Friday, September 12, 2014

Soldier of Change - Non-fiction Book Review

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Between 1993 when Don't Ask, Don't Tell was introduced and 2011 when it was repealed, 13,000 U.S. soldiers were discharged because of the policy. (Of course, the number of DADT discharges dropped after 9/11 because, well, it doesn't matter your sexual orientation during wartime.)

One soldier serving during the long era of DADT was Stephen Hill (now Stephen Snyder-Hill). Stephen was a closeted gay soldier wanting to fight for his country, struggling to understand his identity, and fearful of losing his job simply because of his sexual orientation. Soldier of Change: From the Closet to the Forefront of the Gay Rights Movement tells Stephen's story of confused young adult to public gay right advocate.

You might have heard of him if you were watching primary debates in 2011 or if you've watched the third episode of The Newsroom. He was the gay soldier who, while serving in Iraq in 2011, submitted a video question to the Republican presidential candidates at a primary debate asking them if they would reinstate DADT if elected president.

The audience booed him.

(And then Rick Santorum answered that sex doesn't belong in the military even though the question was not about gay soldiers wanting to have sex but rather wanting equal spousal benefits and to not be discharged based on sexual orientation, but why don't you take that answer to all the female soldiers who have been raped by their fellow male soldiers. No sex in the military, indeed.)

Stephen's story is an inspiring one both for gay people (soldiers and civilians) and those who support the cause. Gay rights has made progress, but there is still more to be done.

Because I read an advance review copy, I'm not allowed to directly quote anything from the book, but I'd like to share some paraphrased points the book makes:

1. So many people use religion as the basis of why they don't support gay marriage, but what about when Jesus said IN THE BIBLE to "love your neighbor as yourself"? Along those same lines, if the concern is over preserving the ideal of Christian marriage, then how come atheists are allowed to marry?

2. People in this country seem to forget about history. Once upon a time, the military was racially segregated. Yep. Black people weren't allowed to serve alongside white soldiers. It's the same issue today but the persecuted group has changed.

I'd also like to leave you with two pieces of food for thought. First, words from the Declaration of Independence: All men are endowed with "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness ... whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it".

Also, remember who else persecuted gay people: Nazis.

Soldier of Change is published by Potomac Books and is available to purchase now. I received a free advance review copy at Book Expo America with no obligation to review.

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