think about their personal paradigm and examine whether their conclusions should be re-evaluated. Your example of the email from the “lesbian servicewoman who was extorted to have sex with a heterosexual serviceman who threatened to out her” is almost impossible to reason against. She was without a doubt the victim of a serious crime. She cannot report it with out being discharged. I cannot just dismiss that in my mind. I will have to think about it carefully for some time. Having said that, I still don’t think you have addressed this issue from the perspective of the heterosexual community. To Dan Downing,You don’t know any thing about me and made a personal attribution about my character simply because I disagree with you. You aren’t going to win over many people with your Ad hominem reasoning. I actually thought your response was humorous until you really crossed the line with your statement “what about all the sexual assaults that servicemen commit against women.” It is obscene to jump to the conclusion that not agreeing with the idea of gays openly serving in the military means a person thinks it is ok to sexually assault women. To Jason T,Respectfully – The services are integrated but men and women are not forced into intimate situations. The advocates for allowing gays in the services don’t consider how this will affect heterosexuals. Like Luke said “… there are far more heterosexual people” it is only reasonable to consider the impact reversing this policy will have on the vast majority.To Chuck StevensRespectfully – I did not say or imply that homosexuals cannot control their urges. The vast majority of heterosexuals can control their urges but again men and women in the military are not forced into intimate situations.

  • Gays are already serving in the military and have been since the inception of the organized military, so the question should be should they have to lie about it. I say hecka no and if they can find Osama I’ll kick off the parade.

  • So many of the comments on this article are based on personal moral values rather than the civil liberties all Americans must share if we are to remain a democracy. America should take stock in its history as well as the policy of other military branches as it works toward developing a better policy for the U.S. military. I want to echo two comments that ring true in my mind: First, fitness for duty and a willingness to serve ought to be the general criteria. Second, sexual predators and those who cannot exercise self-control must be removed from all parts of society regardless of their orientation.

  • Gay’s already serve in the military. Most people know that they are gay. In my unit people just didn’t speak about it. Some times joks were made but because the guys were realy nice and they didn’t bother anyone with it worked out fine. Like everything else, It will just take time for people to get used to it.

  • Luke, To your great credit you actually address one of the central issues. Your statement “modesty for all service people, hetero or homosexual, is not that big a thing to handle for the overwhelming majority of people who serve” is correct for some serving in the military at certain stages in their career but does not consider all service members. It doesn’t consider Boot Camp (Basic Training) which requires recruits to live together in open squad bays and use common facilities (note – male and female recruits live in separate squad bays and use separate facilities). Also it doesn’t consider service members assigned to units that deploy to the field constantly (note- male and female service members live in separate tents and use separate facilities). During my 20+ years on active duty I spent much of my career deployed in the field either in a combat operation or in a field exercise in combat like conditions. Women were integrated and accommodated into these units shortly after my career began. I served with women in the field for over twenty years and understand the practical requirements of deploying an integrated unit. Aside from the practical considerations, the truth is that the vast majority of service members and Americans still don’t agree with the gay lifestyle. Most Americans tolerate it because Americans are great people and can accept people they don’t agree with.

  • Thank you for your kind words.I don’t think it’s that difficult to build a reasonable level of modesty into Boot Camp. For some field operations, additional modesty considerations will need to be made. The benefit is significant: Mathematically, diversity builds quality in any organization. This is because people are created equally; therefore, talent is distributed equally (it may not be prepared equally in our school system, but that’s relatively easy to correct). You’re incorrect about “the vast majority” of service members and Americans. Many polls, such as Pew Research and Gallup show that the majority of Americans are in favor of equal rights for LGBT people. This is an increasing trend. I would add that being gay is as much a lifestyle as being heterosexual. I’m not going to change my “lifestyle” when it comes to orientation – it’s baked in. If you did 20+ years on active duty, we’re probably in the same age group – the baby boom generation. Baby boomers are only 5% of the military population and it’s mostly our generation that has a problem with adjusting to the increase in civil and human rights for our LGBT citizens – the younger generations simply don’t care as much – so the young service people have far less of a problem than people in our generation. In closing, your last point is the best point. Americans ARE a great people – I think President Obama draws huge crowds when he speaks in other countries for two reasons: His skills as an orator, but more importantly, what he represents to people around the planet: It IS possible for a person not in the majority culture to rise to power based on his/her skill and intellect. It is most possible in America. Our values are to increase human and civil rights. It is what our Revolution was based on and it is what makes us powerful. Advancing LGBT rights, including the right to serve with honor and openness are in the best tradition of American culture – it is evidence that our Revolution continues to live. I will borrow the key phrase from your service: Semper Fi.

  • I admit I have no idea what a military life is like. I have never served and neither has anyone close to me.But I do know that in other countries, openly gay people have served for years. And you don’t hear anything about it causing a big crisis regarding modesty or privacy or…anything, really. They just serve their respective countries like everybody else.I think we tend to forget here in the United States that other countries have already tried this type of thing and so we already know that none of these supposed horrible things happen because of them.

  • From an ethics standpoint, I do believe that LGBs should be able to serve openly in the military. From a personal standpoint, I honestly don’t care if a person that I’m working with is gay and, unless we’re friends, I don’t see the point in your telling me. As a result, I don’t personally see anything wrong with the basic concept of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (although people should NOT be dismissed if they tell) because your sexuality is irrelevant to the job.Now, people do need to realize that this is the military and when you join the military, your purpose is to fight and kill in order to protect the liberties enjoyed by American civilians. When you join the military, you give up a number of basic freedoms that civilians enjoy. For example, at Westpoint Military Academy, you can’t just leave campus on a whim and get your girlfriend pregnant; you lose that right when you sign up and you’ll be dismissed if you exercise this right. Your rights in the military are not the same as in civilian society.Also, the military is about a person’s ability to perform their job. Some people are simply incapable of working with a homosexual person because of their own moral views but are still excellent, law-abiding soldiers. So the question is, do you get rid of an excellent soldier on your team just because they’re homophobic? Of course not, especially if their replacement is just average. There simply needs to be a compromise. Identify the homophobes and place them on teams together without any LGBs, that way, everyone gets to serve to their full ability and to the full benefit to our country.MY POINT: LBGs deserve all of the same rights as any straight person in society, but the military is a unique area and must make certain concessions and adjustments to accommodate all law-abiding soldiers.

  • “R C” has a good point to their credit: While women are segregated from the men to secure privacy and to discourage intimate relations, how would one go about discourage homosexual intimate relations in an environment where they cannot be segregated? Ultimately, this is an issue that will have to be addressed sooner or later.However, this issue is rooted in stereotype and unconscious bigotry. It’s based on the assumption that: A) Homosexuals are sexually insatiable, B) Homosexuals have a predatory manner when it comes to fulfilling their carnal needs, and C) Homosexuals have far less sexual self-control than their heterosexual counterparts.The same level of discipline that “R C” developed while in military service is not an exclusive heterosexual trait. Self-discipline and self-control are qualities that are inherent in everyone. Yes, there is a common perception that homosexuals are less inhibited – indeed, there are many in the GLB community who are very sexually open and active – but “R C” glosses over the fact that it is not a perception that can be applied to the GLB community as a whole. In fact, many gay men (who usually fall under this perception) are turning away from promiscuity and are becoming more conservative in their sexuality.Like I stated in my earlier comment, our troops have far more pressing matters to concern themselves with than who’s scoping them out in the shower room.

  • With all due respect to Tiana, who seems to have her heart in the right place, I hope that when I change one of her paragraphs this way:”Also, the military is about a person’s ability to perform their job. Some people are simply incapable of working with a Black person … but are still excellent, law-abiding soldiers. So the question is, do you get rid of an excellent soldier on your team just because they’re racist? Of course not, especially if their replacement is just average. There simply needs to be a compromise. Identify the racists and place them on teams together without any POCs, that way, everyone gets to serve to their full ability and to the full benefit to our country. “the problems with the concept are obvious.

  • I don’t care, if the majority of the troops serving think its ok, who I’m I to say it’s not; they are the ones being killed. So I say let the troops decide.

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