Author Archives

Mike Yost (Photographer/Writer)

I have a passion for words and photography (and craft beer . . . and weed). Just trying to be creative and experience the creativity of others before I'm kicked off this lonely planet. Death may nullify my body and brain, but (hopefully) not my art. I've been capturing snapshots of time and writing out the thoughts of fictional characters in my head since I was a kid. Maybe even younger! Not sure. It's hard to remember that far back. (I blame the weed.) I had the opportunity to pen a novel for grad school. Five characters. One narrative. Existential dread! You can purchase my first book, Remnants of Light, on Amazon here: http://amzn.com/B00MZBT15C It's available in paperback if you want to be retro and ebook if you want to be modern. Personally I think there should be a stone tablet option.

Business As Usual

     6,482: Number of days DADT was in effect.  14,000: Approximate number of service members discharged under DADT.  363,000,000:  The price tag in dollars of DADT.

     0:  The number of service members from now on who must perpetuate a lie to keep from being discharged from the military.

I’ve often wondered how different my experience in the Air Force would have been without Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  I wouldn’t have needed to lie about who I am.  I would have been able to confide in my friends—the people my life depended on in a combat situation.  Some people would have treated me differently, I’m sure.    But one thing that would not have changed was my work.  Being gay had nothing to do with how well I did my job.  Which, of course, is the point of all this.  Someone coming out as a homosexual should have the same impact as someone stating their religious preference.  These characteristics are simply part of who we are, but they play no part in our ability to carry out a mission.
Of course, there is still much work to be done: The ban on transgenders from serving, military benefits for non-married domestic partners (gay or straight) of service members, legal recourse against discrimination and harassment, and discharge upgrades.  But the first step has been taken.  The numbers above will no longer increase.  Servicemembers can now get back to work.

Irony

Hill Air Force Base, Utah.   1999.

It was my first duty station and a small group of us were sitting in a break room situated behind the squadron’s radio maintenance workshop.  The room was actually the back of a large vehicle bay where we parked and loaded our 5-ton cargo trucks and deuces (2.5-ton cargo trucks).  Surrounded by radio equipment, rolls of coaxial cables, and boxes of supplies, one of the airmen sat in his chair and complained about the way people treated him.  He was a Mormon, and he was tired of being told he was part of a cult.  The airman leaned back in his chair and lamented about how certain people stereotype his particular faith.  He said he was weary of the ignorance of individuals who called him crazy or associated him with strange rituals that had nothing to do with the Mormon religion.

I quietly agreed.  I had been taught by teachers at my private Christian high school that Mormonism (along with any other religion that deviated from the Baptist church) was a cult.  Even as a self-proclaimed Christian at the time, that kind of polarized thinking didn’t sit well with me.  So that day, in an effort not to be one of those ignorant individuals, I started a dialogue with Mormon service members in our radio workshop (there were several others).

A few weeks later, the same airman complained about homosexuals (a subject that didn’t come up very often in the workshop).  He said he didn’t want anything to do with gays.  He added that if he ever met one, he’d want to stay as far away as possible.

When I heard this, I was still in the closet.  Buried deep in the closet.  I’m talking about sealed-beneath-the-floor-boards-of-the-closet deep.  It was more my religious background than anything else that kept me in there.  But it was statements from my Mormon friend, along with “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” that kept that closet door locked at all times.

So, I said nothing.  Thankfully, I wasn’t the only one who saw the blatant irony in his statements.  Other airman criticized him for being so dismissive.  A few even mentioned they had gay friends and that they deserved the same respect you would give any individual.  Encouragingly, this perspective hasn’t changed.  According to the DoD report on the repeal of DADT, 29.6 percent of military personnel believe service members coming out will have a negative, or more than negative, effect on unit cohesion.

But that’s still 29.6 percent.  There are still individuals in the military who are ignorant or outright hateful to homosexuals.  Coming out will be difficult or next to impossible for some service members.  But on September 20th, the closet door will be kicked down.  And had DADT not existed when I was in the Air Force, I would have politely replied to my Mormon friend that I’m not to be generalized either.  No one is – gay or straight, Mormon or agnostic.  In the end, the only thing that really matters in the military is the mission – and watching your buddy’s back while he or she watches yours.