Alex Blaze

The Case Against LGB Military Recruitment

Filed By Alex Blaze | February 17, 2011 5:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: Dan Choi, Don't Ask Don't Tell, jobs, Kenyon Farrow, LGBT homeless, military, recruitment

Kenyon Farrow responds to those, like Dan Choi, who say DADT repeal is a way to end economic inequality:

military-counter-recruitment.jpgThe National Coalition for Homeless Veterans reports that about one-third of all homeless people in the US are veterans, but about 1.5 million more veterans are at risk of homelessness "due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing." They also report that 56% of homeless veterans are Black or Latino.

Other studies show that one in four veterans becomes disabled as a result of physical violence or emotional trauma of war. There are currently 30,000 disabled veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. By all record of delivery of medical, psychological care, and work rehabilitation by the US military or government has been dismal.

That first statistic is something that should be outrageous: if former employees of any other employer in the US constituted one-third of the American homeless population, there would be at least be investigations into why that is and demands that the employer change its employment practices and help pay for services for its former employees.

Instead, this employer gets parades, while the employee gets maybe a few quarters from the people who don't pretend that he simply doesn't exist.

And that's exactly the argument - the military isn't just another employer. It's receives broad license to recruit where it wants to, it is fully funded by the American government, it represents the American people abroad, and it's being used as a law enforcement agency. We also acknowledge that workplace conditions are going to be harsher than at a normal workplace - that's the nature of the job, a job that has a special place that should be outside the normal profit model so that it's not easily abused.

DADT repeal is right for lots of reasons. Farrow mentions an end to a form of discrimination. I'd add that most people who enlist who are LGB are young enough to perhaps not know their sexuality yet or to not really grasp what it means to go into the closet, 24/7, for four or more years of one's young adult life. If we do care about the lives of people in the service, as the counter-recruitment argument goes, then a homophobic policy that adds to stress and psychological torture that's enforced in a classist, sexist, and racist manner should be opposed.

But that doesn't mean that we shouldn't suddenly support military recruitment of queer people. Not only is there no guarantee that the military will become a gay-friendly employer (especially with a non-discrimination provision being cut out of the DADT repeal bill), the military's predatory recruitment tactics will only be heightened when it comes to LGB youth who are more likely to lack financial and emotional support from family to pursue a better career and are more likely to be homeless and looking for someone to take them in. While the military may be a temporary solution to that problem, the evidence leads me to believe that it'll only exacerbate long-term homelessness.

Moreover, it's just plain not a good job and shouldn't be seen in the same terms as other employment is, employment that has basic workplace protections and can last for longer than several years. We should be agitating for job creation, an end to workplace discrimination and school bullying, and financial support of homeless queer youth that helps them get educated and trained for the civilian workforce. If having a stronger economy and a less-desperate-for-work population hurts military recruitment, so be it - the children of those who agitate for war can enlist.

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Another illogical, disingenuous diatribe against the mere existence of a military in a world that still needs one masquerading as concern for economic inequality AND homelessness. Quelle surprise.

Mere existence of a military?

737 military bases across the globe (
Almost half of all military spending world wide
More than half of the US budget on "defense" (empire)
Almost 1.5 million civilians killed in Afghanistan & Iraq
Dehumanization of Iraqis
~6000 US servicemembers killed in Iraq & Afghanistan
Rape of servicemembers in the military
Veterans against the war
Why Militarism Is Bad for Queer People

I could go on and on about that little tiny benign thing we call the military that "merely exists."

@ Alyx: SO missing the point. Being the kind soul that I am, I'll try to make my point clearer for you. Mr. Blaze is welcome to correct me if my perception is wrong, but I believe he opposes the existence of any military, regardless of size, which is what I was addressing.

As for your catalogue of crimes committed by members of the military, what a classic straw man argument. By your "logic," all gays are ipso facto evil, too, because Jeffrey Dahmer not only raped, tortured, and killed 17 of his sex partners, many of them men or boys of color, but literally dined on them.

I was leading antiwar demonstrations over 40 years ago, and nearly sent to federal prison for up to five years for refusing to go to Vietnam. But the chasm between that and universal pacifism and passive acceptance of being murdered by enemies who don't share your apparent ideology is, for me, unbridgeable.

Well I'll let Alex Blaze let his views on the military be known if he so chooses, but I think you might be making a large assumption.

Me on the other hand, yes, I would love to see the abolishment of the military.

You want to know why?
The reason we have "enemies" is because of our foreign policy and global military empire. And the solutions to "terrorism" are NOT military ones. In fact, the military industrial complex NEEDS terrorism. It NEEDS a threat. So it creates them (materially and ideologically). And it's obviously worked if you're so worried about being "murdered by enemies." I'd rather not be stuck in continual conflict that results in millions of deaths. And the wasting of TRILLIONS of dollars. Not to mention there are so many other things that are actually exigent threats and problems. Like I dunno ... global warming. poverty. HIV/AIDS. violence against women, queer/trans people. etc.

And no I'm not saying that "gays are evil" because some of them participate in the military empire. I would question the moral judgement of those who do serve. But am aware of the social and economic pressure that many who do serve face. As well as the lack of criticism of the military that most are aware of and the lack of reporting of the atrocities committed by our government. So I would not make a simplistic argument that you presume.

What I would suggest is that queer/trans people in this country have solidarity with those in other countries that are bombed, murdered, tortured, and oppressed to further the state's military, economic and political "interests." And part of that solidarity is refusing to serve as footsoldiers in immoral wars. And the other part is critiquing and working to dismantle the military-industrial complex.

You know, putting the "social" and "justice" into social justice. Just a thought.

Nice argument from authority attempt.

Who gives a shit what wars you may have righteously opposed at one point in your life when you are *so* doing it wrong now?

"Our" enemies? Really? Nope.

Alex I appreciate you targetting your message to LGB people.I am a T Veteran and I have been homeless but it was through no fault of my military sevice in life sometimes your just dealt a bad hand. Most of the "Homeless Vets" that I met were Vietnam Era where the standards of who is considered a Vet are much lower than they are today. Many of the homeless Vets I met were in the service days to weeks and were incapable of completing basic training. The VA is spending a large amount of money to look after these people and by doing so helping non Vets indirectly.Here in Iowa and I believe in major cities across the United States the VA holds what are called Veterans standowns.Medical advice,Dental advice,Legal advice,shelter,clothing and food is provided at no charge during them and they are open to all homeless not just Vets.Veterans programs that are run through shelters help to financially support those shelters to the benefit of all homeless.Many of those shelters could use improvement in how how LGBT people both Veterans and Non Vets are treated but that isn't solely the responsibility of the VA to drive those changes we must speak up as well.
While the VA isn't perfect it definetly gets an A in my book for trying to be the best and when needed showing a willingness to make changes.
Life in the military isn't perfect but it is a job and it is a job with better than average benefits.If a person chooses to just like any job they can stay in long enough to retire from it.
Hopefully they'll be follow up work to ensure that LGB troops aren't being discriminated upon.But if no LGB people volunteer and serve openly when the time comes that they can, how will anyone know if discrimination is happening or not?

That first statistic is something that should be outrageous: if former employees of any other employer in the US constituted one-third of the American homeless population, there would be at least be investigations into why that is and demands that the employer change its employment practices and help pay for services for its former employees.

Amen, brother!

To be fair, a large part of the reason so many veterans are unemployed is that they have no useful experience or skills and they also tend to have a very poor work ethic -- slacking off as much as you possibly can in all non-combat tasks is a huge part of military culture.

My brother mistakenly joined the army during the Vietnam war and paid for his mistakes with life altering wounds and the memory of so many of his comrades who were mutilated and murdered by LBJ and Nixon. Sometime after the war he realized, and admitted, his mistake. Then, despite his own disabling wounds, spent the last two decades of his life helping homeless and shattered vets with advice, food, clothing and by arranging for shelter in the coldest and hottest parts of the year.

Soon after the Gulf Wars began there was a new influx of shattered vets, victims, in turn, of the oil wars of the Bushes, Bill Clinton, the mass murderer of half a million Iraqi children and now victims of Obama's five wars. Certainly the treatment of vets, most from a working class background, is unconscionable and the complaints extend to the fact that thousands of them, terrified and disabled by what they've seen and done, commit suicide.

But that's not the main objection to enlistment and recruitment. Our central motivation is to put a stop to the victimization of more working class GIs, aircrew, sailors and marines and to stop the mass murder created by the policies of US empire builders and oil pirates like the Bushes, the Clintons, Madeline Albright, Colin Powell, Rumsfeld and Obama's accomplices, Robert Gates and Hillary Clinton.

The US military brass and their political leaders are little better than gangsters. So says Major General Smedley Butler, Major General and Commandant, USMC, and two time recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor.

"War is just a racket.. conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses.

It may seem odd for me, a military man to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. I spent thirty- three years and four months in active military service... and during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle- man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.

I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.

Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”