Monday, December 19, 2005

Gays in America

So I just finished grading the exams for my Diverse Cultures class, and they were surprisingly good, in that several of them surprised me by showing actual insight and depth -- most of them were the usual undergraduate stuff -- and none of them, not a single one, said gay guys were evil and should burn in hell, which was nice, and not at all what I was expecting. (I guess they knew they better not, though.)

And I also got two or three essays from students saying things like, "After I read that story "Billy," it changed the way I thought about gay people, because it showed gay people weren't disgusting at all, just people wanting to have lives, so even though I'm not gay myself, I think gay people should be allowed to have rights like anyone else." I liked reading that, I admit. That was cool. Literature at work.

One student did tell me, privately, that her uncle had committed suicide recently, as in a few weeks before, because he had lived all his life in a nearby small town -- an Arkansas small town -- as a gay man, and couldn't take being treated the way gay guys get treated in small Arkansas towns anymore.

Which brings me to this:

FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz., Dec. 19 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Private Kyle Lawson, a 19-year-old Tucson resident, was physically assaulted and threatened at Fort Huachuca Army Base after fellow soldiers learned he is gay, according to a report in Sunday's Arizona Daily Star. Fearful for his safety, Private Lawson is leaving the Army, while the soldier accused of his assault appears to remain unpunished. Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) today called on Army officials to hold the responsible party accountable for the assault and called on the Pentagon to implement an Anti-Harassment Action Plan originally adopted in 2000. The plan, SLDN has reported each year since, has never been implemented.

"Pentagon leaders have consistently refused to take harassment seriously, and our men and women in uniform continue to pay the price," said Sharra E. Greer, SLDN's director of law and policy. "The Pentagon has found, in its own survey, rampant anti-gay harassment in the armed forces. Service members report harassment, violence and threats to SLDN on a regular basis. At least two service members have been murdered because of unchecked anti-gay harassment. Yet military leaders have utterly failed to send a strong, clear message that anti-gay harassment is unacceptable or that those who harass will be held accountable for their actions. The result is yet another anti-gay assault."

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