Isbel Diaz Torres
A US judge has suspended the enforcement of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that had prohibited military personnel from asking about the sexual preference of its members and prevented recruits from revealing if they were gay or lesbian.
I just received this news, which has produced a mixture of contradictory thoughts and emotions in me. This is what I’d like to share with the readers of Havana Times.
The first is the deep sympathy I feel for anyone in any part of the world who is advancing the struggle for equal rights between heterosexuals and those with sexual orientations different from the hegemonic model.
The movement for LGBT rights in the United States is now legendary since the world impact of the Stonewall Riots in 1969, which was preceded that decade by the struggles for the civil rights of Blacks, the upsurge of the feminist movement and the sexual revolution.
Like all struggles, the LGBT movement has had its contradictions, times of progress and momentary setbacks. Because of that it didn’t surprise me that — in addition to Brazil, Belorussia, Cyprus, South Korea, Greece, Libya, Russia, Serbia, Singapore, and Turkey — the United States was also on the list of countries that prohibited or restricted the service of homosexuals in the army.
Although homosexuality is legal in most of those nations, heterosexism continues to reign and the army continues to be one of its most faithful bastions. This idea immediately raised a deeper question in my mind concerning this institution that has been present in human societies for centuries.
It occurred to me that while I would struggle if someone prohibited me from joining the army if I were gay or for any other discriminatory reason, shouldn’t I also exert that same energy to resist if they forced me to join. Isn’t that too an inalienable right? Personally, I defend the dream of a community of human beings without entities designed for, generating and promoting violence. In addition “I have a dream,” like the one of Martin Luther King.
The argument of it being one’s “duty to defend the homeland” I simply oppose with the idea that rejecting violence doesn’t mean rejecting active struggle, and that it’s difficult to respond to violence with more violence as a means of solving any problem in its essence. At best, this would only help one to “survive” temporarily. But I don’t want to get into the issue of non-violence, which is complex enough in itself; I want to return to the army and gays and lesbians.
The law that had been in force in the US for 17 years was discriminatory. It caused nearly 13,000 qualified men and women being expelled from the ranks of the army since 1993, and it discouraged many more from serving their country.
It’s true, but I could question the “honor” of serving in such an army used for the most ignoble causes on the face of this planet, at least if I didn’t take into consideration that this is the work of almost any army. Those poor souls who were fighting against the Japanese in the Pacific, or were serving in Kosovo or Afghanistan, they too were told that they were protecting their homeland.
To achieve this, their training is based on macho slogans or orders with clear allusions to the “weaknesses” of some individuals and their consequent comparison to the “weaker” sex. This is what is experienced by people who have actually done military service here in Cuba, not just those who have seen the TV series “Bands of Brothers” or “The Pacific.”
Years after having gone through “the green,” as we say here, I found out about all the homosexual adventures that occurred in my unit without my discovering it. What were indeed visible were soldiers, sergeants and even the non-commissioned officers’ daily humiliating one effeminate gay soldier who worked in the infirmary. In fact, it was he who revealed to me what actually took place on those stretchers after dark…how those who were “macho” in the daytime later transformed in the middle of the night.
Many countries have explicit military and public regulations with respect to gender violence, sexual harassment and other practices common in almost any army, yet violations of these are regularly committed. I don’t even want to imagine how that would work in our army, which has almost no references to any such type of abuse.
The things done by armies are indescribable. Imagine Russia rejecting gays in times of peace but recruiting them under wartime conditions. If that’s not USING someone I don’t know what to call it.
Now, concerning the specific experience in the news, it’s gratifying to learn that this positive result was the consequence of a suit filed against the United States military by the Log Cabin Republicans, a national organization of gays and lesbians.
Learning that an organization of civil society sued the government for demonstrating discriminatory behavior would be an important lesson for us Cubans. Knowing and transforming our legal system is indispensable for us to function as free men and women.
This suit began in 2004, and now it has been determined that such a policy violated the first and fifth amendments of the US Constitution. This ruling can be appealed, and then the case could go to the Supreme Court. Let’s pray that the final decision is in favor of the plaintiffs.
Meanwhile, from time to time here we glance at the stagnant process of the modification of Cuba’s Family Code. This reform does not propose marriage for homosexual couples, as was made crystal clear by Mariela Castro recently on Cuban TV. Instead, it involves a few adjustments that would allow some rights (especially inheritance) for members of this type of couple.
Perhaps it’s time for people in the street to have access to the entire text of the Cuban proposal. Perhaps they will come up with other ideas that need to be included.