Lieutenant General Claudia J. Kennedy, USA (Ret.) is the highest ranking female officer in Army history and is a recognized authority on women in the armed forces and military intelligence. The three-star general is the author of Generally Speaking, a memoir about her career, which spanned from 1969-2000. I met Claudia Kennedy in May 2006 while covering the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network’s 14th Annual National Dinner, where she was the keynote speaker. (You can hear my interview with Kennedy here). She has been an outspoken opponent of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and speaks frequently on the topic.
Today an interview with Lieutenant General Kennedy by Hahn at Home appears in A World of Progress, where she discusses her view of the policy as it stands now, and the Obama administration’s and the military’s reticence about repeal. In this snippet, she delves into the motivation for the military’s foot-dragging.
Kennedy: This is a complicated answer, and I don’t know how you’ll translate it to paper. But, I think it’s easier – and people get excited when you say this – I think it’s easier to deal with race and gender than sexual orientation. Because someone who wants to advocate for a minority race sitting as a member of the majority race can still kind of keep their life clear – they’re white advocating for (a minority). So they don’t have to deal with being brushed with the stigma of race while advocating for another race.
Same with gender. Nobody thinks this man who is a feminist is now going to become a woman, so he doesn’t have to be brushed with the stigma of being a woman.
So, then when you take a look at sexual orientation, when a member of a majority group of heterosexuals advocates for homosexuals, they need to be willing to be brushed with the, “Maybe you’re a homosexual” stigma. I think that’s much harder to do.
Step 1 is taking on your own beliefs.
Step 2 is being willing to speaking up for the group that is being unfairly treated and there’s this extra overlay of, “Well, maybe you’re really not a man, maybe you’re not really white, maybe you’re not really heterosexual.”
And part of the growth of the individual or society is to say, “And, let me ask again, why do you care, what makes that so important?” It’s the least important quality a soldier brings to the table – their race, their gender or their sexual orientation. I can’t think of any three things that are less relevant to their performance as soldiers.
Part of the reason this is a little more difficult is it’s the greatest minority – in other words the fewest number of people. The other part of it is that there is a huge misunderstanding by those who have not been exposed in any particular way to family members or friends to GLB people and the most primitive misunderstanding that homosexuals are pedophiles – no, completely separate things. The next misunderstanding, and there’s still debate around it and I don’t know how legitimate is or if it’s just political posturing, that homosexuality is a choice versus something you’re born to be. There is not a common understanding of the belief I have that this is not a choice someone makes but you are born that way and at some point you discover it.
The third would be willing to stand up and be counted as someone who believes this is not really important. That this is none of my business.
Please read the whole piece; she discusses the pressure the President is under (“He’s got to mop up after eight years of incompetent government“), and describes what it was like to participate, as a field commander, in the discharge of a gay soldier.