Dead is Dead

I received an email on Memorial Day from a friend of mine who works in LGBT advocacy. The email was about Andrew Wilfahrt (no, I did not make that name up), allegedly the first gay soldier killed since the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Cpl Wilfahrt’s death is certainly tragic, as is the death of every member of the military of every nation, and serves as a reminder of the futility and evil of war.

It is, however, no more or less special because of his sexual orientation. To pretend that it is somehow qualitatively different is to do a disservice not only to Cpl Wilfahrt but to every member of the Military, living or dead. Since there are no second class human beings, the loss of every life is tragic. It’s great and wonderful that Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell has been repealed, and it’s also true that there are generations of bigotry against LGBT people to be undone both in the military and in society at large. I yearn for that day, I work for that day, and that is precisely why I believe it is wrong to cast Cpl Wilfahrt’s death as somehow different that other military deaths. You see, if you want to be equal, if you want a level playing field, then you cannot consistently be holding up members of a particular community as somehow essentially different. 

Suppose, for example, I wanted to golf against Tiger Woods and he was kind enough to spot me forty strokes to give me a fighting chance. If I won, I wouldn’t be a better golfer than Tiger Woods – I wouldn’t even be in the same league as Tiger Woods, because we didn’t compete on a level playing field. If, on the other hand, there was no handicap and I hung in there with Tiger Woods then I could rightly say that we were equals when it came to golf. It would also be a pretty good indication I had sold my soul to the Devil, but that’s another story.

Don’t misunderstand, I think it’s fine to celebrate (if that’s the right word) Cpl. Wilfahrt’s sacrifice and service. If, however, you only honor LGBT service members who made the ultimate sacrifice then you are choosing to perpetuate the very thing you claim to deplore – being treated differently than the population at large. As sad as it may seem, achieving equality means surrendering entitlement, and much of the LGBT community seems to fail to understand that fact – and that is why I have such a problem with some LGBT advocates!

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