Marines get trained on accepting gay recruits

ELLIOT SPAGAT  |  Associated Press

CAMP PENDLETON, California — Marine instructor Maj. Daryl Desimone stood before an auditorium filled with fatigue-clad troops, carrying an unequivocal message: It’s OK to disagree with letting gays serve openly in the military. It’s not OK to disobey orders.

He explained that the impending repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” is an order, one heard by generals and rank-and-file alike as the military tries to change the culture of a traditionally conservative institution.

Only a few of the 150 Marines stepped up to ask questions.

One stood up from a back row and demanded to know why his religious beliefs were being “put aside” in favor of gays, forcing him to “basically grit my teeth and bear it.”

“It’s not really open to discussion,” Desimone said. “Nobody’s trying to change your mind.”

Sexual orientation will now be a private matter, just like religion or politics, he said.

Sgt. Jay Milinichik stood up to ask what would happen if a Marine refused gay roommates.

Marines won’t have separate barracks or showers based on sexual orientation, Desimone said. He added that signing up for the Marines comes with an expectation of less privacy.

That said, officers may decide to separate roommates to preserve peace, just like they do now when roommates argue.

Marines will not be allowed an early discharge for opposing the policy but exceptions will be considered, Desimone said.

“You can’t just walk up and say, ‘I don’t like this. I’m outta here,”’ he said.

Classes like Thursday’s for the Combat Logistics Regiment 17 of the 1st Marine Logistics Group are being held at military bases around the world. The Marines expect to finish training by June 1, with all military branches done by summer’s end.

The repeal of the 17-year “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy would go into effect 60 days after the president, defense secretary and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff certify that lifting the ban won’t hurt the military’s ability to fight.

Gen. James Amos, the Marine Corps commandant, testified last year that permitting gays to openly serve could disrupt smaller combat units and distract leaders from preparing for battle.

When he appeared this month before the House Armed Services Committee, he said he had been looking for problems that might arise under the new policy and hadn’t found any “recalcitrant pushback.”

“There has not been the anxiety over it from the forces in the field,” he said.

In small group discussions, Marines are being asked to consider their reactions to a wide range of scenarios, from seeing a member “hanging around” a gay bar to hearing locker-room jokes from others who refuse to shower in front of gays.

There is nothing wrong with “hanging around” a gay bar, the training materials state.

The officer who witnesses the loud locker-room banter aimed at gays and lesbians should remind the Marines any discrimination or harassment is inappropriate.

If a Marine spots two men in his battalion kissing off-duty at a shopping mall, he should react as if he were seeing a man and woman, according to the training materials.

If he turns on the television news to see a fellow Marine dressed as a civilian and marching in a parade with a banner that reads, “Support Gays and Lesbians in the Military!” he should accept it as a free right of expression.

A top-notch Marine recruiter opposed to the new policy cannot refuse a promising applicant because of sexual orientation. The recruiter might be considered for another assignment or, at the Navy secretary’s discretion, might be granted early discharge.

Chaplains who preach at base chapels that homosexuality is a sin are entitled to express their beliefs during worship.

At Thursday’s class at Camp Pendleton, there were several questions about benefits.

Desimone said Marines must follow federal law that only recognizes marriage between a man and woman, disqualifying gays from housing allowances and other benefits afforded to married couples.

But he pondered a scenario in which a gay couple would be allowed to live in military base housing because they have children and the partner is a custodial parent.

“There are inconsistencies,” he said. “Anyone who looks at it logically will see there are some things that need to be worked out.”

After class, Petty Officer William Evans of Riverside, Calif., said he was a bit “blindsided” when the repeal was announced. The hospital corpsman lives off the base, but said he would feel uncomfortable sharing barracks with a gay man.

“Of course, it’s not something that everyone’s going to be comfortable with, but we’ll have to deal with it,” he said.

—  John Wright

Hate is not an Aggie value

Members of GLBT Aggies were targeted with anti-gay epithets during Midnight Yell earlier this month, and they say it wasn’t an isolated incident.

By Camden Breeding, Vice President, GLBT Aggies

A recognized student organization since 1985, GLBT Aggies are part of the Fightin’ Texas Aggie family, too.

This was the statement we made by attending the Nov. 19 Midnight Yell. As an organization, we proudly displayed rainbow flags and “Hate is Not an Aggie Value” buttons as we joined in the chorus “BTHO Nebraska.” Unfortunately, that chorus was interrupted by the voice of hate as members of GLBT Aggies were harassed for expressing who they are.

“Put the rainbow flags away, faggots,” one Midnight Yell participant shouted across hundreds of people down an exit ramp toward members of GLBT Aggies. Shortly thereafter he continued the harassment by yelling “faggots” multiple times into the same group.

This is not an isolated incident, nor is it even uncommon at Texas A&M. Earlier this semester, in the College of Engineering, I was branded “fudgepacker,” while “fag” bounced across classrooms in the Zachry Building like a game of pong.

Karla Gonzalez, president of GLBT Aggies, experienced similar harassment in the College of Construction Science her freshman year, where she says the first words spoken to her in the college were “fag” and “dyke.”

The reality is, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students feel unsafe and unwelcome at Texas A&M. Some might contend that by wearing GLBT related T-shirts and carrying rainbow flags, we brings the harassment upon ourselves. I would argue that I see people on campus, every day, expressing important parts of their identity by wearing shirts that convey their religious beliefs or affiliations, their cultural identities, and that promote organizations on campus and political ideas. I cannot agree to expect harassment on the campus that I love because I want to express an important part of who I am. I expect more from the Aggie family, and I know your fellow GLBT Aggies deserve more from the Aggie family.

Your fellow Aggies deserve more than the constant threat of verbal and physical harassment. Your fellow Aggies deserve more than to be targeted by bullies on a daily basis. Your fellow Aggies deserve more than to feel unsafe and unwelcome walking across campus. Your fellow Aggies deserve more than to think that suicide is the only option because they are afraid to come out in a hostile environment.

Your fellow Aggies deserve more than your indifference.

The time is NOW to speak up and stand up for the dignity of your Aggie brothers and sisters. Speak out against hate speech on campus, visit the GLBT Resource Center in Cain Hall C-118, become an Aggie Ally by registering for a free workshop at allies.tamu.edu. Speak up, Aggies. Never let them say you weren’t at Texas A&M, never let them say you weren’t there for your family, never let them say hate is an Aggie Value, and remember the Aggie Honor Code:

An Aggie does not lie about who they are, cheat someone out of a positive experience, or steal someone else’s dignity.

—  admin

DISD prohibits offensive language related to ‘gender orientation,’ whatever the hell that means

As Instant Tea continues our review of the Dallas Independent School District’s policies related to harassment, bullying and discrimination, we’ve come across something rather peculiar.

It’s on Page 5 of DISD’s “2010-2011 Student Code of Conduct,” in a section titled “General Guidelines and Notifications” and under a headline that reads “Offensive Language.” Here’s what it says:

“Such language includes, but is not limited to, the use of slurs or offensive language related to race, ethnicity, gender and/or gender orientation, disability and religious beliefs.”

Below is a screen grab lest you think we could make this stuff up, but you can also view the entire Code of Conduct by going here.

Now, can someone please explain to me the definition of “gender orientation”? And after you’ve done that, can you give me an example of offensive language related to “gender orientation”? Actually, please don’t. But do they mean “sexual orientation” or “gender identity”? Or both? Or neither? Because those are two totally different things. Is this a typo? Or is it a deliberate attempt to avoid the word “sexual” in a handbook that is distributed to students?

Well, we plan to try to find out. But in the meantime, Resource Center Dallas is preparing to launch a campaign to demand that DISD include specific protections for LGBT students in its new anti-bullying policy, which is set to be discussed during a Board of Trustees meeting on Thursday. We’ll have more on RCD’s campaign here in just a few. So don’t go away, and if you do, come right back. We’re just getting warmed up.

—  John Wright

ACLU of Texas releases ‘banned books’ report

“Banned Books Week,” the ACLU’s annual effort to raise awareness of the dangers of censorship, is Sept. 25-Oct. 2, and the ACLU of Texas on Wednesday released its annual report, “Free People Read Freely,” on the number of books that have been challenged, banned or restricted in Texas public and charter schools during the previous school year.

According to the report, 87 books were challenged in Texas schools during the 2009-10 school year. Of those, 24 percent — or 20 books — were banned and another 20 percent were “restricted.” That’s down a bit from the previous two school years. In 2007-08, 102 books were challenged, and 27 were banned. In 2008-09, 98 were challenged and 26 banned.

Half the books that were banned were in middle schools. Another 29 percent were banned in elementary schools, and 13 percent in high schools. The remaining 8 percent were banned in intermediate schools. The vast majority of the books that were challenged — 44 — were challenged because they included sex or nudity. Profanity/poor language came in as the reason for 29 challenges; 18 for violence and horror; 17 for drugs and alcohol; 12 for being offensive to religious beliefs; and 11 for being politically, socially or racially offensive. No reason was given for 14 of the challenges.

So yes, the numbers are down. But the idea that books are banned at all is infuriating. And of course, books that included anything about LGBT people or issues hit the list.

I can’t say this is a definitive list of books challenged for LGBT content; these are just the ones on the list that I know for sure included some LGBT content: “And Tango Makes Three,” by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, about two male penguins at New York’s Central Park Zoo that fall in love and start a family by sitting on an egg til it hatches; “Born to Rock,” by Gordon Korman, about the former president of a school’s Young Republican Club who, after a debate involving accusations of homophobia and cheating, sets off to find his biological father who is a punk rock star; “Eight Seconds,” by Jean Ferris, about a young man who realizes he is gay while attending a rodeo camp; “Far From Xanadu,” by Julie Anne Peters, about a young woman who comes to terms with her own homosexuality while trying to find a way to escape her small home town; and “In Our Mothers’ House,” by Patricia Polacco, the story of the happy and well-adjusted life of a family headed by two lesbians who raise several racially diverse children.

Yep, that last one has to go for sure! Can’t have our kids reading anything that might give them the idea gays and lesbians and their families can be happy and well-adjusted!

“Eight Seconds,” “Far From Xanadu,” “And Tango Makes Three” and “In Our Mothers’ House” were actually removed from libraries. “Born to Rock” was moved to a restricted access section. Oh, and one school didn’t take “Tango” out completely, but did move it to a restricted access section.

Of course, the usual suspects are on the challenged list, too: J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye,” Daniel Keyes’ “Flowers for Algernon,” “Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret” and just about any other book written by Judy Blume; and “Go Ask Alice,” the book written by an anonymous author that chronicles the life of an adolescent losing control as she battles mental illness and drug use.

But there were a couple that I was surprised to see on the list. I mean, really — “Time-Life Magazine” and “Guiness Book of World Records”? Really?

Still, there was a book even I was surprised — and perhaps a little disturbed — to see was actually in school libraries: “The History and Methods of Torture” by Brian Innes. I’m not saying ban the book, but I was surprised to find out there even was a “juvenile literature” book on the methods and implements of torture used during the Inquisition and the witch hunts. Who knew?

Want to see the whole list and read the ACLU report for yourself? Go here.

—  admin

Texas Congressman Lamar Smith plans to file ‘one man-one woman’ marriage bill this fall

Congressman Lamar Smith, R-Texas

Texas Congressman Lamar Smith, a Republican who represents a portion of Central Texas that includes, believe it or not, part of Travis County, is once again showing his way-right conservative roots — not to mention his lack of knowledge on the basic facts of world history.

According to the Christian news service One News Now, Smith has announced that he intends to introduce federal legislation this fall to define marriage as being between one man and one woman.

In making the announcement, Smith told One News Now: “I think it’s important for Congress to go on record saying that we need to respect the traditional definition of marriage — to recognize a standard that has served all civilizations for thousands of years.” And that’s why I made the comment about his lack of knowledge of basic historical fact. Even the tiniest bit of research can show that the “one man, one woman” model is actually a fairly recent thing, in historical terms.

Anyway, Smith also said he will introduce the legislation in response to Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling on the California Prop 8 case, because his constituents are “somewhere between disturbed and outraged” by Walker’s ruling. And Smith poo-pooed the idea that LGBT people might have the constitutional right to marry whomever they want, saying, “Can you think of anything further from the minds of those who wrote the Constitution?”

(Actually, Congressman, I can think of several things that would horrify those authors of the Constitution, not the least of which would be seeing you and others like you use government to force religious beliefs on U.S. citizens.)

I am thinking we probably have some Instant Tea readers in Smith’s congressional district, District 21, which includes portions of Bexar and Travis counties and all of Comal, Real, Kerr, Bandera, Kendall and Blanco counties. So if you live in his district, you might want to contact his office, let him know that you are one of his constituents and tell him exactly what you think of his plan to introduce this legislation.

You can go here for contact information.

—  admin