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 Kathryn McGranahan
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The New(ish) Army: An elitist’s take on the post-DADT and mid-sexual-assault-insanity military

The New(ish) Army: An elitist’s take on the post-DADT and mid-sexual-assault-insanity military
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Art by Shelby Hohl

In an effort to get within shooting distance of the twenty-first century, our military (or, if you lean more Tea Party, OBAMA’S MULTICULTURAL POSSE OF PUSSIES) has stepped up their socially progressive game. It’s almost like they’re trying to reflect the society they are sworn to protect, where people are sometimes gay and/or women. So here’s where our tax-funded military is at, socially speaking.

On March 1, 2014, six gay and straight service members (male and female) put on the first ever drag show to raise funds for Outserve-SLDN, the largest nonprofit advocate for the military’s gay community. The show, tastefully billed as a “variety show”, featured names like Chocolate Sunrise and Manny Nuff (the only female performer, natch) singing their stuff at the Rock NCO Club at the Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Hawaii. The fundraiser was expected to sell about 75 tickets, Navy Lt. Marissa Greene, co-leader of Outserve’s Okinawa chapter, told Stars and Stripes. “We ended up selling 400 tickets in 10 days.”

Now, several right-wing conservatives are concerned that Russian President, Vladimir Putin, will think we’re pussies and we’re losing the world power dick-slinging contest. Or that the tax-funded military is now a tool for pushing the gay agenda (as opposed to its former use for pushing the heteronormative agenda).

Because Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) was repealed (along with other homosexual-unfriendly legislation), homosexual service members can be open about their sexuality. It was just a show, but it represents a major milestone for a military minority that was once invisible at best, maligned at worst. While this doesn’t insta-fix the military’s less gay-friendly history, the fact this show was even put on is a big deal-the fact that it was successful is just a delicious equality cherry on top.

On January 24, 2013, the infantry combat ban was officially lifted for female service members. Since active-duty female personnel already comprised about 15 percent of our armed forces, and about 280,000 women had already been deployed in the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts, this was almost symbolic-many women had already served (and died) on front lines.

In the midst of this historic policy change, the military was grappling with some pretty horrific sexual assault and rape allegations from male and female personnel. In 2012, about 4,000 sexual assaults were reported, but less than 200 resulted in a court-martial. In the Oscar-nominated documentary “The Invisible War”, soldiers said they weren’t believed by superiors or, worse, directly commanded not to report their assault. One soldier discovered her rapist posted pictures of her assault online. So he was raping her. And photographing it. And saw nothing wrong with putting it everywhere.

When male rape and sexual assault survivors spoke to The New York Times in 2013, several said before the repeal of DADT, reporting any unwanted sexual contact put them at risk of being discharged, because they admitted to homosexual behavior. Never mind whether it was unwanted. “If you made a complaint, then you are gay and you’re out and that’s it,” Thomas F. Drapac said when interviewed.

On June 14, 2013, the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2014 included major changes to armed forces policies for handling sexual assault and rape cases within their ranks. The legislation included policy changes like mandatory training for soldiers to deal with sexual assault, criminalizing retaliation against anyone who reports a sexual assault, independent counsel and dishonorable discharge for anyone convicted, among other rules.

Just last month, the Pentagon released military sexual assault statistics (unofficial until the report is published later this year) showing an increase in reported cases. Just in time, since earlier that week Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s bill for a more impartial third-party judiciary process was beaten by the Senate. The bill fell five votes short of the required 60. The bill more likely to pass is the Victims Protection Act from fellow Democrat Senator, Claire McCaskill. Her bill introduces less severe reforms that keep the judiciary process in-house, as it were.

While McCaskill and Gillibrand have worked together on military reforms, their proposed methods highlight the problems of military rape and assault. Gillibrand’s bill would take the matter out of commanders’ hands and thus away from potential corruption, while McCaskill’s bill is considered more efficient and pragmatic, especially in the chaos of a war zone.

On March 5, 2014, noted conservative Laura Ingraham tied the drag show to the sexual assault issue on her eponymous radio show, equating both as byproducts of the ‘sexualization’ of our military. (The ‘sexy sailor’ Halloween costumes are just a bonus.) Ingraham added that there is “a military code of conduct that is different from civilian life,” and, “You need that … code and you need that respect for authority to hold it together on the battlefield …”

But how can such order exist when that authority raped or assaulted you? What kind of code of conduct protects rapists and homophobia? As debate-riddled as the military’s sexual life is right now, I like to think of it as a review of its dirty little secrets to, eventually, heal some fractures that will strengthen the military force. However, that all depends on what happens now, in our hyper-divided, partisan Congress. Good luck, soldiers.

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