The Pentagon continues to fumble in their handling of their survey distributed to 400,000 service members regarding their perceptions of the impact of gay persons in military service. Or is is just continued institutional homophobia on the part of elements of the command structure? On the tenth page of the survey under the section headed:
Throughout this survey, “gay or lesbian” and “homosexual” are used interchangeably”
The first three questions, and possible answers are:
Do you currently serve with a male or female Service member you believe to be homosexual?
In answering the next few questions, think about all of the units you have served with during your military career.
In your career, have you ever worked in a unit with a leader you believed to be homosexual?
In your career, have you ever worked in a unit with a coworker you believed to be homosexual?
A crucial missing component of those three question and answer sets is a third option as a possible answer: Do Not Know.
The assumption that any given service member would automatically recognize if any other given service member is homosexual or lesbian simply institutionalizes the faulty logic that there is an appreciable difference in the character of those human beings who serve our country. I can only relate this to my own service experience more than forty years ago, if I would have been asked those same questions at that time my answer would have been “Don’t know, and don’t care.” The only concern that I would have had with my shipmates was “does this person honestly do his job to the best of his or her abilities?” Nothing more, nothing less, if the person did the best job he or she was able to, then I knew two things: I could depend upon the person to share any burdens I had and that this person would have my back while I had his back. At the end of the day, whether we parted ways and one of us went to the library and one of us went to the bar, we were still shipmates.
It is way past time when the military institutions should be wrestling with homophobia, instead of distributing a survey that implies there might be a character flaw among a segment of the military population, the military command structure should cease the systematic foot dragging that prevents the culture from reforming itself. Don’t survey, just set appropriate expectations of professionalism from all service members, no matter where they fit in on the command structure.
It is now time to change the operative phrase from “Don’t ask, don’t tell” to “Don’t know, don’t care”.