Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is a big one for me. I served in the Army in the late fifties, and I remember condescending sergeants talking about the “pitter patter of little feet in the barracks” and claiming to know everything that happened in their barracks. Other soldiers—a few of them—called me “queer.” When I asked a man I knew where I could go and be homosexual and also be respected, I was told that maybe I ought to go live in Europe. But in any case, I got through my two years without being put out.
It never did really have to do with unit cohesion. There are too many studies out there telling the Pentagon that unit cohesion would not be affected. What it had to do with was stigma. A certain kind of straight man wanted to keep gay men stigmatized, which put us off limits, and made it seem safe to straight men. I’m a man, and you’re a queer.
The other great stigma from the post war years was imposed by psychiatrists. That one—that we were mentally ill—was lifted in the early seventies through the action of the Gay Activists Alliance.
The goal of gay liberation since Stonewall has been to lift these stigmas and to make it OK to be gay, and we’ve been doing that, one stigma at a time. The next one, I think, is going to be DOMA, which doesn’t have to do with marriage so much as it has to do with their wanting to assert that we’re unworthy. It’s a way of their saying, I’m worthy, You’re queer.
The big gay rights organizations have been sending out emails today, all saying, there’s a lot left to do. They’re right. There’s still a lot to do, but after today, less than there was yesterday. I feel better, don’t you?