Gay Tennessee, 12, commits suicide after Christian bullying

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By James Finn | DETROIT – If I have to read another news article or opinion piece about how Senator Bob Dole, who passed away yesterday, was a “champion of bipartisanship” or an example of bygone civility, a “loyalist to the Senate”, I swear I’m gonna waste my lunch, that I haven’t even eaten yet.

I don’t mean bad things about the dead, and this column is not a personal attack. I know the honorable senator’s family is in mourning and I respect that. Nonetheless, as a member of a traditionally despised minority, as a gay man with a long history of LGBTQ / HIV advocacy, I’m fed up with seeing queer concerns trivialized and erased, which always seems to happen when Conservative leaders die. As a society, we need to stop doing this.

Senator Dole made life hell for gay servicemen

Senator Dole served in World War II and, like many LGBTQ people, he served with distinction. He was awarded a purple heart for being injured and a Bronze Star for bravery. In the photo above, Dole attends a commemoration of the 1984 victory in Rome.

I was 900 miles away at the time, a locked up gay man serving in the US Air Force in West Berlin, the recipient of a high level security clearance that I committed a crime to receive. My crime? I wrongly swore that I was not gay. Just having a homosexual experience in the military in 1984 was a felony level offense, another crime of which I am not ashamed to be guilty. Senator Dole worked to keep this “crime” in place, even though being gay in wartime was a different story altogether.

Good enough to die, not good enough to serve in peacetime

In 1984, I didn’t like being criminalized, mostly because I knew that gay soldiers were hardly ever released for being gay during WWII. It only started on a large scale during the anti-gay “lavender scare” of the 1950s that accompanied McCarthyism. The witch hunt that followed destroyed countless gay lives.

But as if by magic during the Korean and Vietnam wars, gay soldiers once again became temporarily good enough to die for our country. No policy changed, but homosexuality removals fell as the need for soldiers increased. For a heart-wrenching first-person account of gay soldiers from the Vietnamese era, see Charles Nelson’s semi-autobiographical “The Boy Who Picked the Bullets Up”.

With the end of the Vietnam War, release rates for gay soldiers immediately increased, but the army’s gay witch hunt didn’t really take off until Senator Dole led Congress to thwart it. President Bill Clinton’s pledge to end the military ban on homosexuals.

Dole has worked hard to keep gay servicemen out of the military in peacetime, centering hateful homophobic tropes

When President Bill Clinton tried in 1993 to lift restrictions on gay service members, the Republican Party fiercely opposed it, with Bob Dole taking note. Lawmakers, including Dole, have repeatedly expressed concerns about the privacy and security of right soldiers, fueling stereotypes of homosexuals as sexual predators, validating straight men’s disgust towards gay men.

Bipartism? You bet! Homophobic Democrats and Republicans have joined hands.

On November 16, 1992, Democratic Senator Sam Nunn went on CBS’s “Face the Nation” and said the following homophobic words:

We need to consider not only the rights of gay people, but also the rights of those who are not gay and who give up much of their privacy when they enlist in the military.

LGBTQ people around the world have cursed Nunn’s horrific implications. In the spirit of bipartisanship, Dole supported this homophobia on the same day on NBC’s “Meet the Press”, claiming that any proposal to allow homosexuals to serve openly “blow the veil on Washington.”

Thanks in large part to Dole’s leadership, Clinton’s bill went up in flames, replaced by the 1994 bipartisan “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy that led, counterintuitively, to the most great anti-queer witch hunt in US military history. Commanders, who previously needed proof of homosexual conduct that could be relied on in court, could now fire gay servicemen just for being spotted in a gay bar, subscribing to gay publications like The Advocate, or having been overheard discussing their sexual orientation. Several of my friends and former military colleagues fell like this, even though I had already left the military for life as a gay / HIV activist in New York City.

For 17 years, layoffs for “homosexual conduct” skyrocketed, until the Obama administration finally ended the ban on gay servicemen in 2011. Then, unlike all homophobic doomsday prophets like Nunn and Dole, absolutely nothing bad has happened to the military. The homosexuals who were there from the start simply stopped living in fear.

Senator Dole was an obstacle in the fight against AIDS

When it comes to worshiping politicians despite the fact that they seriously harm LGBTQ people, Ronald Reagan most often comes to mind. His refusal to take the AIDS crisis of the 1980s seriously led to horrific levels of needless deaths. So when people present him as a model of old-fashioned civility and cooperation, we homosexuals are often shocked. It’s not just that we tend to be progressive and lament that it is destroying the labor movement and pushing false economic theories of “trickle down” that create the vast income disparities today.

We despise Reagan for killing us out of inaction.

As he smiled at the camera from the Oval Office like everyone’s favorite grandfather, we die in shocking numbers. In 1987, when Larry Kramer founded Act Up, we were on the streets chanting “Stop killing us!” We called on the federal government to end its apathy, to mobilize its immense resources to make the HIV epidemic a serious national priority. Whether Reagan didn’t care and act is a matter of commonly understood history.

Less well known is that Senator Dole was as callous and apathetic as Reagan

Poz Magazine interviewed Winnie Stachelberg of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) in 1996 when Dole was running for president. She categorically stated what most of us AIDS activists knew from firsthand experience: “Senator Dole has not been a friend of the AIDS community. At a time when moral vision and leadership were needed to avoid great suffering, Stachelberg said: “[Dole] has in no way been proactive or actively supported.

Quite the contrary: While Dole ultimately voted in favor of the 1995 Ryan White CARE critical bill, he did so reluctantly after repeatedly refusing to have the fundraising bill go to the Senate and after voting for The “poison pill” amendments were introduced by homophobic Senator Jessie Helms to make the law too toxic to pass.

Ultimately, heroes like Dr.Anthony Fauci of the CDC and Peter Staley of Act Up and the TAG have advanced policies and research that have resulted in effective HIV treatment and have seen a dramatic reduction in suffering and pain. dead, but none of us involved in this effort can forget that Senator Bob Dole chose to hinder us rather than help us.

Was Bob Dole homophobic? Does it matter?

I do not know what was in the senator’s heart, and I do not think his personal thoughts matter. Much is made of his return from a contribution to the gay Log Cabin Republicans campaign in 1995. Some say his initial claim that he could not approve of their “gay agenda” was offset by his change of mind. later. New York Times theater critic and columnist Frank Rich (who is straight) took the opportunity to assert that Dole was “not homophobic” and an “unequivocal opponent of anti-gay discrimination”.

I remember reading this column with a level of astonishment informed by Dole’s shameless public opposition to gay military service, his relentless opposition to same-sex marriage, and his repeated obstruction of HIV funding. I wondered what an “ambiguous” opponent could look like.

In short, Dole DID opposes homosexuals in the army, DID opposes same-sex marriage and DID constitutes a serious obstacle to financing the fight against AIDS. And he did it all in the name of sympathetic politics.

I’m not saying that to call him a monster. I am not saying this to denigrate the Republican Party. I am not saying this to be against the grain the day after his death. I’m saying this because I’m sick of reading how nice a man he was and how much his political style is something we should all aspire to – when no one is saying how badly he hurt people. LGBTQ.

I’m tired of being a member of such a small minority that no one cares

Someone should be writing these truths today, but you won’t find them in the pages of The New York Times, The Washington Post, or any other mainstream source, not until, as NBC News puts it, “the bipartisan tributes. flock after the death of Bob Dole.

Everyone writes about what a ‘nice’ man Bob Dole was, what a ‘good’ man he was, what a ‘decent politician’ he was. To do this, they must ignore that he was the opposite of nice and decent for LGBTQ people. They must erase our problems, our concerns and our grief. They dismissed our dead and our destroyed.

I don’t hate Bob Dole, and I don’t wish harm on those who loved him as a friend and family member. But as a nation, we must not reject and erase LGBTQ people.

Bob Dole has hurt us badly, and the nation must never forget.

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James Finn is a former Air Force intelligence analyst, longtime LGBTQ activist, Queer Nation and Act Up NY alumnus, regular columnist for queer media and an “agent” but unpublished novelist. . Send questions, comments and story ideas to [email protected]

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The previous article was previously published by Prism & Pen – Amplifying LGBTQ Voices Through Storytelling and is republished with permission.


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