After a busy past twenty-four hours, I finally had the chance to get through a backlog of e-mail and discovered among the various missives an op-ed from Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation Vice President Winnie Stachelberg and a link to an HRC press release on the costs of “one of the great injustices and follies of our time,” (the Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell (DADT) policy).
While I don’t agree with everything in Ms. Stachelberg’s Op-ed, she’s right that with news of a “possible new, more virulent strain” of HIV, we “need a redoubled effort to create new prevention strategies.” And she makes this interesting observation:
The most recent issue of one of the most popular GLBT magazines had 6 six pages of glossy full-color ads for HIV drugs. There were zero pages of HIV prevention advertising.
Her words made me wonder whether or not these images of handsome and healthy men frolicking about in ads for HIV drugs cause gay men to discount the consequences of infection. (Which could help explain why, even when knowing the risks, some gay men still have unsafe sex.)
She’s right that “prevention is still the key.” She suggests “smart, targeted messages to reach people with the unvarnished truth.” And part of that truth is that the medications don’t always work. At a gay and lesbian reunion at my alma mater, I watched a man with AIDS take over sixty pills as he sat down to eat. That was only his morning regimen. I read later in our alumni magazine that he died not long after. An image of healthy men frolicking shows the success of “breakthrough medications.” But, another image is the failure of those medications to help my fellow alumnus.
In a news release today, HRC
renewed its call for the repeal of the Dont Ask, Dont Tell policy in light of a new report obtained by several newspapers showing that the policy has cost nearly $200 million for the replacement and training of personnel who had to be recruited when gay and lesbian soldiers were ousted from the military. The study also showed that nearly 800 specialists with critical skills have been fired, including 322 linguists, 54 of whom specialized in Arabic.
The Boston Globe has a good article noting that gay service members discharged included linguists, code-breakers, intelligence specialists and interrogators. The man who decrypted the Nazi U-Boat Enigma was a gay Brit, Alan Turing. Under DADT, our military might well have discharged a man whose work was essential in winning the battle of the Atlantic. Without that gay man’s work, we might not have been able to ship enough troops and supplies to Europe in order to defeat the Nazis.
Both Christian Grantham and the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) have pieces on The Military Readiness Enhancement Act would repeal DADT. SLDN Executive Director C. Dixon Osburn puts this ban in the right context when he says, Our homeland is more secure when every qualified, capable American who wants to serve is allowed to do so.”
David M. Smith, HRC’s President of Policy is also right to note that DADT compromises national security:
Discharging highly trained, patriotic service members solely for their sexual orientation is bad for security, and bad for the country. Just this week, Great Britain announced it would begin actively recruiting gay and lesbian citizens for their military. Our strongest international allies are putting the security of their nation first.
By framing repeal of the ban as a national security issue, we are more likely to win allies in “red states” than by framing it as a rights’ issue. Smart move, HRC.
On two issues in the past two days, HRC leaders get it right. Are they changing or am I?
-Dan (AKA GayPatriotWest): GayPatriotWest@aol.com