Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Was Alan's Sexual Orientation Relevant to Share With the World?


I think that most people are looking at the issue surrounding the disclosure of his sexuality from the wrong angle. Several reasons why:

1. The assumption that this disclosure served an agenda of sorts.

People are looking too deeply into this. Perhaps this suspicion of serving a sort of agenda is cause-and-effect of the disclosure of an issue as sensitive such as sexuality in America. Did anybody stop to think that the mention of his sexuality was purely to serve the purpose of illuminating whom this person was and one of the key struggles that plagued his life? Personally, I think people need to start realizing that being gay essentially defines a very significant part of whom an individual is. Mentioning somebody's gay orientation is as relevant today as mentioning of one's Jewish heritage was during the World War 2. I can simplify this even further into several words: persecution.

Persecution is defined as follows:

  1. To oppress or harass with ill-treatment, especially because of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or beliefs.
  2. To annoy persistently; bother.
Hmmm, besides the mentioning of "sexual orientation," I think it's fair to say being gay definitely qualifies. Are gays openly accepted--legally or socially (in the United States)? Not at all. I think when the majority of people state their acceptance of gays, I think it parallels the Vatican's acceptance of non-Christians and their place in "heaven."

2. Assuming that there is an agenda, what cause would be served? Assuming the answer is "the acceptance of gays into society and their being given FULL equal rights;" What's so wrong with trying to advance this cause?

I'm digressing (as I often do when I'm not on Ritalin) here, but the point I really want to make goes as follows:

Alan was gay, and this struggle essentially defined and shaped him into the person he is today. I think most, if not all individuals who have had to deal with a constant struggle throughout their lives will attest to the fact that these struggles (for better and for worse) shaped them into the individuals they are today. Let's face it, a straight (sexual orientation), white (caucasian), middle-class student at a state university has typically had to deal with a lot less major conflict growing up than his black, gay counterpart has. I think people need to stop bickering over the wrong issues and tackle these subjects and challenges head-on. More importantly, people need to stop getting bent out of shape over ludicrous speculations that any assertions are being made or implied about those having been through those struggles.

For the record, I think Alan was better than the majority of the people I have ever met or known--including myself. Alan was one of the most altruistic, chivalrous, intelligent, generous, well-spoken, humorous, and forgiving human beings I have ever known. Ladies, you would have killed to have such a man! Alan served (and still serves) as a role model for me to live my life by.

Well, I'm out.

1 comment:

Rob said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts on Alan. I am writing to add my thoughts on the issues pertaining to media coverage regarding Alan and the question of whether Alan's sexual orientation is relevant. After I learned of Alan's death in Iraq, I spoke with friends of his and learned that there would be a service at Arlington National. I also learned of the service already held in Florida. Based on my experiences with the loss of my grandfather in the late 1980s, and my grandmother and uncle in the 1990s, I would say that the media coverage through the Gainesville area media was fairly typical. Details were scarce and the biography was incomplete but not unexpected for an unmarried man in his 40s who left no children. I felt, at the time, that the Gainesville media made a fair report, and justified the omission of information pertaining his sexual orientation to the fact that many in (based on the video of his funeral) his conservative Florida church community may not have known the whole truth. So, I let it slide knowing that Alan was coming home to Washington and that his friends would celebrate his life. On the day of his funeral, I attended his funeral with about 100-200 others at Arlington National. I knew through others that a Washington Post reporter was in attendance, and I later learned that reporters from NPR and MSNBC were as well. I speculate that it may have had to do with the fact that Alan's funeral roughly coincided with the "grim milestone" of the 4,000 dead in Iraq number. The coverage by the Washington Post, NPR and MSNBC afforded the media an opportunity to go deeper in the story. St. James of the Post went deeper. She interviewed several attendees the morning of the funeral both in the reception room prior to the ceremony and at the gravesite. She also continued to interview family and friends at an invitation-only gathering that night organized by a close friend of Alan's. As later reported by the Post, St. James was aware of the truth, of Alan's sexual orientation and position within the GLBTQQ community. At this point, it seemed entirely appropriate to mention his work with AVER, SLDN and other organizations, his thesis while at Georgetown University on the subject of the effect of the DADT policy on military retention and recruitment, his boyfriend at the time, his participation in a same-sex wedding ceremony (he was an ordained pastor (some called him "reverend") and provided the opening prayer for the ceremony), etc. After the funeral, we awaited the article on Alan. We expected it to be printed in the Post. There was a one or two week delay, which seemed odd, but no word. Then, within a day or so of each other, NPR and the Washington Post released stories on Alan. NPR ran a roughly 8 minute profile of Alan on the nationally broadcast Morning Edition with Steve Inkseep. The Post ran an article in the Metro section, as I recall. Both news outlets published concurrent articles on their respective website, thus making the coverage national and global. As later reported by the Ombudsman of the Post, a decision was made to omit the truth, a decision that was later deemed to have been an error. At this point, the Washington Blade picked up the story. There was no "agenda" here. The release of information pertaining to Alan was organic, natural and a result of the many strong friendships he had developed with so many people in so many places. Alan touched our lives and we told his story. All of us told his story, not just one community. Once the Blade ran a story on the Post's ommission of his sexual orientation, some felt Alan's story was focused too much on controversy and not on Alan. As one friend said, the Blade story was missing a lot of Alan. Friends e-mailed and chatted on the phone informally, exchanged stories and photos. During this time period, I created the first draft of a Wikipedia article. I chose Wikipedia due to its open architecture and the relative ease of collaboration that is both its strength and weakness. The article was not on Wikipedia for a day when someone logging in from a Pentagon computer (... The IP address attached to the deletion of the details and the posted comments is Evidence indicates that the address belongs to a computer from the office of the Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence (G-2) at the Pentagon. The office is headed by Lt. Gen. John Kimmons, who was present at Rogers’ funeral and presented the flag from Rogers’ coffin to his cousin, Cathy Long. ...) removed mention of his sexual orientation from the Wikipedia article. If anyone has an "agenda" in all this, it is the U.S. Army. A second Blade article ran on the Wikipedia Army edit, and a third ran to report that the Army claims that they can't trace the edit (which is a bald faced lie in my humble opinion). I hope this helps fill in the story a bit. We love you and miss you Alan.