In an article published today, the Times reports that “a majority of the public support allowing openly gay men and women to serve in the military.” In the very next sentence, they go on to say that, “there’s less support, however, for allowing homosexuals to serve openly.”
It’s quite simple, actually. The author goes on to explain that of the 1084 Americans polled on the topic of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT), half were asked if “gay men and lesbians” should be allowed to serve in the armed forces, and if so, whether they should be allowed to serve openly. The other 542 were instead asked the same questions about “homosexuals.”
Not surprisingly, fewer Americans support the repeal of DADT when it’s presented in terms of homosexuality, a long outmoded clinical term that is historically significant for its classification as a psychological disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as recently as the 1970’s. To be more exact, the NY Times/CBS News Poll referenced in the article found that approximately 70% of Americans are in favor of allowing gay men and lesbians to serve, with about 60% in favor of allowing them to be open about their sexuality. In contrast, only about 59% of Americans are in favor of allowing “homosexuals” to serve, and in that case only around 43% support their right to serve openly.
In addition to emphasizing yet again one of the many reasons that many people who identify as LGBTQ take offense when stuck with the label ‘homosexual,’ this short article brings to mind the wise words of Mark Twain. In his autobiography, he wrote: “Figures often beguile me, particularly when I have the arranging of them myself; in which case the remark attributed to [19th Century British Prime Minister Benjamin] Disraeli would often apply with justice and force: ‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.'”