Blog Jeremy Johnson Opinions — 04 April 2012
Raising the Flag… and Raising Hackles

by Jeremy Johnson

By now, most of us in military LGBT circles have seen the images of a Pride flag being “raised” over a tent in Afghanistan.  The picture was posted to a Facebook group and has been seen by the masses.

The masses includes our most virulent opponent, Mr. Tony “Get-the-gays-out-of-my-military” Perkins.  He likened the flag raising to burning the Quran and predicted it would agitate the local Muslim and Taliban population.

On that point, he’s just plain wrong.  Flying a Pride flag in Afghanistan is no more offensive than flying the American ensign.  Where Muslim extremists are concerned, tolerance of “homosexuals” and apple pie are on equal footing as ubiquitous pieces of American culture.

“We” apparently didn’t raise the flag.  Rather, it was done by a straight ally. *sigh*

What really concerns me is the message we’re sending to our fellow uniformed members when we promote something like this.  I’m opposed to the action itself for entirely different reasons than Mr. Perkins.

First, let’s establish my own views on LGBT pride in general.  I’m all for it.  I’ve shown up to pride events in Italy, Atlanta, DC, and Baltimore.  I was kicked out of the Navy for coming out and reinstated publicly after DADT repeal (it was even covered by CNN).  I’ve long been frustrated by folks who are paranoid about being outed in the gay community.

That said, I left the Navy after 10 years of service because of an integrity issue.  I left because I was no longer able to identify “uniformly” with my coworkers.  I didn’t WANT to raise a flag, I just wanted to be able to work in the Navy and live in the local community without being fired for being gay.

Over the course of several dozen interviews since 2007, I’ve repeatedly mentioned this to reporters.We’re not looking to have a parade, we just want equal treatment.

I was glad to see the positive response to the lesbian Sailor homecoming kiss, a little wary of the reception of the gay Marine homecoming kiss, and now, frankly, mortified that this Pride flag was raised, photographed, and “flaunted” on Facebook.

I get the symbolic implication, but I gotta ask, what’s more important to getting ourselves treated equally:  The image of raising a Pride flag, or getting base access for a same-sex spouse?

Which victory matters more?  Even if I were to allow that it was okay to raise the Pride flag for victory, I’d say it was premature.  DOMA hasn’t yet been repealed and we’re not truly equal.

What concerns me most is the possibility that an incident like this reinforces the ugliness spread by Family Research Council and The Center for Military Readiness.  They, our enemies (if you will), said we’d do this exact thing post-repeal.

There’s nothing wrong with LGBT Pride, but raising the Pride flag alienates us from our straight counterparts because there is no “straight” flag.  We shouldn’t raise an individual state’s flag over a base, or a Rotary Club flag, or a sport team’s pennant… and we certainly wouldn’t brag about doing it if we did.

There is a time and a place for everything.

I guess my final point is this, enthusiastic and misguided allies aside, we need to demonstrate the need for equality by continuing to live a life in keeping with the highest traditions and discipline of the services we each agreed to be a part of.

Let’s avoid raising a flag as if you were staking claim of an entire base.  It isn’t professional, says “I stand apart”, and fuels an unnecessary fire.

Instead, bring a date to the service ball.  Bring your partner to a Hail and Farewell.  Put a picture of your loved on your desk.  Talk about your weekend trip you took with your partner. These are all activities similar or equal to your straight counterpart’s experiences. It is something they can relate to and speeds along support for getting DOMA removed.

We are uniformed because we’re supposed to be “uniform”… let’s make sure we’re continuously working toward that, and make it clear to our straight counterparts that this is our goal.


About Author

Jeremy Johnson is the blog editor for OutServe Magazine, and is co-lead of the DC/MD/NoVA/DE Chapter of OutServe. He is currently a full-time sociology student at University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Prior to beginning his college education, Jeremy served 10 years as an active duty journalist in the United States Navy. He was discharged under the 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy in May of 2007. On September 22, 2011, Johnson became one of the first DADT dischargees in the nation to publicly reenlist in the military, joining the U.S. Navy Reserves at the same rank and position he left. Jeremy volunteers with The 6th Branch in Baltimore City, MD, as a board member and primary team member on "Operation: Oliver", a veteran-sponsored community revitalization project. See more from this contributor.

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