Windy City Media Group Frontpage News

THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2022-03-16
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
Donate

Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

BOOKS Nathaniel Frank in the line of 'Fire'
Extended for the online edition of Windy City Times
by Yasmin Nair
2009-04-01

This article shared 4223 times since Wed Apr 1, 2009
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Nathaniel Frank's new book, Unfriendly Fire: How the Gay Ban Undermines the Military and Weakens America ( Thomas Dunne, $25.95 ) , considers the effects of Don't Ask Don't Tell. In the wake of an Obama administration, the LGBT community has been buzzing with the possibility of repealing the ban. Frank, who is optimistic about the end of the legislation, spoke by phone to Windy City Times about his project.

Windy City Times: You write that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ( DADT ) activism began around 1992-1993. Given that the AIDS crisis was still a concern for the gay community at that time, how did DADT become an issue?

Nathaniel Frank: That's a great question. As you say, there was a much greater emphasis on the AIDS crisis in the early '90s. The queer population had not been as sympathetic to this particular issue because of the tradition of queer activism that's left-wing or pacifistic or anti-militaristic. I think it became a movement first, because it seemed easy. I think [ President Bill ] Clinton thought it could be easy and the gay movement thought, "Well, let's start with this, and get that out of the way, because that's a no-brainer."

Female gay activists who were either in or had friends in the military recognized that even while some of the queer left was not warm to this issue, this was a matter of careers and lives being wrecked because of those for whom the military was always important. And then there were some of the newer people who came to the movement, who didn't have the experience or orientation of the queer left, who thought, "This is winnable, this is easy." All the stars seemed to align to make this a logical, easy step.

WCT: You mention the queer left. Given the widespread queer and straight opposition to these current wars, why should those who are opposed to war care about the lifting of the ban ?

NF: I've always had trouble understanding the position of what you might call strict pacifists. I've always thought our country needs a military. I think that needs to be separated from anger with and opposition to the particular militaristic history of the U.S. at certain points. You can oppose [ all the prior and ongoing wars ] and not necessarily think the country doesn't need a military. As long as there is a military, the military should treat everyone who's in an equivalent position equitably. You have to remember that this is not about whether gays can serve in the military but whether we admit that there already are gays in the military. How do you treat the 65,000 gay and lesbian members who are in uniform? What I try to do is show the hidden costs to those lives.

WCT: You write, "The gay ban is no less than the stalling of the march toward Enlightenment. The last three centuries of Western civilization have celebrated the ideals of freedom, truth, reason, and self-understanding. In the United States we often consider ourselves to be a world beacon for these efforts." What's the relationship between the agenda of DADT and this ideal of American global governance?

NF: That's a great question. There is certainly a relationship between the ideal of gay rights [ that ] rests, among other things, on a notion very consistent with the best and earliest ideals of America, which was that bloodlines and heritage and race and tribe don't need to separate us but can unite us. And gay Americans and gay families do that in sometimes very unique ways that buck the trend of world history, if you don't mind me putting it that grandly. And so the ideal of the Enlightenment, that freedom comes through knowledge, self-understanding, self-governance, power—these are concepts that are very dear to what the gay-rights movement has sought to do over the past half-century in particular. Now, when I talk of Enlightenment ideals: there is also a connection between Enlightenment and Imperialism, and I'm not trying to endorse imperialism. It may be a slippery slope, but it's always been one of the very self-conscious challenges of America, to do good in the world without going the way of other republics that have become damaging empires.

WCT: You seem to posit the gay soldier as separate from race and class issues. In a chapter that looks at how the army is discharging gays and filling its ranks with ex-convicts, you give the example of Private Steven Green, who shot and raped Abeer Qasim Hamza, a young Iraqi woman. You point out that Green was a "high school dropout with three misdemeanor convictions and history of drug abuse." But ex-convicts could just as easily be gay, and we do hear stories about man-on-man brutality in Iraq.

NF: Sure. That's exactly the issue. We certainly don't know who's gay on an empirical level. I've no way of knowing if people in that category are gay or not; I would argue that it doesn't matter. What I am suggesting in those cases is that to take as a classification people who have a trait [ gayness ] that has been proven to have nothing to do with capacity for military performance and then ban those people because of the prejudice or discomfort of some other group in the military, is unwise policy. And next to that is a policy that, partly in order to fill those very slots, takes a group of people who statistically are at higher risk of causing disruptions or leaving the military early. I feel that those who have served their time deserve a second chance. Nowhere do I suggest that those who are ex-convicts in the military are straight or are not gay. It's a question of risk assessment and an unwise application of risk assessment.

WCT: You write about the Tailhook scandal and the harassment of lesbians at West Point. We're always reading about instances of brutality and harassment in the military. So why would anyone want to join the army?

NF: That goes back to what I said earlier about the queer left. At times the queer left has tried to hold hostage issues like this one … in order to forward a particular agenda that shouldn't be tethered to queerness. There are a huge number of Americans, often between the coasts, who have different politics than the queer left, who join the military because it's a tradition, because their parents and grandparents were in it, because of benefits and education. A strict pacifist will say, "I don't support that because I don't want to endorse or perpetuate a scenario where in order for people to follow tradition or gain education, they need to carry a gun and kill people." That sounds nice initially, but that's not realistic.

WCT: But this [ criticism ] is not only from strict pacifists. And when you point to the two coasts—that's a stark contrast that allows for certain arguments to be made, but it also relies on an idealized notion, does it not, of what Middle America wants? And that idealization of the Middle American is exactly what you very rightly critique in the book, when you point out how that figure is manipulatively evoked as an example of someone who might dislike having gays at close quarters.

NF: I wouldn't agree that I am referring to the military in an idealized way. This is an age-old debate about whether change is best brought about from the inside or the outside. The idea that we can simply not join something and hope that what that institution is doing will stop—I don't think that's the way to do it. This is an important institution in American life.

WCT: You mention that NGLTF [ the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force ] was part of the consortium of groups that first wanted the ban lifted. Most people assume that HRC [ the Human Rights Campaign ] was the driving force.

NF: They haven't [ been that ] , actually. They will say that they favor a repeal but they have not devoted as much time to this as ENDA [ the Employment Non-Discrimination Act ] and hate crimes. I have found their silence somewhat surprising. Congressional staff members have told me that it's very important to them to have HRC on board.

WCT: Why do you think HRC has been silent?

NF: I don't pretend to know the way the big groups operate. All I can guess is that they prioritize those laws and policies they think are most likely to move first or easiest and/or reflect their constituents.

WCT: You position the religious right against gay Americans. There's always a presumption that the queer agenda is inherently oppositional to the norm, but in fact DADT is about the war, and about preserving America's role. Is it time to acknowledge that the queer agenda is not necessarily always a left agenda?

NF: Right. Historically, the queer agenda has been at odds with the Religious Right, not with religion itself. The Religious Right has been a socially conservative movement that has been intolerant of queers. It's important to acknowledge that queerness is not the same as leftness. We tend to be leftish. That suits me, but it doesn't suit everyone. It's a reminder that [ DADT ] is not just about the war. It drew a lot of people to it because it's about what American citizenship means. And part of that is refracted through the question of what it means to be a warrior, to defend America. And even for those who are not warriors, it asks, "What does it mean to be an American and what does it mean that so many people have tried to define gay people as somehow not first-class American citizens?" So it's larger than war.


This article shared 4223 times since Wed Apr 1, 2009
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

HIV/AIDS activist Rae Lewis-Thornton on her new memoir, 'Unprotected' 2022-05-18
- Emmy-winning HIV/AIDS activist, author, minister, political organizer, motivational speaker, life coach, jewelry designer and social media figure Rae Clara Lewis-Thornton's recently released book, Unprotected: A Memoir, is already a pre-release ...


Gay News

TV Writer Joel Kim Booster, director Andrew Ahn take a trip to 'Fire Island' 2022-05-15
- Based on the classic Jane Austen book Pride and Prejudice, the new Fox Searchlight film Fire Island has an important story to tell LGBTQ+ audiences specifically. In that story, there are plenty of laughs along the ...


Gay News

BOOKS 'Tinderbox' author to appear in Palatine on June 14 2022-05-13
- Author Robert Fieseler will discuss his debut book—Tinderbox: The Untold Story of the Up Stairs Lounge Fire and the Rise of Gay Liberation—on Tuesday, June 14, at 7 p.m. at Palatine's Cutting Hall Performing Arts Center, ...


Gay News

THEATER Underscore's 'Notes & Letters' running through May 28 2022-05-12
- Underscore Theatre Company celebrates its 10th-anniversary season with the world premiere of the musical Notes & Letters, which features book, music and lyrics by Annabelle Lee Revak (she/her) and is ...


Gay News

Book-signing for HIV/AIDS activist's 'Unprotected: A Memoir' on May 21 2022-05-05
-- From a press release - "I had been torn apart by the doings of others and blamed myself for surviving to the best of my ability. It would literally take decades for me to understand that I was the product of what happened to me." Emmy ...


Gay News

Gerber/Hart announces change in leadership 2022-05-04
- Wil Brant is no longer executive director of Gerber/Hart Library and Archives. According to an open letter from board co-chairs James Conley and Kevin Nunley as well as Board Treasurer Becky Chmielewski, Brant "served in this ...


Gay News

'It Was Vulgar and It Was Beautiful' explores art collective's part in HIV/AIDS activism 2022-04-23
- In Jack Lowery's book, It Was Vulgar and It Was Beautiful: How AIDS Activists Used Art to Fight a Pandemic, the historian shares how the art collective Gran Fury utilized community-made propaganda to address the HIV/AIDS ...


Gay News

Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project showcases 'History of Milwaukee Drag' starting June 27 2022-04-21
-- From a press release - Milwaukee, WI. - A History of Milwaukee Drag: Seven Generations of Glamour, by local historians Michail Takach and BJ Daniels, will be released Monday, June 27 by The History Press. For nearly 150 years, Milwaukee has ...


Gay News

Gay Latino techie Michael Sayman talks about his inspiring book, 'App Kid' 2022-04-17
- Michael Sayman is a key figure in Silicon Valley, having worked at Instagram, Google and, now, Twitter. However, he stands out in many ways. The twentysomething Sayman—an openly gay Latino—was only in his teens when he ...


Gay News

Indie Bookstore Crawl on Independent Bookstore Day April 30 2022-04-14
-- From a press release - Chicago, April 12, 2022 — It's back! Yet again, Chicagoland proves itself to be the dream destination for book lovers and readers of all ages! Nearly 40 independent bookstores in the greater Chicago area—from Lake Forest ...


Gay News

'Trans Bodies, Trans Selves' second edition out April 15 2022-04-11
-- From a press release - NEW YORK CITY, New York, MApril 11, 2022—The Trans Bodies, Trans Selves board is proud to announce the release of Trans Bodies, Trans Selves' second edition, published April 15, 2022. The Trans Bodies Trans Selvessecond edition ...


Gay News

Mary Lynn Rajskub: Actress/comedian discusses acting, sexuality in new book 2022-04-10
- Emmy-winning actresses and stand-up comedians who just finished publishing their new memoirs, while simultaneously embarking on their stand-up tours, rarely have moments to themselves. Thankfully, Mary Lynn Rajskub, best known for her work on the TV ...


Gay News

Gerber/Hart Library and Archives holds 40th-anniversary event at Sidetrack 2022-04-09
- Gerber/Hart Library and Archives (Gerber/Hart) celebrated its 40th anniversary with a "40 & Fabulous! The Gerber/Hart Spring Soiree" benefit April 7—the birthday of one of the library's namesakes, Pearl Hart—at ...


Gay News

FILM/TV Molly Shannon talks about her gay father, LGBTQ projects and new book 2022-04-08
- Chicago Humanities Festival is hosting a very special night at Harris Theater with entertainers Molly Shannon and Jonathan Van Ness in two separate appearances. While Van Ness has a Queer Eye, Shannon has played queer and ...


Gay News

Leader in fight to repeal 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' to join virtual book club with LGBTQ veterans April 7 2022-04-07
- C. Dixon Osburn, co-founder and former CEO of the Servicmembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN), will join the Chicago chapter of the American Veterans for Equal Rights (AVER) April 7 at 7 p.m. for a virtual Book ...


 



Copyright © 2022 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 
 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS







Sponsor
Sponsor
Sponsor


 



Donate


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.