Andrew Sullivan has been hosting a lot of back and forth from supporters and opponents of DADT repeal. Something from one of his latest commentators really caught my attention:
Repealing DADT will certainly go some way toward seeing that some in the military will set up some as gay servicemen & servicewomen as heroes and role models, but others, likely the majority, will never feel that way. They will allow the government to dictate how they tie their shoes, dress, and behave in public, but there is no way in hell that they will allow the government to dictate whether or not they accept gays or work along side them.
Of all that things that have bugged and bothered me about being gay in our society, I think this kind of gets to the nub of it: We simply have to be better in order to be accepted. This is something that gets exacerbated in the military, an institution that by design forces its members to achieve more physically and socially than they would likely be forced to achieve as civilians. It's no fluke that many of the servicemembers who have been, by choice or not, spokespersons for DADT repeal and who have enjoyed support from their own peers have been particularly forceful and high achieving personalities. (I should note that Andrew responded to this pro-DADT email that worried about sparking "the tinder" of the teabaggers in about the only way you can: "At some point, you have to face down the fear. Then it will dissipate. End the ban now." Amen.)
The same dynamic plays out in everyday civilian life -- when you live your life being told you're less than, the pressure is always there for those who choose to be open (or who have no real choice but to be open) to be more than. We have to prove that we are this (writer, athlete, engineer, father, aunt) in order show that we're not that (faggot, dyke, pervert, molester).
Over the years, this has bothered me quite a bit -- obviously, we can't all be more than. Being gay or lesbian doesn't confer a concomitant aptitude for achievement, and the fact that we have to work far harder to be considered "equal" is grotesquely unfair. But we also have no choice but to live in the times that we do; our only real choice is whether we meet the world on those terms in order to change those terms for the people who follow us.
That's why I admire and respect all those gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders in the past and present who've worked to achieve more than they otherwise might have in hopes of changing the world for the better. If we have to work harder, so be it. It's the price we pay for being part of change.