Holiday Blues

The roller coaster of DADT repeal efforts is dispiriting for a community that's worked hard for success

I’d really like to stop writing about ”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

Some amount of political fatigue would be expected in any protracted battle, and if there’s one thing the gay community has found plenty of, it’s protracted battles. Be it hate crimes, employment discrimination, marriage or the military, every inch of ground gained comes only after massive investments of time, energy and will. And too often, all that effort and passion runs into a brick wall.

Last week’s DADT debacle in the Senate was one of the most demoralizing political moments for me since, well, DADT first passed Congress in a fit of anti-gay bigotry. It left me feeling deeply sad, frustrated and disillusioned. I tweeted out my first, gut-level response: ”Those columns I wrote about the importance of voting and participating in your democracy? I take ‘em back.”

Even as I hit the ”enter” key, I suspected I’d want to walk that back later. I have spent a lot time writing and thinking about the importance of each of us participating in our political process and adding our own voices to the movement as a whole.

But, as the days have gone by and DADT repeal becomes ever more dependent on some unlikely Christmas miracle in the Senate — that august chamber where pro-gay legislation goes to die — I still don’t feel the need to walk it back. The idea of civic participation no longer seems quite so self-evident to me, given that no matter how many people we elect, how well we play the political game, or how much we commit ourselves to making change happen, we continue to hit the blockade of bigotry in the government.

Surely I can’t be the only one who thinks that perhaps all the federal agencies that have been contributing ”It Gets Better” videos should think about perhaps holding off on those messages until the federal government gets around to actually making things better for LGBT people.

As I write this, the House is once again debating DADT for a stand-alone bill to repeal the bigoted policy. Some Republican representatives are making the predictably lamentable arguments that gays should stay in the closet because open and honest service would make straight servicemembers nervous. Marine commandant Gen. James Amos — a repeal opponent who had nonetheless testified to the Senate that repeal could and would be implemented successfully if passed — poliglot/2010/12/marine-chiefs-stated-concern-th.html“>this week claimed that having openly gay and lesbian people in the corps would be a distraction that would literally lead to the death of Marines.

No wonder the political mood among so many of us is so dour. Some have already begun playing the blame game, as if pointing fingers at ourselves and our allies will yield some Rosetta Stone of failure. It’s a waste of time. There have been mistakes, but the push for repeal has gotten this far because successes have far outweighed them. The problem is a systemic one in which a minority of politicians can trade on bigotry for their own selfish purposes.

Perhaps that holiday miracle will happen and we’ll see a breakthrough in the Senate. Given the emotional roller coaster that we’ve been on as a community for the past few weeks, it would be a welcome respite before the next Congress moves in and puts the brakes on all of our issues. If not, well, fatigue will eventually give way to renewal. We know we’ll win. We just have to keep our energy up to reach the finish line, whether it’s in Congress or in the courts.

Sean Bugg is Editor Emeritus for Metro Weekly.