Mixed Feelings about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

I won’t lie.  I was called up for a Draft physical in early 1968 at the height of the Vietnam war, an absolutely worthless conflict that resulted in the deaths of some 58,000 American service people and some several million Vietnamese.

I knew I would not go.  Fighting a war that some rich old men wanted me to fight against people who were totally incapable of harming the US seemed absurd.  Besides to paraphrase Mohammad Ali (still Cassius Clay) “No Vietnamese ever called me a sissy or queer.”  Simply put my oppressors, my enemies were right here in the USA.

I did all the stuff guys did to fail the physical.  I stayed up a couple of days, didn’t wash.  It didn’t matter they took one look at me and sent me over to hang out with the rest of the “girls”.  Now I thought I passed pretty good as a guy at that point.  I may have been one of the few to think that but that is often the case with us prior to our coming out.

Written on the body.

They sent me over to wait with sisters in full drag and obviously feminine gay men because they knew me better than I did.  They didn’t make us strip down and they let us pee in the bottle behind a screen.

I aced the aptitude test just to piss them off.

At the end of the physical they sent me to wait with the others who were too queer to murder for their country.

I was bothered because they hadn’t asked about my arrest record so I went to ask one of the officers and he looked at me and said, “We wouldn’t have you in the service if the Vietcong were having dinner every night in Chinatown.”

I aided draft resisters, I encouraged guys to desert.  Our cadre in the Haight and Berkeley  had a half dozen different deserters as members over the course the war.

After I came out I was a woman who said yes to a man who said no.  He deserted from the Marines after having served his time in Vietnam.  He was my lover for two years prior to my surgery and for a year after.

When he was arrested by the FBI I found lawyers and spent my surgery fund to get him transferred from the brig to a hospital in Oakland where I broke him out.

To be gay or lesbian or trans at the time meant that if you were out and political you were probably progressive and anti-war to boot even though many of the founders of the early gay liberation movement in San Francisco and Los Angeles had served in WW II.  Vietnam was different, we were different.

Now I know many people who come out as trans in middle age were so deeply stealth, so hidden behind a mask of masculinity as to have both volunteered as part of an effort to become real men and to have been able to pass and serve.  The irony being that the screening asked if you slept with men and so many who come out later in life were heterosexual in their assigned at birth sex.  As a result technically they were not gay.

As I said I have mixed feelings.  Tonight we watched Sergei Eisenstein’s film “The Battleship Potemkin“, a silent film. The Translation of one of the narrative cards says “Revolution Means War.  This– This is the one Lawful, Reasonable, and Just, Truly Great War of all the Wars that History has Known…

Mario Savio put it a different way in 1964 during the Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley when he said:

There’s a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart that you can’t take part! You can’t even passively take part! And you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus — and you’ve got to make it stop! And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it — that unless you’re free the machine will be prevented from working at all!!

Herein lies the contradiction…  In truth I believe the only just war to be revolution and not wars that extend spheres of influence and control or result in imperialistically exploiting and oppressing the people of other lands…  Yet my dedication to equality and my belief in the freedom of others, their rights as human beings require me to support their right to enter into the military and serve even when I find that very military to be odious.

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The Origins of Memorial Day

We ordered a pizza for pick up from a local Papa John’s because I spent the afternoon napping and blew off my plans to cook.

As we were coming home we heard Mark Thompson of America Left on our XM.  He reminded us of the origins of Memorial Day, which was still often called “Decoration Day” when I was a child.

From Wikipedia:

Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May (May 31 in 2010). Formerly known as Decoration Day, it commemorates U.S. soldiers who died while in the military service.[1] First enacted to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War (it is celebrated near the day of reunification after the Civil War), it was expanded after World War I to honor dead Americans from all wars.

In Charleston, South Carolina in 1865 Freedmen (freed slaves) celebrated at the Washington Race Course (today the location of Hampton Park). The site had been used as a temporary Confederate prison camp for captured Union soldiers in 1865, as well as a mass grave for Union soldiers who died there. Immediately after the cessation of hostilities, Freedmen exhumed the bodies from the mass grave and reinterred them properly with individual graves. They built a fence around the graveyard with an entry arch and declared it a Union graveyard. On May 1, 1865, a crowd of up to ten thousand, mainly black residents, including 2800 children, proceeded to the location for events that included sermons, singing, and a picnic on the grounds, thereby creating the first Decoration Day.[2]

Our not knowing this is part of the erasure of the poor and people of color from history.

In the South I have heard people actually refer to the Civil War as “The War of Northern Aggression”.  You have some racist scum like the current governor of Virginia acting like slavery deniers who call the slave trade “triangular trade” thereby sanitizing the African Diaspora that resulted in the death and enslavement of millions of black people.

I suggest people read “The People’s History of the United States:  From 1492 until Present” by the late Howard Zinn

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Great Post at Dented Blue Mercedes

Hope Resides in the Genderqueer and Transgressive”

As time goes on, something happens to a transitioned transsexual. It has a lot to do with why the transsexed side of the trans continuum tends not to have many long-term advocates.

I first came to realize it over a discussion with someone long transitioned who was still involved with the LGBT community, but it was largely forgotten that she’d had a trans history. Although the cerebral knowledge and empathy for trans issues were there, the memory had faded to the point where it was hard for her to recall the experiences personally, where it seemed to her as though everything had happened to someone else.

Continue reading at: http://dentedbluemercedes.wordpress.com/2010/05/30/hope-resides-in-the-genderqueer-and-transgressive/

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Memorial Day

On Memorial Day we honor those working class people, those brown people and yes those queer people too that we sent off to murder and die in order to protect the interests of the rich.

We wave flags made in China and Indonesia where the people who make them live even more miserable lives than working class American.

We watch war porn and tell ourselves it is history when what it does is stir those who lust for the excitement of violence and the glory of war.  Even that which shows the reality or often time hyper reality makes war something fascinating to watch.

Less fascinating is the aftermath.  From when I was a child and the old men were WW I vets, bitter about how the government went back on promises of a bonus that would have helped them during the Great Depression.  Seeing the broken men, lungs scarred by mustard gas or missing limbs.  The World War II vets who drank too much because of the horror they saw.  The Vietnam vets, homeless in the streets and dismissed as too weak for their drug and alcohol abuse.

What of our promises to these people?

But far more important why do we ignore the millions upon millions upon millions of civilians killed by all these universal soldiers?

It took Cindy Sheehan who lost her son to George W. Bush’s war lust to finally ask the most important question of all…

What noble cause? What noble cause justifies all this carnage and murder?  What noble cause justifies the impoverishment of the poor of all nations to frivolously spend the  so much on weapons that create such misery?

There is no noble cause.  Only the rape and plunder of others, the murder and theft of resources.

The poor lose in every war.  The rich and powerful are always enriched and only rarely join the fray to fight perchance to die.

In the Civil War, deserters from both the Armies of the North and of the South were united under a common slogan, “Rich man’s war, poor man’s fight.”

For those of us who work in retail the reality of Memorial Day is all too ironic…  Memorial Day is a sale’s opportunity wrapped in red, white and blue.  We put in 10-12 hour days last week working to nearly dropping to enrich the corporations that exploit our labor.

For most of us there is no paid holiday.  Some of us are fortunate enough to have a forced unpaid day off.  A day to collapse in fatigue before a return to work on Tuesday.

I won’t attack those who look upon Memorial Day as providing one of those rare opportunities to put three days together during which they can rest and recreate, spend time with friends and family.  The corporations that control our lives demand so much from us in exchange for so little have made this personal time so scarce that I admire those who choose not to spend it perpetuating the lie of “honor and sacrifice”.

The best answer, the one that every person of every nation should give when their governments, their rich and powerful call upon them to murder and die for some questionable “noble cause” is the one we chanted during the Vietnam War, “Hell no, We won’t Go!”

War will only end when we refuse to be the universal soldiers.

The real struggle for freedom is not fought in some distant land, killing people who are powerless to harm us.  The real struggle for freedom starts at home and should be against those who exploit us, deny us the basic human rights and equality we should be endowed with as our very birth right.

The battle for hearts and minds is not one of guns and violence but rather of words and ideas.

Country Joe and the Fish Fixin’ to Die Rag

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Steve Earle sings Bob Dylan’s “Master’s of War”

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War… Edwin Starr 1970

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