Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pride In Service

I came across this article about gay and lesbian serving in the British military. Now my question is why do we continue to lag behind the United Kingdom with these basic rights to serve honorably? The soldier interviewed in this story relays many of the feeling that I have. It really makes a case for how out dated the "Don't Ask Don't tell" policy really is and that it needs to be changed. President Obama has promised that he would push to have the band removed but has done little to promote it. He has continued to pass the buck on to Congress and Senate. I know health care, health care, health care, well nothing is getting done on that front either. Repealing DADT policy is a lot easier than health care reform, it does not require any new funding and would end up saving money that was used to investigate and train the LGBT initially as well as the money needed to train their replacements. As for health care reform, it will require money along with time and care to ensure that is done right.
Enough Said! Oh and James is one fucking Hot Lad, Yumm!!!

Tpr James Wharton
Picture: Steve Dock

Pride, Not Prejudice

Interview: Joe Clapson

JUST ten years ago it was illegal to be gay in the UK Armed Forces.
But since 2000, following a ruling
by the European Court of Human Rights, homosexual men and woman have been able to proudly serve – without hiding their sexuality.
In an interview with Soldier, Tpr James Wharton (The Household Cavalry Regiment) explained that instead of being oppressed, gay and lesbian Army personnel are now given full support.

“I came out to the Army before I told my parents, so that says a lot for the Armed Forces,” said the 22-year-old.
“I told the Army in March 2003, after all my initial training was over – I was 18. I have always known I was gay but it wasn’t until then that I told anyone.”

The decision to lift the ban on gays in the Army came after two landmark cases heard at the European Court of Human Rights, which found that the MoD’s policy was not sustainable.
Despite the change, the other half of the UK’s “special relationship” – the United States – has not relaxed its attitude towards homosexuals in
the Forces.

“I still can’t get my head round the US’ ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy,” said Tpr Wharton, who has served Queen and country for six years.

“Luckily I don’t have to deal with it, but clearly there will be gay soldiers in the US Army who are not being themselves – they aren’t allowed to be.”

Tpr Wharton was deployed to Iraq on OpTelic 10 in 2007 on long-range desert patrols and he says the idea of a “pansy” serving in a conflict zone is a flawed one.

“I would say whoever goes on a tour to a place like Iraq can’t really be described as a pansy – so the gay stereotype doesn’t really apply,” he said.

The Liverpool FC fan, who met his boyfriend Ryan during last year’s London Gay Pride march – the first time members of the Armed Forces were allowed to march in uniform – went on to say that although he can find himself on the wrong end of “banter”, it is
not a problem.

The hard image and stories from Iraq ensure Tpr Wharton, based at Combermere Barracks, Windsor, does not fall into any gay stereotype, but by his own admission he can make himself a target for abuse.

“I can’t be late, I’m off to see Britney tonight,” he casually told Soldier before realising the potential implications of his comment.

“That doesn’t exactly sound the most macho thing to say does it? I’ve got quite a bit of ribbing for going to the concert, but to be fair a few of the lads have also got tickets.”

The very fact that Tpr Wharton – soon to be promoted to lance corporal – feels able to tell his colleagues that he is gay, likes Britney Spears and recently attended a Pink concert speaks volumes for the strides in equality and diversity made by the Army.

In the past Tpr Wharton and soldiers like him would have been turned away at the door or forced out of the Army for their sexuality. In 1999 alone, 298 people were discharged because of their sexual orientation.

“A friend of mine who is gay was not allowed to be open about it and had the Royal Military Police following him around because of their suspicions – he wasn’t allowed to be gay,” said Tpr Wharton.

“Some soldiers had to leave and others just remained quiet, so were not themselves. Now it’s completely different. I imagine it’s like being in a different Army.

“Obviously there are people who are set in their ways and aren’t in favour of the changed policy, but the whole attitude is different.”

Although he acknowledges the Army’s significant progress in diversity issues, Wharton explained that the current situation is not perfect, with potential recruits sometimes put off signing up by ill-informed personnel.

“I think there is room for improvement as far as the Army is concerned because there are still people who can’t accept the changes – but it’s 1,000 times better than ten years ago,” said Tpr Wharton.

“There could definitely be improvements in the first stages of recruitment because I know people who have been given
bad advice.

“A lot of people express their worries about being gay at recruitment and some awful things have been said to them, like ‘you’re not allowed to be gay in Army time’ or ‘you shouldn’t be gay’.”

In his six-year Army career Tpr Wharton can recall just two unwanted incidents as a result of his sexuality, but neither were serious enough for him to question his career.

“Considering some people have general problems every week I’m not complaining,” he said “I haven’t got any personal problems. My problems are like every other soldier’s – bombs and bullets.”

The trooper was also keen to elaborate on the general misconceptions people have about homosexual men and women. “People tend to think gay people don’t like sport and that
they just sit and file their nails – that is not the case,” he said. “I love playing and watching sport –I’m a massive Liverpool fan and I don’t own a nail file.”

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1 comment:

Pilgrim said...

Yo, when the M.o.D of the UK granted the right to come out when joining the Forces, he did it tongue in cheek. The officcicial meaning can still at times be heard on BFBS Radio. And they are the speaking hole in every M.o.D.´carriere. Propz Pilgrim

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