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August 15, 2006

Sgt Denny's Rant
The Military Rainbow Community

One thing I've learned in nearly 60 years of walking the Earth is that people are very fussy about words and phrases.  I've got one friend with whom I may never use the word "should."  That sets him off, "Should!? You Democrats are always telling people what they 'should' do!"  By the time I get through reminding him that he's a Democrat, I've forgotten what I was talking about in the first place.  These days everything is a coded euphemism full of implied meaning.  'Red' used to mean Communist, socialist, left leaning, and even anti-American.  Now, it means Republican; now how the hell did that happen?!

Its almost impossible to come up with a representational unitary slogan without somebody objecting to its presumed implied meaning.  Several years ago, while forming the New York Chapter of American Veterans For Equal Rights, we worked at naming the chapter.  I was quite enthused with the idea of calling it the Walt Whitman Chapter after the Northeastern gay poet who rhapsodized the American soldier, until a woman veteran at the meeting muttered, "another white male..."  Oy vey.  We finally settled on AVERNY, safe if not inspiring.  These days, 'identity politics' is fraught with steaming dialogue about inclusiveness and implied exclusion.  There is the organization with the wonderfully alliterative name: OUTPOCPAC (OUT People of Color Political Action Committee).  People of Color carefully covers a wide spectrum of racial ethnicity, while still stating the group's focus on endorsing minority candidates.  While it is profoundly politically incorrect and often illegal for community and public groups to exclude folks of the basis of sex, race, or ethnicity, it is generally acceptable by reason of righting wrongs for hyphenated American groups to have a specific racial or ethnic affinity in their name and purpose.  In our movement for minority sexual orientation and gender identity rights, great care and consideration is given to being as inclusive as possible in slogans and organizational names.

In our particular movement to repeal the Don't Ask Don't Tell law so that patriotic American volunteers may serve openly in our armed forces regardless of sexual orientation, there is additional concern that our supporters and advocates be included in our image of a coalition of groups and individuals, straight and gay, active military and veterans, legislators, activists, advocates and others all working together towards a common goal.  The challenge is in having a slogan that can make all feel positive and proud about their involvement in advocating for our rights.  I have found straight elected officials to be proud to be photographed with their arm around me beside a rainbow flag.

When I was on duty, I wore my uniforms with pride and, if anything, I was just a tad more neat and tidy than those around me.  That was not because I was fashion queen; it was because part of my job as a sergeant was setting an example in my appearance.  My uniforms no longer fit, I'm almost 60 and portly.  When I go to seek support for our rights, I wear a suit and proudly wear pins that identify me as American and as a veteran who is gay.  I've learned to carry extras of the gay insignia.  Its the first thing they ask for.

We call this 'zine 'the voice of the military rainbow community.'  That includes supporters and all who are serving or served who take pride in their support the right of patriotic Americans to volunteer to serve in our armed forces regardless of sexual orientation.  Gilbert Baker, the creator of the Rainbow flag and a US Army Medic Vietnam Veteran, said that 'nature' was the inspiration for his creation of the Rainbow flag.  He said that he sees the rainbow as a symbol of our diversity and as a tool of our visibility.  He said that our symbols are what we project onto them as he did with nature's natural rainbow.  Hence, 'the voice of the military rainbow community is intended as a representation of our diversity, unity, and pride in our common goal of achieving equality in our armed forces.