Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Gay Peace Advocates v. Gay Warmongers

When did the gay movement take a vote that our advocacy orgs and pride parades are only to promote gay soldiers, with no questions about advocating for that beautiful five-letter word P-E-A-C-E?

Yesterday I read on Pam Spaulding's site about the formation of yet another org, Outserve, to fight for gays in the military. She posted most of Outserve's release, including this scary quote from one of the new org's leaders, who is based in Iraq and cannot reveal his identity:

"We are here to fight and win wars, serve with integrity and honesty and protect the people fighting next to us. We are proud to sacrifice for the nation we love, but we have a lot of educational work to do."

Questioning unjust and illegal wars? Advocating for peace, justice and diplomacy over bombs and bloodshed? Calling for cutting America's war budget and diverting Pentagon dollars to AIDS drug cocktails and new, affordable housing for gay seniors?

Sorry, those issues are not on Outserve's agenda.

Frankly, I'm long over being asked to battle for repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and seeing Gay Inc and too many gay bloggers not raising any serious questions about the Bush/Cheney-initiated wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Let me say that I really don't care if the likes of Dan Choi ever get a chance to spill the blood of Iraqi and Afghan civilians, all in the name of gay equality. Choi, in another failed publicity stunt, over the weekend gave his military ring to Sen. Harry Reid at the Netroots Nation confab, and one gay peace activist in San Francisco, longtime independent thinker Marc Salomon, is pleased Choi no longer serves in the U.S. military:

One less gay man committing war crimes in my name, with my tax dollars is a good start in my book.

(My friend Marc is not to be confused with gay marriage advocate Marc Solomon at Equality California.)

Can you recall the last time a gay peace advocate was honored as grand marshal at either the New York City or San Francisco pride parades? This year's Big Apple parade included warmonger Choi as a grand marshal, a role he served out here in 2009, and one of 2010's honorees by the SF Pride committee was lesbian military advocate Zoe Dunning.

There are some gay voices piping up for a wider discussion about gays and the military. In a listserv exchange, pre-Stonewall Riots activist Billy Glover pondered what justice means for contemporary advocates:

I wonder if even the people active in the effort to get rid of Don't Ask Don't Tell know the long history of our community/movement attempt to get justice in the Armed Forces.

In response, NYC gay peace activist Bill Dobbs had this to say:

Like so many of those involved in the DADT repeal effort you only look at the workplace conditions for those in the military – hoping for what you describe as “justice in the Armed Forces.”

Did it ever occur to you to ask some questions about US foreign policy, about what the military is doing? There’s the slight matter of war – US led wars of aggression on Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. But for an accident of birth and geography you might be in the cross hairs of a predator drone operated remotely by a GI. If you’re really lucky, a gay GI might blow your life to smithereens.

The historical insights you offer are interesting but often your perspective suffers from the same tunnel vision that limits the vision of gays much younger than you. That’s the big difference between those who aspire to ‘equality’ and those who want social justice even ‘liberation.’

I'm old enough to remember when thousands of gays were happy to stay out of the military and our leaders openly, and consistently, questioned the need for warfare and enormous Pentagon budgets. Actually, we still have a significant number of gays wanting to bring U.S. troops, gay and straight, home from Iraq and Afghanistan, and who endorse cutting military spending so tax dollars can fund domestic social needs.

It's just that gays with these views don't get nearly the attention deserve to present the world with diversity of opinion. Not every sissy wants to be a soldier.


Sean Strub said...


I agree with your concern about the growing invisibility of peace advocates within the LGBT movement, but labeling Dan Choi a "warmonger" is not fair.

Are you applying that label to every person in military service? "Warmonger" is a loaded word, not unlike "racist" or "homophobe" and I don't think it is useful to use as hyperbole. Nor do I think my friends and relatives in military service are, by dint of their service, warmongers.

Regardless of how one feels about military service, I think Dan Choi's commitment is admirable. He put a great deal at risk, including his job, healthcare and pension. I also believe his action at Netroots Nation was effective.

There was a time, much earlier in the movement, when almost all of our leaders were willing to make great personal sacrifices for the movement; that time is long gone, as now the movement is a great career opportunity. The concept of sacrifice for movement work gets a bit muddled when salaries shot into the stratosphere.

Fortunately, as it turned out, Dan's discharge was an honorable one, saving his benefits. But that doesn't diminish the sacrifice he was willing to make (or the sacrifices he did make) to bring attention to DADT.


ish said...

Thanks for this post. I believe DADT is wrong, but I actually believe enlisting is worse.

I don't know anything about Dan Choi's views on politics outside his fight against discrimination, but I think it's fair to question anyone who joined the military -- a voluntary association -- since the Iraq war began. If you believe the war is wrong, you don't volunteer to go fight it.

Bob Schwartz said...


Gay Liberation Network has been outspoken in its opposition to US aggression and occupation since we opposed the impending attack on Afghanistan right after 9-11. Today we oppose what has become Obama's war just as we did when Bush was the leader of the US empire.

We also oppose DADT since it is discrimination by the nation's largest employer and sanctions treatment of LGBTs as second class citizens.

Dan Choi has moderated his patriotic cant with which he used to justify his military "service," and I think his direct action protest has helped to push what little movement has been achieved in ending DADT.

James said...

Right on! That's all I need to say! War is stupid and our community should not support it! DADT, who cares! You are doing me a favor by NOT allowing LGBTs serve!

I Disagree said...

What an absolutely disgusting post.

Gay men and women who serve their country do not deserve this vilification.

As a matter of fact, soldiers - including many who were gay - fought and died to win both the war against fascism and the Cold War against Communism. They deserve recognition and praise for that.

As a European, I am very conscious that we ONLY live in a society in which gay men and women enjoy equality and the protection of the law, because American soldiers, including gay soldiers, died for our freedom.

Our liberty - the liberty of all of us - has been bought with the blood of these soldiers. They deserve better from you.