Patience and compassion are the hardest virtues for an X-fan to understand. The X-Men have literally saved the universe, accomplishing that impossible feat by sacrificing one of their most beloved teammates. And a couple weeks later, a bigoted United States Senator introduces the Mutant Registration Act. How do the X-Men respond? They save Senator Kelly from assassination. And on and on and on, the story unspools the same way. The mutant population decimated, the X-Men decamp to San Francisco, figuring they’ll be accepted, and Norman Osborn just moves them off the continental shelf. If you were a mutant, wouldn’t the more sensible play be to join Magneto? But no — you know that the path to dignity and acceptance, self-acceptance, requires doing the hard thing, not the tempting thing.

So imagine what it must be like — this is a lot easier, what with the absence of mutant powers — to be gay and to join the military after 1993, when you’re told that as long as you closet yourself you can be accepted, which is not to be accepted at all. Imagine how much dignity, strength of character and patriotism it takes to knowably enter that environment, to fight this country’s wars when its president and its leading politicians have absolutely no problem demagoguing a Constitutional amendment to stop you from getting married — something they have no intention of actually passing — in order to win the next election. The same forces of intolerance  argue, against logic and basic decency, that your ability to spend the rest of your life with the person you love somehow represents a danger to them. You manned a checkpoint thousands of miles from home — sent there by the idiot who pushes that gay-marriage ban, but whatever, your country asked you to, so you did — while these braying fools took deferments. They say they love their country, no matter how little they understand it. You proved it. And still, the nearer it gets to November, they throw around terms like “San Francisco values.” But you still serve.

Who could possibly be more patriotic? Who could we possibly owe more to? America should be ashamed of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, because its basic indecency is premised on the idea that we should care more about the comfortable prejudices of untroubled minds than the people who actually exhibit the greatest Selfless Service of all. It doesn’t end today when Gates and Mullen testify, but it will start to end today. If we fight for it. Support the troops.

Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman