The aforementioned policy (Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell) has a colorful history in our nation’s recent past and continues to be a subject of much debate, even to this day. Don’t worry, I am not going to launch into any polemics or apologetics on this blog post and I plan to remain thoroughly neutral on the debate.
I do not wish to incite passionate response from either side of the argument, but simply want to bring up the policy and my understanding of it to introduce other social issues more pertinent to college students like us.
From MY understanding of the origin of DADT, it was created mainly as a measure of erasure of conflict and in one way or another was supposed to ‘protect’ the individual rights of members of the military that were homosexual. To avoid harassment or awkward situations (in response to incidents of discrimination, prejudicial behavior etc.) homosexuality became taboo in the ‘workplace’ of the American soldier. Whether or not we agree with this measure as the proper course of action for anyone to have taken, I think that at the most basic level of understanding, the intention was good.
The problem, of course, is that the real issue behind any type of discrimination or harassment of any person for their sexual orientation is not something that can be successfully mitigated by individual cases being “swept under the rug.” An environment of tolerance is not created through ignoring the problem and making it something that can’t be discussed. There should be a tolerant environment where people feel comfortable and have the right to express their sexuality (whatever it may be) freely, openly, and proudly.
What strikes me about the debate is not what it means for soldiers (I am not a soldier, don’t plan on becoming one) but rather how this policy of silence governs our own social interactions at a place like Amherst College.
Under no circumstances do I think that there is an intolerant environment here at Amherst College. Maybe I am just blind to it, but I really do think in my heart of hearts that Amherst is a generally tolerant place of many different types of people.
What really puzzles me is the “don’t ask” side rather than the “don’t tell.” I think generally no one at Amherst would have a problem “telling” or being open about their sexuality. However….. If I walked up to you right now and asked you “Hey, are you gay?” How would you receive my questioning?
Now… I am not homophobic and I do not intend to judge you in any way based on your response. I am simply curious. Perhaps you are an attractive female who I have noticed around campus before and I am tryin’a get to know you a little better BUT I have a sneaking suspicion that a certain girl you are always with is more than your friend….
Do I invest the effort and time into courting you, wine you and dine you etc.. only to be relegated to the “friend zone” (known in Buddhism as the avici hell realm) because you bat for the other team?!
The terms of my thought experiment are crude, yes, because some humor is intended. However, in all seriousness, is there any polite way to ask?
Is it ever anyone’s business but your own?
I’m not sure. I think that we heterosexual males often take for granted what it means to display and discuss sexual orientation openly and freely on a day-to-day basis without recourse. Because of gendered and hetero-normative realities about our campus life and life beyond the Amherst bubble, young people are often put in unfair, uncomfortable positions that make simple curiosities and genuine interests about our classmates taboo.
Sorry to get all serious on you on a Thursday.
Maybe I’ll get hammered tonight and write a drunken post to bust out next week…..