Abu Ghraib Revisited

May 17, 2004

To the Editor:

The abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib (“Pentagon Uses Gay Sex as Tool of Humiliation,” by Duncan Osborne, May 13-19), demonstrates the military culture of domination, dehumanization, and homophobia.

However there is something else it demonstrates which has not been highlighted: Misogyny. Forcing men to simulate sexual positions of submission and receptivity, wear women’s underwear, and threatening them with rape essentially turns men into “girls.” There is nothing worse in the culture of masculinity shared by these prisoners and their abusers than being feminized. As a woman, I find that terrifying and devastating.

Catherine Hodes


To the Editor:

David Thurston (“Declining Expulsions, Heightened Combat Seems to Keep Gay Troops in Iraq,” May 6-12) notes that it can be dangerous for gay and lesbian people to serve in our armed forces these days. That’s a polite way of saying that you can be murdered by your fellow soldiers as Barry Winchell was at Fort Campbell in 1999. Official homophobic hate was rampant there; quick-march cadence calls included blatant incitement to Winchell’s murder with rhyming references to killing faggots. Discrimination does not get any worse than that. The young American men and women solders who tortured Iraqi prisoners did not learn the art of homophobic humiliation at home on their farms in Iowa and Kansas; they were indoctrinated in such hateful discrimination during their training as American soldiers.

The discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender servicemembers does not stop when they leave active duty, however. There are over one million LGBT veterans alive in America today who have served our country since World War II. It is impossible for a gay or lesbian American veteran to get a VA Home Loan Guarantee by combining their eligible income with that of their life partner; you have to be married to do that. Some of our courageous servicemembers were given less than honorable discharges due solely to having been outed as gay; they are denied all veterans benefits including the right to medical benefits at VA hospitals. And, traditional veterans associations continue to discriminate blatantly against LGBT veterans while being ever so politically correct about other minorities.

On May 1, a national association of transgender veterans (TAVA) marched to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington D.C. On May 20-23 American Veterans for Equal Rights, a national LGBT veterans association, will have its annual convention in D.C., demanding an end to the discriminatory “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Our New York chapter of AVER is currently engaged in a campaign to have the New York City Council Committee on Veterans Affairs introduce a city resolution putting the city on record as demanding an end to the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the U.S. Armed Forces and hold public committee hearings to focus public attention on the issue.

Gay Americans have been honorably serving in our military ever since Alexander Hamilton, Freidrich Von Steuben, and their lovers served in the early days of our nation. It’s time we were openly recognized for our sacrifice and bravery along with all other American minorities.

Denny Meyer

President, American Veterans for Equal Rights NY

Crystal Out of the Closet

May 10, 2004

To the Editor:

I agree with Nathan Riley when he writes (“The Dangers of Demonizing Crystal,” May 6-12) that “there is no need to turn on crystal meth users.” But I continue to be confused as to why discussing the clear, clinically proven connection between crystal meth use and HIV transmission translates into “demonizing” users of crystal methamphetamine.

For years I have watched many members of our community participate in dangerous drug use and dangerous sexual practices within what can only be described as a textbook example of a classic bubble of denial: everyone knew it was happening, everyone saw the damage it was causing, many people understood the cause-and-effect relationship between the drugs and the sex, and no one was willing to say or do anything about it.

Maybe Peter Staley’s advertisement-cum-wake-up call will function to break down some of this denial, and lead our community organizations to offer services that actually prevent the spread of HIV—even if this means speaking openly about the dangers of even casual drug use. Yes, many people can use many drugs safely. But many people can’t. There’s nothing wrong, or demonizing, about telling the truth about that.

Andrew Miller


May 2, 2004

To the Editor:

I am curious – what was the editorial decision, indeed the objective, behind this article (“In Prison, But Voicing No Regrets,” by Duncan Osborne, April 29 – May 5)? Was it intended as some sort of human interest story?

Like any good industrious American, his crystal business apparently flourished to the point that he was grossing $50,000 per month, making him something more than just a drug dealer. He was in fact a drug trafficker, ultimately expanding to a coast-to-coast operation.

While your article does not specifically say so, I am assuming that the only reason Mr. Seifried decided to exit the crystal meth distribution business was because of his arrest, prosecution, and ultimate incarceration.

Indeed, sociopaths like Mr. Seifried can be utterly charming and fun to be around. Sort of like Tony Soprano, but with lighter loafers; lots of fun, lots of cash, but just don’t ask too many questions, and unless you’re a fool you don’t do business with him.

It’s Sunday afternoon as I write and I can just hear all of the warped, crystal-addled minds just beginning to crash from the weekend’s “partying”, reading this and somehow justifying themselves and their sordid decaying lives, “See? Bryant Seifried sees no problem with any of this. And he has such a cute dog, too!”

Bruce R. Swicker


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