The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy is an amazing bit of doublethink. One one hand, any homosexual who is honest about his/her orientation cannot serve in the US military. On the other hand, any homosexual who is discrete about his/her orientation and says nothing, can freely serve. So, the policy essentially says that it is okay for homosexuals to serve, provided no one says anything. That is, of course, rather weird.
A friend of mine recently presented his view of the matter. His approach was rather interesting and he looked at it in terms of practicality and human sexuality. He began by noting that the military does permit men and women to serve together, but still keeps the two sexes separate in many ways. Men and women do not share the same barracks areas and they do not shower together. The reasons for this separation is rather obvious: social norms about the mixing of the sexes and also the problems that would arise if young men were showering with and bunking with young women. In other words, it is a sex thing.
Homosexuals thus short circuit the system. Since a homosexual is attracted to his/her own sex, s/he will be bunked with and shower with the sex /she prefers. Allowing this would, of course, be on par with allowing straight men and women to shower and bunk together. As my friend contended, until human beings are able to deal with their sexuality, this will always be a problem. If men and women (well, mostly men) had an adequate handle on their sexuality, then men and women could freely mix. This would also permit homosexuals to be mixed in as well-after all, if men and women can be naked in the showers with each other with no problem, then homosexuals would be fine as well.
Sex is, of course, the problem. As noted above, the military handles the sex thing between men and women by keeping the two sexes separated in various ways. Thus suggests one rather awkward and jury rigged approach to the problem: gay soldiers could be separated out from the straight soldiers in the same sort of way. For example, there would be straight male showers and barracks, straight female showers and barracks, gay male showers and barracks, and gay female barracks and showers. Of course, there are many problems with this approach. One obvious problem is that while the men who like women will be separated from the women who like men and the men who like men will be with the men (likewise for the women who like women). Naturally, putting the gay women with the straight men and the gay men with the straight women would not work well.
My own view is this. Since the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy went into effect, we know that a significant number of homosexuals have served in the military-mainly because some of them did tell. The main concern that people have expressed about allowing gays in the military is that doing so will create all sorts of dire problems. However, these problems do not seem to have ever manifested themselves. As such, homosexuals do not seem to be any more problematic than heterosexuals (and there have been plenty of problems between heterosexual males and females in the military). Thus, there seems to be little compelling reason to keep up the weird policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
Of course, some people would argue that if gay soldiers told, then this would cause all sorts of dire problems. Many of these arguments are, of course, virtually identical to the arguments given against racially integrating the armed forces. Integration worked out well and there seems to be no reason why allowing gays to serve openly would be beyond the ability of the military to handle. After all, our soldiers are professionals and citizens of a democracy that endorses equal rights for all.
For the cautious, we could always have some gays agree to come out and serve openly. Then we could watch for any dire consequences. If these do not arise, then more people can gradually come out of the closet. If that continues to be fine, then the process can be stepped up. Folks who are against gays being in the military should be fine with this approach. After all, this would give them the chance to have solid empirical evidence for their views. The only reason to be against such a test would be the fear that their views are actually unfounded and are mere prejudice-rather than being legitimate concerns about how gays would harm the military.