Thursday, May 17, 2012

Sexual Diversity in the Military

Diversity Pays.
Today, May 17th, is International Homophobia Awareness Day. I'm taking part in a series of blogs designed to bring attention to the subject.

I decided to focus on diversity in the military, because I'm a veteran. I served in the US Navy for four of the longest years of my life. ^_^ Everyone should have the right to work unimpeded by harrassment. As a woman, I experienced harrassment from shipmates who thought it their right to "Join the Navy and ride the WAVES." WAVES = Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service. By the time I joined, the "emergency" aspect was over, and the name had changed to WINS (Women in Naval Service). However, the phrase only changed to "Join the Navy and jam the WINS" (a play on jamming the winds on a sailing ship), so the attitude was the same. Women were not viewed as coworkers, but as sex objects. Two items we were required to wear were a girdle, and lipstick. I managed the lipstick (at least in the morning), but figured out about day two of boot camp that no one was going to feel me up for a girdle. I kept one on hand for uniform inspection (we had to occasionally show we had the proper "kit" on hand), but never wore one.

Pay for a Navy WAVE (1940s)
When I reported to my first duty station, there were two heads (bathrooms). One was for men, the other for officers. Women had to walk to the next building, which housed offices. Fortunately, that changed not long after. Pay wasn't bad. In the 40s, women were paid different amounts from men. By the time I came along, we were paid the same as men. But there were still things that kept women and men apart when it came to service. Our uniforms were different from men's. Women were permitted to wear male fatigues (a type of dungaree and chambray shirt) when working in areas such as a flight line, rather than the more restrictive and detailed female pants and blouses with darts. I recall being told if I didn't like a rule to "get back in your own uniform." As if what I wore had something to do with my attitude.

I also thought it was disgraceful that women were referred to as "civilians under naval training" as if we didn't really "cut it" to be true members of the military. It wasn't until I was writing up a complaint about being called this that I noticed what the acronym would be: CUNT. It was a good thing no one had called me that within earshot. Back then, I had a tendency to speak before thinking. I'm amazed I got into as little trouble as I did. Before I submitted the report, we got a notice from the captain of the base that he had heard about this very term, and stated in strong terms that it was never to be used on the base again. If it wouldn't have risked making me look like a girly girl (or being put on report for conduct unbecoming) I'd have hugged the man. :)

The very next day, one of the women in my squadron brought in a Chippendales poster to put in her locker, since the walls in her work area were plastered with naked women. Her male coworkers tore it down. Next morning, she and I went to the chief to complain about the double standard, and were told the captain had already taken care of that problem, too. It seems he had decided to give his new bride a tour of the facilities and did a walk-through prior to bringing her on base. The guys muttered for days, but the walls were plain green after that.

Pay for all service members (2012)
(from USNavy)
It was wrong of my coworkers to treat women the way they did when we first arrived. Because the captain of the base took steps to ensure we women had a chance to prove ourselves, we were able to overcome the prejudices against us. I ended up making lifelong friends on that base, most of them with men. My husband and I still have good memories of them. We women were willing to stand up for ourselves, but having someone in leadership who took steps to do the right thing made all the difference for us. I hope you will do the right thing for gay, lesbian, and transgendered workers around you.

Are you in a position to speak up where you work? You might not be in a leadership position, but can you step in and prevent harrassment? Are you willing to allow people a chance to prove they are good workers, and see past their outside appearance? Are you willing to speak up when others are treated with less courtesy or respect? Would you want someone to stand up for your kid sister or brother if they were harrassed? What will you do when you see a gay, lesbian, or transgendered person spoken to in a less than courteous manner, or treated unfairly where you work? For some help about what to do and how to handle it, click this link. 2012 Diversity Pays
To visit other blogs in this hop, click HERE.

32 comments:

  1. Very interesting post, Kayelle. I think there are times when you can and should stand up and be counted but isn't it a shame that we have to? I'd like to think times are changing but every so often there's yet another story of sexual bullying that often leads to violence and sometimes death and I wonder if we learn any lessons at all.

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    1. Barbara, I know. It's hard to deal with seeing all this sometimes. I stop and think 'what if I couldn't just walk away? What if it was me?' and I have to do the hard thing and stand up. Will we ever get to the point where we don't need to? It will be better. It's much better now, but we aren't there yet. ;) Thank you so much for stopping by to comment.

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  2. Very interesting, Kayelle. I'm an Army brat and i remember the derogatory remarks from men about woman in the military. I hope it's different today. : )

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    1. A female officer I know was harrassed recently for a blog post supporting birth control coverage by Medicare. She was accused of being in the service so she could "make exta money on her back." Riiiiight, because it makes so much sense to go through boot camp, weapons training, intense schooling, and be shipped over to a combat zone so she could be a hooker. o_O Makes you wonder about the mental capacity of people who make such dumb statements. It's better, but it's not over.

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  3. Kayelle,
    I have to admit, your story doesn't surprise me. I grew up around Air Force personnel and I had friend's who were in the Air Force as well as friends whose mothers and fathers were in the Air Force and there were marked differences between the stories I heard from the females and males. It made it very clear to me that I would never have survived joining the military (despite my desire to serve)...my mouth would have gotten me into tons of trouble.
    I respect anyone who joins the military and serves this country because they're the real heroes. Race, Gender, and Sexual Orientation should have no bearing on that service, only their actions while they are serving should reflect upon how they are treated.

    Thank you for posting today, Kayelle.
    Qwillia

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    1. Thank you. I agree about service. The families of our military serve as well, and it's hard on them. When my son in law was overseas, he left my daughter and three little kids behind. It's not an easy task. I'm thankful when I was in that I didn't have children. Don't think I'd have had the strength! Looking back, I'm truly amazed at how well I did. I do know how to behave myself when I want to. Back then, I didn't want to very much. LOL

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  4. Great post Kayelle, I have always wondered how gay people felt being in the military and having it even tougher there then in civilian life.

    I just wanted to say “Thank You” to everyone for letting me be included in your Hop Against Homophobia. I am afraid I am not a talented m/m fiction writer like yourself but I am an avid reader of it.

    Actually when you are a straight girl who writes gay porn for an adult studio it is hard to fit in anywhere so I really appreciated how warmly I was welcomed into your group.
    http://shadowsterling.blogspot.com/2012/04/studio-i-write-for.html

    But this is a cause I feel strongly about and I wanted to let you know I appreciate the opportunity to be included.

    Shadow Sterling

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    1. I've been to your blog, Shadow, and enjoy what you have to say. Thanks for stopping by. You are most welcome here!

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  5. Very interesting post, it's a view I have never seen before. Thank you for sharing it.

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    1. Andrea, glad I could help you see things in a different way. Thank you for being here today.

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  6. Thank you for being part of this HOP and helping shine a light on this important issue.

    musings-of-a-bookworm@hotmail.co.uk

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    1. Kerry, my pleasure and a privilege to take part. thanks for your support.

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  7. Great posy Kayelle! very interesting perspective.

    morris.crissy@gmail.com

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    1. Thank you Crissy. I appreciate your comment.

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  8. I have never had a problem with my bisexuality on any of my jobs -- and for that, I know I am blessed.

    However, my new husband (who finally admitted to a few choice close friends and his adult children on his 50th birthday that he was bisexual)can't speak up in fear of loosing his job on a morals issue. He feels bad about it, because he is in a position to help support the GLBTQ students (he has been a HS English teacher for 20 years) -- but even by keeping his personal life out of it and trying to council or stop the verbal assaults, the administration still prevents him to interfere with the harassment of the GLBTQ kids. Too political, they say...

    Recently, in his Senior writing class, he had the students choose something from the news and had them write on it... 2 chose pro gay rights, while 3 chose marriage equality -- and HE got called out on the carpet for it.

    To make matters worse, because his facebook page has teachers and former students on it(some former students are now the parents of the kids he teaches) - he got in trouble with the principal over 'pro gay related issues' I had posted on my own facebook. He has since had to 'de-friend me' so he wouldn't get into trouble it.

    Granted, this is a small, class D school smack dab in the heart of an Amish community. Still, it eats at him that he can't make a difference in the school.

    To combat his feelings of helplessness, he does support the GLBTQ community in the next county over (where so far, he is not 'known' as a teacher) -- and he has a 'secret identity' on a couple of social networks, where he has successfully helped many with their thoughts and feelings on gay/bi related issues.

    Thank you for your post - I found it most interesting... romancewiththeflemingtons.blogspot.com romancewiththeflemingtons@gmail.com

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    1. What a tough situation. I wonder how many people out there are in similar situations unable to speak up but who would if they could? The school needs its eyes opened to reality, sounds like. I wonder who/how many of/and if the leaders are hiding being gay themselves?

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  9. Another great post. I'm glad you got the chance to see things improve, and hope that things will improve for all members of the homosexual community who need someone in authority to stand up for their rights.

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    1. Thanks, LM. I admit I was surprised these details turned out so well. It wasn't always like that, but these were good examples of what can happen when someone in authority does the right thing.

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  10. Thank you so much for participating in the hop. I hope that this helps to spread the word and that one day a hop like this will no longer be needed. I have shown many of the post to my nieces and nephews. We recently have been discussing how damaging bullying is and how innocent remarks can make you be seen as being a bully. One of the things that makes me mad is when I hear...you're so gay... pisses me off. These post have helped them already. I heard my nephew stand up to someone that called someone else a hurtful name... I was so proud. Thank you all for helping by sharing hurtful and/sad memories and your personal views/message.
    I pray one day for equality for EVERYONE not just some.
    forettarose@yahoo.com

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  11. Thank you for the post and for fighting against discrimination.
    Yvette
    yratpatrol@aol.com

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  12. Wow, what a great post! Loved reading that. It's certainly an eye-opener. I feel so sorry for those military men and women who have had to hide who they are, and those who have now come out but are given trouble for it. I'm hoping there's less of that trouble IN the military than there is on the outside. Those Fred Phelps protesters aren't people of God, they're just hateful.

    Erica
    eripike at gmail dot com

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    1. Sad but true. Hateful people are everywhere. Those who take a stand are targets for them. Hiding isn't always easier, though, is it?

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  13. Wonderful post. I'm a very shy person (which can make job hunting down right painful!), but I certainly hope I have the courage to stand up if I ever see someone being denigrated. It's worth the effort!

    ashley.vanburen[at]gmail[dot]com

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    1. Thank you, Ley. I don't envy you the job hunting. Ack! Next to moving, it's my most hated thing to do. Good luck on the job front.

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  14. Love the post. This hop has been great.

    peggy1984@live.com

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    1. Thanks Peggy. I've enjoyed being part of the hop a lot more than experiencing the situations I wrote about, that's for sure. ;)

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  15. I just saw you have a book titled the same as my user name, lol.

    Thanks for participating in this hop. I'm enjoying all the great blog posts.

    penumbrareads(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. LOL, Wulf! I'm used to writing your name. When I try to write wolf it comes out wrong... ;) Thanks for stopping by.

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  16. Thanks for participating in the HOP

    gisu29(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. My pleasure. I appreciate you stopping by, Gigi.

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