Saturday, March 27, 2010

James Conway and Gay Straight Segregation

This will be a shorter article, but I could not resist writing some commentary on this issue that has come up in relation to the changes being put in place with DADT by Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Recently, the top officer in the Marines, James Conway, has advocated that new barracks be made for homosexual officers, so that straight marines won’t have to share rooms with them. This already smacks of the intent behind segregation in the 50s: that even if you kept people separate, you were giving them equal treatment and not denying one group rights that the other has. But like segregation with blacks, if you are making such a large problem out of gays and straights cohabitating, it begs the question why such ideas haven’t been enforced in other areas of life, like college campuses, particularly state funded ones. Not to mention that separating people into groups based on appearance and other aspects of life is only good in the abstract, not the concrete. Public services and basic civil rights as such should be equally given and shared by all humanity, which was the reasoning that led to segregation eventually falling away.

But if the issue is about trust, then why shouldn’t college campuses do the same thing Conway is arguing? Because college campuses appear to be more informed and understanding of the complexity of such an issue. If I had had a gay roommate for example, I wouldn’t have had a significant issue apart from what would be a similar issue if one cohabitated with a roommate of the opposite sex. Just because there is such a possibility does not mean the people in question cannot confront this issue face to face, talk about it and come to an agreement that does not favor one over the other. While my gay roommate would understand that I don’t see his sexual orientation as anything immoral, I would think it reasonable that they accept that I’m not gay myself and thus would not want any unwarranted sexual attention that would be indistinguishable from sexual harassment.

With such an institution as the military, the idea of self control is reasonably assumed to be part of training. By association, it is hardly irrational to suggest to recruits that while you may disagree with gay and lesbian people and their sexual orientation that there is no reason to deny them the same right to serve one’s country; and that there is also no reason to fear them living in the same barracks as you. The same issue was confronted no doubt when they were thinking of letting women serve in the army, though admittedly gender separate housing could be said to be more reasonable in terms of such an area as the army. But co-ed housing would hardly be completely out of the question. The army is not like college, however, so my comparisons are questionable to begin with, but the importance of such a claim from a senior officer can’t be ignored. Passing the adjustments to DADT policy won’t change people’s opinions so easily on such things as allowing gays to cohabitate with straight people. That will be another thing entirely. Until next time, Namaste and Aloha.

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