Wednesday, September 02, 2009

A Response to the Dinosaur

You might remember back in July, I wrote a post about Richard Hoover's letter to the Foreign Service Journal. In his letter, entitled Don't Encourage Them!, retired FSO Hoover, responding to a May 2009 "Speaking Out" column asking the Secretary to address inequities faced by LGBT Foreign Service families, said that the "sweeping shopping list will produce greater numbers of those whose habits are unacceptable to most American taxpayers, and perhaps more significantly, to the religions and cultures of most of the cultures in which we operate....In my view, the issue is not one of equality and fairness. The issue turns on what is fair for the Foreign Service, what best enables it to accomplish its mission.And that depends, in large part, on building relationships and projecting values."

Selim Ariturk has a response in the current Foreign Service Journal, which is unfortunately not yet available online. I received my copy in the mail yesterday. It is a well written response asking that the FSJ not publish such hate mail in the future. There is an editorial reply that they disagree that it is hate mail and that they routinely publish responses to features in the journal, such as the one Mr. Hoover was responding to. They added that their masthead states that letters do not neccessarily reflect the views of the Journal or its staff.

While I have no doubt that is true (I know members of the staff and am CERTAIN they disagree with Mr. Hoover), I also know they would not publish a similar letter about any other minority. Can you imagine, for example, that someone who had responded to the May 2009 column by saying, "Don't offer more benefits to encourage gays and lesbians to join. We already spend enough on all those Mormons who have joined, and we all know that most of the world objects to Mormonism." That could be true, much like many in the world object to gays and lesbians. We know that there are many places in the world where Mormonism, like homosexuality, is illegal. And even those who argue sexuality is a choice (it isn't) would also have to agree that religion too is a choice.

But that isn't what we are about. Discrimination is not one of OUR values, and part of why we serve overseas is to demonstrate OUR values, not absorb the values of others. So we send Mormons and LGBT folks to places where their very existence is a crime, because WE value diversity and freedom. We send women to places where women cannot drive, cannot vote, cannot be seen. Because WE value equality.

This is why I am proud to serve, and proud to serve as an out lesbian.

But to the point of the FSJ letter, had it been written discouraging more women or Mormons to join, it wouldn't have been printed. Because we know that kind of discrimination is wrong. The FSJ should recognize that this kind of discrimination against gays and lesbians is also wrong, and I don't want my dues to pay to print it. Especially not when I am still actively serving.

I am glad they published Selim's letter, which I hope to get a copy of for you soon. And I am glad dinosaurs like Hoover are part of our past and not our present. I hope the idea that we must publish letters calling for discrimination will soon be part of the Foreign Service Journal's past as well.

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