Monday, May 11, 2009

Don't Ask, Don't Tell: A Queer Perspective

There has been recent criticism and outrage about the lack of support the Obama administration has given to the "gays" and the issues impacting GLBT lives. Since his election, several states have gone all progressive and legalized same-sex marriage - including my home state of Iowa and the Matthew Shepard Act has made immense gains with possible passage in sight. There has also been movement in anti-discrimination rights in employment if my memory serves me correctly. Within this, a few weeks or perhaps months back it was made blatant that the military's DON'T ASK, DON'T TELL (DADT) policy would remain on the books for awhile longer because there are bigger things that the administration needs to worry about.

When I first heard this, I kinda giggled to myself, in part because it would seem to be rather simple to repeal the policy since it seems to lack much support and also because Obama was heralded as the candidate for change and highly liked by the GLBT community (a dangerous generaliation I know). Yet, now a couple of weeks later as I think about this further...I hope bigger things continue to be needed to be worried about in relation to repealing this act. I say this because I think this act provides for an "out" for people who do not seek or want to be in the military. By this I can "come out" to "get out" of the military or to refuse to be an explicit part of the military industrial complex. In doing this, one does not have to "be" just has to come out and then perhaps later go back into the straight closet once out. Now, of couse some might see this as unpatriotic, as using "gay" as an excuse not to do one's duty. However, what is one's duty? Is it to be apart of that "military industrial complex" as numerous social/cultural/political theorists call it? Is it to take orders and spread freedom in the name of freedom under the auspices of something that is really not "freedom"?

I don't know...but I think DADT in being a rather queer piece of legislation that rests on rather strange logic...perhaps even homophobic actually a piece of legislation that allows perhaps just momentarily to get "out" of the complex...a rather straight complex...that seeks in many ways to colonize others in the name of democracy. I wonder then if we embrace DADT in its homophobic logic if we are able to imagine a different purpose for the law...a purpose that is not (entirely) to discriminate against homosexual persons (or more so acts) but to allow those tired of being a part of a military machine - that often rhetorically works to be seen as spreading freedom, of "doing good" but has also historically violated the lives of the Other who is unintelligible to the machine - a way out, a way to subvert the complex.

Is then the drive by GLBT Rights groups to repeal DADT a rather short-sighted drive that is structured by the heteronormativity of the military and government? Does the drive for a repeal seek for "us" (gays) to be like "them" (straights) so that we can show we are as "manly" or "womanly" or "strong" or "proud" to be a patriot? What if one does not seek to be a patriot under such conceptualizations of patriotism? What if one wants a way fighting for DADT a way to do provide a space for those not interested in the military or perhaps disillusioned by the recent wars to move beyond the military industrial complex? Could it be argued that we could fight to make "them" (straights) become like "us" (gays) as we struggle to not fight, to not be a part of the military industrial complex - in part because we are not allowed to? Would such a fight further allow one to see a deconstruction of the "gay/straight" dichotomy since some "gays" want to be a part of the machine and some "straights" vehemently oppose such a machine? Is DADT a queer piece of legislation because it possibly allows "queers" (straight and gay) to put on a despised identity or "acts" to subvert the dominant notions of patriotism? of military service?

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