Military gays: now or when? 

Your Turn

Alanis Morissette would have been proud.

Last Friday, Inside/Out Youth Services hosted its ninth annual fundraising golf tournament at Cheyenne Shadows Golf Club. On the outside, it seemed simple enough — just your standard ol' fundraising golf tournament. But beneath the surface lay enough irony to make Morissette leap for her songwriting pen.

That's because Cheyenne Shadows Golf Club is located on Fort Carson. And Inside/Out Youth Services is a nonprofit providing support for hundreds of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and questioning youth in the county. Not surprisingly, it is the only one of its kind.

What is surprising is that this didn't matter. Forget the military-bases-as-bastions-of-homophobia stereotypes. Forget the complexities and benightedness of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Forget the assumption Fort Carson is the last place a local gay group would choose for a fundraiser.

Despite all these misconceptions, the tournament still happened — and, in fact, also happened there the previous two years. And nobody's seemed to bat an eye at the pairing, a refreshing concept for our city that's too often unfairly labeled intolerant and extreme. While this might not be newsworthy in many cities, in our unique case, the fact it was a non-event should make us all proud.

However, the ironic juxtaposition provides a convenient opportunity to critically assess the flawed "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) policy, which hits close to home for all of us in this military-saturated community.

Plain and simple, DADT is a giant mess. It tries to toe the line between right and left, satisfying no one and angering most. It asks gay soldiers to lie and deceive on a daily basis.

It's also increasingly becoming a huge thorn in the side of an Obama administration otherwise preoccupied with reforming health care, fixing the economy, solving global warming, establishing peace and security in the Middle East, and, you know, saving the world, really. Just last week, prominent gay rights leaders publicly boycotted a Democratic fundraiser to express their frustration at Obama's inaction on the issue.

As much as this tree-hugging liberal is a fan of the suave black hoops player from Hawaii and Indonesia, I have no sympathy for him on this issue. When you pander to a minority constituency with lofty campaign promises like repealing DADT, you have to make good on them, or there will be political repercussions.

To be fair, the White House is responding. Monday, Obama met with gay rights leaders under the auspices of celebrating Pride Month and commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots — a clear indication Obama is listening to the gay community's concerns.

Without action, however, this looks an awful lot like lip service. Last week, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs verbalized the administration's reluctance, expressing Obama's belief that "the only and best way to [repeal DADT] is through a durable comprehensive legislative process." That's code for "I'm going to wait for Congress to vote on this issue so I don't have to get that involved."

Among the many major issues, repealing DADT might not rank that high on the totem pole. But this was a campaign promise. If it's not a good time to follow through now, with a Democratic majority in Congress, no upcoming election to worry about and the administration still enjoying its "honeymoon" phase, when will it be? Polls have shown three-quarters of Americans support gays serving openly in the military. Compare that to 1993, when DADT became official and only 44 percent supported openly gay service members.

For all the Washington punditry and pontificating, this issue has very real consequences for our hamlet. You can't help but recognize that some invisible victims of this whole mess are the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, questioning and intersex kids at Inside/Out. They come to Inside/Out for opportunity, advice, guidance, support. Most (78 percent) have had suicidal thoughts. Nearly half (46 percent) have been abused. As many as 20 percent are homeless.

The world has shut its doors to them in several ways. And while they will grow up amid a rare military nexus — Air Force Academy, Fort Carson, NORAD/NORTHCOM, Peterson and Schriever Air Force bases — for now they can't be part of such places. That's just one more door that's been shut, simply because of whom they happen to love.

Kristin Lynch is a local writer and activist focusing on GLBT issues. She enjoys swashbuckling, over-analyzing things and long walks on the beach. Lynch can be reached at klynch@alumni.princeton.edu.

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