Showing posts with label Army. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Army. Show all posts

August 10, 2013

Evolution and Homophobia in The Israeli Army

Kali, right, with two soldiers from the platoon, preparing a navigational route (Photo credit: Courtesy: Gal Kali)
As I lay here with a broken foot thinking about something that is on my mind every time the subject of
Homophobia in the American armed forces comes up, I read an article that came up today in an Israeli Newspaper. In the US all the indications are that because the brass and congress thought gays would not be well received was just an excuse not to change DADT(Don’t ask don’t tell) the status quo. At the time we use Israel armed forces as an example of how it can work. Openly gay soldiers serving side by side with the closet ones and heterosexuals.
The armed forces tend to be a microcosm of the country they serve. You will find homophobes and people comfortable with their sexuality so not to care about anyone else’s.

The Times of Israel published a great story about this particular subject and it made it very personal by taking some of the gay soldiers life and how they cope with this life's situation. I think the piece speaks for it self and it gives us a synopsis of what it is to be gay and serve in the Israeli military.

The IDF appeals court, in 1956, heard the case of two soldiers, male privates, who had been sentenced to a year in prison for consensual sex. At the time there was no mention of homosexuality in any of the General Staff’s orders but the civilian law deemed “relations not in the usual way” to be a criminal offense. A psychologist, Dr. Skali Avraham, testified before the court that homosexual behavior was deviant rather than criminal and that punishment would be of little value. The court accepted this argument and sentenced one of the soldiers to a day in prison and the other, ruled to have instigated the affair, to 70 days behind bars.
Twenty-one years later, in 1977, the Military Advocate General, Brig. Gen. Zvi Inbar, issued a set of directives to all military prosecutors entitled “The Trying of Homosexual Soldiers.” Inbar ordered prosecutors to file charges against soldiers who broke the civilian law — which decriminalized homosexual acts only in 1988 — solely in instances where: one of those involved was a minor; the sex was not consensual; one of the parties was unconscious; the sex was conducted in public; one of the soldiers was under the command of the other. 
In 1993, “out of recognition that homosexuals are worthy of military service like all others,” the IDF, some 18 years before the US Armed Forces, formally opened the draft to all, regardless of sexual orientation. Five years later, the army cut the linkage between sexual orientation and security clearances and rescinded a standing order that required all commanding officers to report gay soldiers to military intelligence’s field security unit for further inquiry.
Today there are gay, bisexual and transgender soldiers in every part of the army and their rights are protected by an IDF order that prohibits degradation or harassment of any kind based on a soldier’s sexuality, “including sexual orientation.”
Soldiers at the funeral of Nir Katz, one of two people killed at the Israel Gay Youth club in August 2009 (Photo credit: Jorge Novominsky/ Flash 90)They are also eligible for rights that stretch beyond the civilian norms. The life partners of gay and lesbian career soldiers are entitled to 14 weeks’ paid maternity leave and an additional 12 weeks of unpaid leave, regardless of who the biological father is (so long as the other man has not also taken leave); their children are eligible for scholarships and nursery school subsidies, even if the career soldier is not the biological parent; and the life partner of a same-sex couple is recognized by the army as a wife or husband, entitling them to extensive subsidies on an array of purchases and, in the event that the officer dies, to a widow’s pension from the Defense Ministry.
The army weekly magazine Bamachaneh, distributed throughout the military and edited by the openly gay Maj. Yoni Shenfeld, has advocated for many of the changes and highlighted them as they’ve developed. In June, the magazine, which in 2001 was shut down for two weeks for running a cover story about a reserves colonel’s coming-out story, featured a career officer and his male partner — Lt. Col. Eitan Shatmer, the head of information systems in the IDF’s manpower department, and his partner Amir — who wanted to have a baby together with the help of a surrogate mother. The law in Israel, however, allows only married, heterosexual couples to pursue surrogacy. And so the two, after a long process, which could have cost Shatmer his job in many civilian companies, found a woman willing to carry the baby in the United States. “As part of the process we spent many weeks abroad, in a quantity that can no longer be considered vacation days,” Lt. Col. Shatmer said. “As far as the army was concerned, they were recognized as ‘fertility treatments,’ which allowed me to be absent without losing my job.”
To an extent that leniency extends to transgender soldiers, who by definition put the army to a series of tests: what sort of uniform should they receive, male or female? Where should they be housed, in the male or female quarters? And how long should they serve, 24 months or 36? These questions, some of which were raised by Adar Zarum, a former combat soldier and active reservist who runs Hoshen’s outreach program with the IDF, are just some of the dilemmas that the IDF and transgender soldiers must confront, and which are complicated by the fact that a teenager in Israel, Zarum noted, can only begin sex-change treatments at age 18, precisely when one is drafted to the military.
In the past, the army has allowed — already in 1999 — a male soldier to wear a women’s uniform, ruling, according to Bamachaneh, that the male soldier was “in every way a woman, excluding the body.”

Most transgender individuals, seeking to change their sex, are exempted from service at their own request. Corporal M, though, a woman looking to become a man, did not mention his intention during his initial army screenings. Only four months into his service did he tell his commanding officer that he wanted to begin sex change treatments.
Serving at the Ground Troops headquarters in Ze’elim, the corporal was not cleared to speak with The Times of Israel. The IDF Spokesperson’s Unit, however, checked with the medical corps and relayed that, as a general rule, the army differentiates between essential procedures and personal procedures — funding the former and not the latter — and that a sex change is considered essential by the IDF. The procedure takes years, however, and the army, which pays for the medications and consultations, has never had a soldier go through the entire process, including the operation, while in uniform.
And yet, despite these norms, acceptance is still far from unanimous. The Israel Gay Youth organization polled hundreds of gay soldiers in 2011 and found, in an online survey, that 40 percent of all gay soldiers said they have been verbally harassed for their sexual orientation, 20 percent had been sexually harassed and 4 percent said they had been physically assaulted. In one instance, two gay soldiers manning a roadblock near the refugee camp of Shu’afat were abandoned by a group of soldiers, who were supposed to provide perimeter security, once it became known that they were gay. The two came under attack by an angry mob at the roadblock — a young girl had been killed and the locals blamed the army for the death — and the two gay privates were cursed and physically assaulted when they again approached the soldiers and asked for help. Instead, the two threatened the mob with their weapons and managed to call Avner Dafni, the head of the Israel Gay Youth, organization on the phone. Dafni reach the battalion commander, who resolved the issue and punished the other soldiers.
“There is a gap between the rules and the day-to-day reality,” said Alice Marcu, a former officer and current activist with the Jerusalem Open House who runs bi-monthly seminars with IDF career sergeants.
Her peer, Zarum, the former combat soldier with the Kfir Brigade who today heads Hoshen’s IDF liaison unit, said that there is constant tension between the inherently macho and homophobic military and the progressive laws written from up high in the chain of command. “In the military and the civilian world the acceptance of LGBTs worked differently,” he said. “In the civilian world the pressure came from the grassroots and it influenced the Supreme Court. In the military it was top-down.”
Marcu, a lesbian who has run the Jerusalem Open House Lecture Service since 2002, has been working with the IDF for seven years. She meets with groups from the career sergeant course, conducting 12-18 seminars a year. “The army approached us,” she said, noting that the seminars are free but are contingent on the army’s willingness to bring the soldiers to the downtown Jerusalem offices of the center, which are adorned with a row of rainbow flags.
“They come in and are very stiff,” she said. “They won’t make eye contact.”
Marcu then tells them her story: how she thought she was “just picky” and simply liked the company of boys as friends. And of how later on she figured she simply had an emotional block, which prevented her from opening up to boys, until one day, during officer’s school, she met a girl. “I thought she was amazing,” she said, “and all of a sudden I felt myself counting the minutes until I could see her again.”
The thumping in her chest, the turbulence in the stomach, she realized, was love.
And yet she felt surrounded by homophobia. The walls of her mixed-gender office were coated in posters of scantily clad women and the conversations were laced with misogyny.
She tells the career sergeants — a particularly tough breed of soldier — how she felt forced to hide her sexual orientation and the burgeoning relationship but said her story rarely evokes much in the way of sympathy. “We get what you’re saying, we just don’t accept it,” is a common refrain, she said.  ”These are some of the most challenging meetings I’ve ever had,” she continued, “they say straight to your face — this is not natural. It’s against the Torah.”
The remarks about being gay, she said, don’t faze her; it’s the comments about her Judaism — the Jerusalem Open House has holy books on its shelves — that cut the deepest. “I once had someone say, ‘but you’re not really Jewish.’ And he winked at me, like we both know.”
Marcu called the comment “the most hurtful thing anyone’s ever said.”
Noa Halevi, a drummer and gay reserves officer who last served during Operation Pillar of Defense in November, suggested that, despite those comments, female gay soldiers often have an easier time of it in the army.
Halevi went in to the army without any notion of being gay. She was raised in Kiryat Gat in a traditional home and compared her knowledge of homosexuality as a teenager to her familiarity “with life on Mars.” Only after “an insanely dramatic kiss” in officer’s school did she fall head over heels in love with a woman. The two of them kept the affair a jealously guarded secret. But in March 2003, before Purim, the soldiers were asked to cast votes in advance of a party. One of the questions was ‘who would make the best couple on the base?’ The answers were never read in public because the US invasion of Iraq canceled the party. But Halevi, a logistics officer who had the keys to most of the rooms on the base and the ballot box, opened up the box several days later and was surprised to learn that a large majority of the soldiers on the base ranked her and her girlfriend as the most likely couple.
She called male homosexuality “a taboo” but said that for lesbians the army can be a more welcoming place. “The army is really macho. But for girls that are more masculine? It’s a perfect fit,” she said, adding that the male fighter is the “essence of the army” and that, in the end, the armed forces “is not a ballet troupe.”

In November, in the staging ground outside Gaza, she said that when it became clear that the IDF would not launch a ground operation she heard a group of soldiers carrying on, saying, “‘The IDF is so gay.’ I was like one second away from ripping into them,” she recalled.
For gay men, some units are considered quite accommodating. When speaking of Unit 8200, the IDF branch that deals with signal intelligence — a unit that drafts from the intellectual and socioeconomic elite — Chen Peled referred to the base as Gay-lilot, a play off the real name, Glilot.
Earlier this month the unit was given the IDF chief of the General Staff’s award of appreciation for the first time. “I asked to come here today to express my thanks and appreciation to N [the outgoing commander of the unit]… and especially to you, the officers and soldiers of 8200,” Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said during a July 7 visit.
But the very heart of the army, the tip of the spear for which all other sections labor, are the combat units and they can be a daunting challenge for a homosexual male soldier.
One gay Special Forces officer, who has participated in dozens of combat missions and who serves in reserves every year as a platoon commander, detailed for The Times of Israel his experiences in and out of the closet in a closely knit combat unit.
Captain (res) Gal Kali, today a fourth-year medical school student at Tel Aviv University, grew up believing that homosexuality was somewhere between a curse and a disease. And yet he knew, from junior high on, that he was unlike the other boys in his class: he thought about boys.
The popular young adult magazine, Maariv La’noar, a sort of Seventeen for both genders, instructed him not to be alarmed and that such feelings were natural and would naturally subside. “I didn’t want to deal with it,” he said. “I knew I wasn’t like everybody else but I thought I was basically normal.”
He was accepted to Maglan, a Special Forces unit that focuses on forward air control and other missions behind enemy lines. The soldiers lived in tents together, showered together, were frequently naked together and grew to know one another, at that point in their lives, better than anyone else on earth. They knew to recognize fear and incomprehension and mirth on each others’ faces at a glance. But they did not recognize that Kali, a very competent soldier and a leader among them, was harboring “a terrible secret” that he already feared was a fact.
For Kali, with whom this reporter has served in reserves, the matter of his sexual orientation was complicated by the fact that the central ethos of all elite units in the IDF is a complete and unswerving devotion to the truth. A simple lie, after months of grueling physical tests, is grounds for immediate dismissal.
In order to deal with his lie of omission, Kali, who felt more certain of his sexual preferences as his time among his fellow male soldiers increased, convince 
A serious soldier, with a formal sort of diction, he was equipped with a handy disguise: a girlfriend. In fact he had had girlfriends all through junior high and high school and during the early stages of the army.  But once he’d completed the 18-month training period and was selected, as an outstanding soldier, to serve as a drill sergeant for an incoming class of soldiers, he sensed an already undeniable change. He was not merely invested in schooling the soldiers in the dark arts of infantry warfare but was attracted to them and even felt himself falling in love with one of them.  “I felt I was looking at them in a different way. In a sexual way,” he admitted, “and there was one soldier that l liked more than the others.”
Kali kept his infatuation under wraps. He told no one how he felt about the soldier or about men in general, fearing that despite all of his accomplishments such an admission would be grounds for immediate dismissal. “I was sure that if I told anyone how I felt they would say “Bye, see you around.”
As he advanced from sergeant to the position of commander of a platoon of his own — a somewhat rare promotion given to a soldier who had not been to officer’s school — he began to feel lonely, frazzled and scared, both of being found out to be gay and of embracing homosexuality and “the awful life” he believed it dictated.
After a successful period as a platoon commander, serving under company commander Naftali Bennett, now the economy and trade minister, he was encouraged to attend officer’s school and continue higher up the chain of command. But at age 22, he said, he felt he had to step outside of the army. “I couldn’t breathe. I felt trapped,” he recalled.
Safely ensconced in the civilian world, he typed the word “gay” into one of the early search engines, chatted anonymously online, fretted endlessly, and finally went out on his first male date, after which they went to bed, he said, and all of the uncertainty melted away.
And yet he was unable to tell his army buddies. They were still a tight group, serving together in reserves and in constant contact. At one point they traveled to the Sinai Peninsula together. Kali saw “a very pretty” man one hut over from them on the beach and “here I was, lying next to Ehud, one of my closest friends in the world, a guy I love like a brother, someone who knows everything about me, and I’m scared. I’m scared, because — you know.”
Kali felt that despite all that they had been through together in uniform some of the guys would cut him off, never speak with him again, if he revealed the truth.
But when a platoon mate named Shimon mentioned to him that he had a friend who had recently come out of the closet, he realized that it was safe. He met up with him again and told him the truth. Shimon hugged him and poured them both a few fingers of whiskey for a toast. “He was the one who showed me that it was an option for life,” Kali said.
After that, the guys who were in the know clamored to come along and document the reactions as Kali made the rounds, telling everyone individually.
One of the most daunting stops was at the Tel Aviv home of his former commanding officer, O, a veteran of Sayeret Matkal and a charismatic figure whom the soldiers still, with practiced nonchalance, somewhat revere. O lived several blocks away. To Kali’s relief, O, today a Lt. Col. in reserves and the commander of the Special Forces unit Kali serves in, said “What do you think? That we won’t hug you in the camouflage shelters when it’s cold?”
Since then, as a commander, Kali has generally been embraced as an out-of-the-closet gay officer. In March 2002, when the team was called up in an emergency draft and sent to fight in the West Bank, Kali was the deputy commander of the platoon. A cerebral and able commander, he found himself assigning chores to his old company commander, Bennett, who had rushed back from his high-tech endeavors in the US and joined the team as a simple soldier despite his officer’s rank. “His constituents today do not accept it,” Kali said of his gay lifestyle. “And he [Bennett] joked about it.” While on the campaign trail, at a meeting with students at Bar-Ilan University in December 2012, he mentioned Kali, saying he had a soldier who came out of the closet and that he doesn’t care what soldiers’ sexual preferences are but that the state “cannot digest or officially contain the recognition of same-sex marriage.” And yet the two have served together, in close quarters, for years.
During the Second Lebanon War, as the team endured several tense days of starts and stops before they were finally deployed into Lebanon, many of the soldiers snuck their wives into the base southeast of Haifa. Kali did the same with his boyfriend. “He was from Argentina,” Kali said, “as far as he was concerned the army is an organization that shackles people up in rooms” — which perhaps only heightened the boyfriend’s surprise when the guys greeted him and gave the two of them their space in a separate tent for the night.
Several years later, in a vote of confidence, Lt. Col. O used his authority to grant Kali officer’s rank, even though he had not been to officer’s school.
And yet the tests keep on coming. Whenever new soldiers join the team — reserves service being a bit of a merry-go-round — he has to come out of the closet again. “It’s always difficult,” he said. “The soldiers are always testing you. It’s a testosterone-filled environment.”
Kali, who for a time commanded a religious soldier who worked with the settlement movement in David’s City in east Jerusalem and currently serves alongside a religious platoon commander who lives in an unrecognized outpost in the northern West Bank, among others, sleeps with the guys in the same tent. He is exposed to nudity. In the field, lying side by side for days, the soldiers urinate into a bottle without being able to do more than roll to the side. In the communal showers he often waits till most are done but said he will not tie himself up in knots over it. Generally speaking, he is quite capable of self-ridicule and manages to maintain a healthy balance between openness and an insistence on being respected.
But that has not always come easily. In 2011, when one of the platoon commanders reached retirement age, his platoon was slated to merge with Kali’s. Some of the soldiers — almost all secular, for what it’s worth — quietly refused to serve under an openly gay officer.  At least five of them said there was no way they would serve under a — insert slew of homophobic curses here — officer.
Kali was not aware of this case specifically. But he is keenly aware of the issue. “I’m not willing to hide,” he said. “I put everything up front. I’m not willing even for a second for someone to look at me in a lesser way. If they are uncomfortable — they can go to hell.”
(Times of Israel)By MITCH GINSBURG
Editing and introduction: Adam Gonzalez

April 30, 2013

Why Does The GOP Fiscal Hawks Want to Give The Army Expensive Tanks THEY Don’t WANT??

 Why are These Hawks willing to cut almost anything as long as it doesn’t inconvenience them. SS, Medicare , Food Stamps, Libraries closing, Hospitals..No end..and no budget. But since they know more than the army about what they know, they want to shove it down their throats. I ask why but is rhetorical. I know why. These companies that make this equipment, the weapons complex production machine (sits on private hands) they already paid these misfits Senators and few Representatives already. They have been lunched, massaged, entertain, sexed and put to bed How many times? Their houses already nicely built with what money and if any loans? No interest. They need to come up with their side of the bargain and Produce.  That’s what you do when you have been bribed. No for the country, yes for the Pentagon weapons complex. So the Army…well they are paid to fight and die not to think. This is for the senators in those committes’  to do their pocket duty senators. Which senators? Google it or Bing it….names is no prob.why, are, gop, deficit, hawks, telling, the, army, to, buy, tank, upgrades, they, dont, want?,

Why Are GOP Deficit Hawks Telling the Army to Buy Tank Upgrades
 They Dont Want 

 There is a $436 million dollar program that senior Army officials have repeatedly said they do not want to proceed and would make an excellent measure for cuts or payments for other services. The problem? Congress refuses to listen and is insisting they spend this money that they do not want.
As talks of how to cut spending and government waste have become the normal modus operandi of debate on Capitol Hill, a curious little show is playing out within the halls of power in Washington that provides a demonstration of the difference between rhetoric and the reality of attempts to cut spending.
The program in question is an upgrade to the M1 Abrams main battle tank. General Raymond Odierno, a 37-year Army veteran, told the Associated Press, "If we had our choice, we would use that money in a different way." Nearly two-thirds of the Abrams tank fleet has already been upgraded and the Army has signaled that future upgrades to the fleet are not needed. The current plan is to allow the current tank fleet to suffice until a new tank is developed and production starts around 2017.
"The Army is on record saying we do not require any additional M1A2s," said Davis Welch, deputy director of the Army Budget Office.
Yet two of Congress's biggest deficit hawks, Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Representative Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), are champions of the measure. They claim that they have a better view on defense issues then the Department of Defense and that stopping the project would result in difficulty restarting the supply line. Jordan said if "it was not in the best interests of the national defense for the United States of America, then you would not see me supporting it like we do."
Portman claimed, "That supply chain is going to be much more costly and much more inefficient to create if you mothball the plant." 
Does the Depart of Defense know best with regards of identifying wasteful defense spending, or are they being too hasty, as many in Congress think?
Let us know on Twitter at @policymic or in the comments below.

March 29, 2013

Who is Dan Choi and Why is He Sad?

 I’ll be giving you the posting from the GuardianUk. It talks  
 about a buddy that served with him Lt. Choi.  I didn’t I only Marched with him at Central Park at the Annual AIDS Walk. The reason for it and not go ahead and write my stuff, which is probably a lot more than most gay bloggers could honestly tell about him.

Im going to skim through this to make my point at the end. Dan Choi 
is a hero in this country. He served honorably, serving as a fantastic 
translator and Iraq he made friendships of the locals he
became in contact without being in a combat on those times with the locals and elders. 
He did nothing wrong but was kicked out because he is gay. 
Was he pissed? yes. Did he start a root movement here in the states
to bring gay rights to the forefront? yes. I could see he was getting burn out when after being interviewed for the gazillion time , he is having problems giving the answer so he repeats the answer he gave for the previous question. GOP and some Dems 
politcians tend to do that all their time. But he was not being evasive
he was just burnt out. Too bad.  He was carrying the torch alone and not having a partner or someone close to him that could help him.I don’t know if he is the type of person that accepts help from a trusted person near him. 
I have been reading today in tweeter from a Gay blogger or  commentator. The type on this and that and don’t  miss one of those meetings where you have food and booze and discuss civil rights and strategy. This bloggers comments was that he heard that Lt. Choi was sick but he could not give him empathy.. Why? He did not make it clear of what does it take for someone no to give empathy to a hero that is fighting for your cause but he is doing it in  way you disagree. I disagree with him in certain things but he got my empathy and passion,because he served, was fucked in the wrong place and then have to deal with his comrades that sound more like the enemy to him than the real enemy. 
Lt. Choi, wish you well. A lot of times I let people take a bite of the apple the first time, next time one goes looking to take one of you and I see, I will become very indignant.

Love you sir for what you have done for my country!,  Adam Gonzalez, Publisher
Dan Choi, an Iraq combat veteran who was discharged under 'don't ask, don't tell'
Former US army lieutenant Dan Choi, an Iraq combat veteran who was discharged under the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy, at an equality rally in Fresno, California, in 2009. Photograph: Gary Kazanjian/AP
The first time I saw Lt Dan Choi, he didn't mean much to me. He was the grand marshal of the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade, just a guy on top of a parade float. That was back in 2009, when he had just come out as a gay man on national television, jeopardizing his career as an Arabic linguist in the US army in his fight against Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT).
When I saw Lt Choi in San Francisco, I had been an out lesbian for six years and the gay rights movement was nothing new to me. However, his journey really started to resonate with me when I enlisted in December 2010 in a navy that was still operating under the policy of Don't Ask, Don't Tell. I can still recall staring at the contract, in plain black and white, making me swear I would not commit "homosexual acts" while I was in the service. My family and friends were concerned about my decision to step back in the closet with this policy, which would require me – and hundreds of others like me – to live a lie.
Luckily, my time serving under the policy was short-lived. While I was in boot camp, we received word that DADT had been repealed. I let myself relax for the first time since enlistment. After all, a repeal meant there were no fights left to be fought, right?
I was wrong.
In the two years since I've joined the navy, I can honestly say there is more work than ever for the first generation of openly LGBT service members. Even with the repeal of DADT and the supreme court hearings regarding the Defense of Marriage Act and California's Proposition 8 this week, gay sailors, marines, soldiers and airmen continue to deal with harassment and prejudice. Even today, there can be lack of support for LGBT service personnel, and it's always difficult to shake the fear of coming out to anyone, much less to your superior officers.
They say the military is a microcosm of society, and that change takes time. Evolution can be a slow and painful thing. But change can't come fast enough for my fellow service members who still feel uncomfortable telling their co-workers about who they are, for fear of being treated differently.
To be fair, this is not true of many commands, but some commands are still very skittish about the "gay issue". I have been immensely fortunate to have supportive commands and shipmates, allying myself with supporters of every background during my time in the military. Support is on the rise, and the culture is evolving toward acceptance with every boot camp graduate.
I am often told how courageous I am for being vocal about gay rights issues in the military. I don't feel that way. For most of my career, I've been part of this pioneering generation of gay service members who can be as out as we want. I've been one of the lucky ones who has always had supportive commands and shipmates.
I didn't have to go to work every day hiding who I was for fear that one wrong misstep would cost me my job. I didn't have to sacrifice my career for what was right. I didn't have to face a discharge because I stood up and said "this is wrong". I didn't have to continue to defend myself in a court of law for doing what was right.
Dan Choi does.
Today, Choi is on trial, defending himself for speaking out against a policy that no longer exists and one which he has fought against for more than four years. Because of his courage, and the courage of countless other service members who were willing to take a stand, we have been able to change with the times and move forward as a culture within the military.
Last year during the Chicago Pride Parade, I had the opportunity to march alongside my shipmates as the Gay, Lesbian and Supportive Sailors (GLASS) organization, based out of nearby Naval Station Great Lakes. As we marched before more than 800,000 people, I looked out at the crowds and could see the faces of so many older gay and lesbian veterans who stopped and stared at us as we marched by. Their faces changed from surprise to tears and cheers as they saw out and proud sailors marching by without fear of discharge or reprisal. I was able to see what Dan Choi and others have fought for and hoped to one day see.
I'm proud to carry on the fight.

September 8, 2012

Chile’s Army Apologized For Instructing Recruiters not to Admit Gays

Gen Juan Miguel Fuente-Alba in August 2012 (file image from Army of Chile website)
                    Gen Fuente-Alba said discrimination would not be not tolerated in the Chilean army

Chile's army head has apologised for a directive instructing military recruiters not to admit homosexuals and Jehovah's Witnesses.
"I offer my sincere apology to any person who may have felt affected by the unfortunate expressions," Gen Juan Miguel Fuente-Alba said.
A local TV channel had revealed the document, signed by a senior general.
However, Chilean gay groups have rejected the army's apology, saying it is not enough.
Gen Fuente-Alba said he made it clear there should be no discrimination.
He had ordered a full review of military documents to eliminate any such guidance, he added.
The Chilean government also rejected the army directive. Defence minister Andres Allamand said it contradicted government and army policy against discrimination and should be disregarded immediately.
Mr Allamand ordered the armed forces to immediately comply with the laws against discrimination.
Dismissal calls
On Thursday, Chile's Channel 13 TV revealed an internal army document signed by a senior general, Christian Chateau, which asked recruiters to do their utmost to find soldiers "morally and intellectually" prepared for military service.
The document stated that people with mental, socio-economic problems or criminal behaviour, as well as homosexuals and Jehovah's Witnesses, should be excluded from the army.
General Chateau said the instruction was meant as a guide for recruiters.
Rolando Jimenez, president of Movilh (Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation) told the Spanish news agency Efe that Gen Chateau should be sacked.
"It is not possible that a general issued such judgements," he said.
"Eliminating discriminatory rules is not enough. We need a cultural shift in the army to promote non-discrimination. Sanctions must be imposed against those who discriminate."


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March 26, 2012

Proving You Are Gay-Easy?- Not In The Turkish Army

turkish soldier
 BBC World Service
 Military service is mandatory for all Turkish men - they can only escape it if they are ill, disabled or homosexual. But proving homosexuality is a humiliating ordeal.
''They asked me when I first had anal intercourse, oral sex, what sort of toys I played with as a child..."
Ahmet, a young man in his 20s, told officials he was gay at the first opportunity after he was called up, as he and other conscripts underwent a health check.
"They asked me if I liked football, whether I wore woman's clothes or used woman's perfume," he says.
''I had a few days' beard and I am a masculine guy - they told me I didn't look like a normal gay man.''
He was then asked to provide a picture of himself dressed as a woman.

 ''I refused this request,'' he says. ''But I made them another offer, which they accepted.'' Instead he gave them a photograph of himself kissing another man. Ahmet hopes this will give him what he needs - a "pink certificate", which will declare him homosexual and therefore exempt from military service. Over the years, gay life has been becoming more visible in Turkey's big cities. Cafes and clubs with an openly gay clientele have been opening in Istanbul, and last summer's gay pride march - unique in the Muslim world - was the largest ever.
But while there are no specific laws against homosexuality in Turkey, openly gay men are not welcome in the army. At the same time, they have to "prove" their homosexuality in order to avoid military service.

Gokhan, conscripted in the late 1990s, very quickly realised that he was not made for the army.
''I had a fear of guns,'' he reminisces.
 As a gay man he was also afraid of being bullied, and after little more than a week he plucked up the courage to declare his sexual orientation to his commander. ''They asked me if I had any photographs.'' Gokhan says, ''And I did.’’ He had gone prepared with explicit photographs of himself having sexual intercourse with another man, having heard that it would be impossible to get out of military service without them.

''The face must be visible,'' says Gokhan. ''And the photos must show you as the passive partner.''
The photographs satisfied the military doctors. Gokhan was handed his pink certificate and exempted from military service. But it was a terrible experience, he says,
''And it's still terrible. Because somebody holds those photographs. They can show them at my village, to my parents, my relatives.''

 The army denies that it keeps the photographs, but gay men say photographic evidence of one kind or another is still demanded, the precise nature depending on the whim of the commander.
The Turkish army refused BBC requests for an interview, but a retired general, Armagan Kuloglu, agreed to comment.
Openly gay men in the army would cause "disciplinary problems", he says, and would be impractical creating the need for "separate facilities, separate dormitories, showers, training areas".
He says that if a gay man keeps his sexuality secret, he can serve - an echo of the US military's recently dropped Don't Ask Don't Tell policy.
"But when someone comes out and says he is gay, then the army needs to make sure that he is truly gay, and not simply lying to evade his mandatory duty to serve in the military.''

 The social stigma associated with homosexuality in Turkey is such that outside the young and urbanised circles in big cities like Istanbul and Ankara, it is hard to imagine a man declaring that he's gay when he's not. 
However, the possibility causes the military a lot of anxiety.
"Doctors are coming under immense pressure from their commanders to diagnose homosexuality, and they obey, even though there really are no diagnostic tools to determine sexual orientation,'' says one psychiatrist who formerly worked at a military hospital.
''It is medically impossible, and not at all ethical."
On Gokhan's pink certificate, his status reads: ''psychosexual disorder''. And next to that, in brackets, ''homosexuality’’.

Turkey's military hospitals still define homosexuality as an illness, taking a 1968 version of a document by the American Psychiatric Association as their guide. 
Some people in Turkey say with resentment that gay men are actually lucky, as at least they have one possible route out of military service - they don't have to spend months in the barracks, or face the possibility of being deployed to fight against Kurdish militants.
But for openly gay men, life can be far from easy.
It is not uncommon for employers in Turkey to question job applicants about their military service - and a pink certificate can mean a job rejection.
One of Gokhan's employers found out about it not by asking Gokhan himself but by asking the army.
After that, he says, he was bullied. His co-workers made derogatory comments as he walked past, others refused to talk to him.

''But I am not ashamed. It is not my shame," he says.
Ahmet is still waiting for his case to be resolved. The army has postponed its decision on his pink certificate for another year.
Ahmet thinks it is because he refused to appear before them in woman's clothes. And he doesn't know what to expect when he appears in front of them again.
Could he not just do his military service and keep his homosexuality a secret? ''No,'' says Ahmet, firmly.
''I am against the whole military system. If I have to fulfil a duty for this nation, they should give me a non-military choice.’’

Some names have been changed to protect the identity of interviewees. Emre Azizlerli's documentary The Pink Certificate will be broadcast onBBC World Service on 26 March 2011. 

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