November 05, 2009

>Army Recruiter Uses Homophobic Slur at High School

>Last week at Durango High School in Colorado, juniors and seniors overheard an Army recruiter using a "gay slur and an expletive" while taking a military-supervised aptitude test. The incident has irked students, faculty and parents alike, leading to an apology from the Army's Denver Recruiting Battalion for the lack of professional conduct.

"It's inappropriate to speak that way in a public forum, whether you're in a school or anywhere else," remarked school Principal Diane Lashinsky. "It's especially egregious to be speaking that way within hearing distance of young people."
As unfortunate as the situation was, it is heartening to hear that some of the students were willing to confront the military official in question and challenge his anti-LGBT speech. Says Madeleine Meigs, who approached the offending soldier and reported the incident to a school counselor, ""I just thought that it was wrong, and I feel people in that position can kind of get away with stuff sometimes, and that's not OK."
Lieutenant Colonel William Medina, who offered the apology on behalf of the unnamed soldier and the Army, assured that the comment was "absolutely inappropriate and not in keeping with Army values....It really did not reflect well on the organization."
Medina's comment, however, brings up a larger question: does the military as a whole treat LGBT people with equality, dignity and respect? Take the case of Lieutenant Dan Choi--a West Point graduate, Iraq War veteran and fluent speaker of Arabic--who is facing discharge from the Army for coming out and challenging the military's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy (which requires LGBT people in the armed forces to remain closeted about their sexual orientation and gender identity).
Choi has repeatedly stressed that his fellow soldiers--who knew he was gay before he publicly came out--have treated him respectfully and that his sexual orientation has never affected his professionalism and leadership. Others, however, have not been so lucky--some LGBT recruits (or those who are perceived as gay) face harassment and verbal abuse from their commanding officers and fellow soldiers. Nor is the military free from gender violence and sexual abuse--according to the Department of Defense, 1 in 3 women in the military are raped while in service. That's atrocious.
What do you think--is the incident in Durango an exception to the rule, or indicative of a larger problem of homophobia and heterosexism in the military?

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