Between Policy and Reality There Falls The Shadow
by Belinda Dronkers-Laureta on May 11th, 2016

Keeping Families Together

The Asian And Pacific Islander Family Pride Blog

April 6, 2012

Between Policy and Reality There Falls The Shadow


A Dark Example

We caught this story from Instinct Magazine about a drill sergeant who is virulently homophobic. It happened in Fort Benning, Georgia. A gay soldier was mercilessly and brutally harassed: called in front of his platoon and screamed at: “Are you a f*gg*t?”, physically attacked: choked, rocks thrown, fired at with blanks, and asked to out the platoon’s other gays. Finally, other platoon members had had enough. Five straight soldiers “came out” to the sergeant who promptly began harassing them. The five complained to the company commander, who went to the base’s person in charge of all basic training, who, in turn, “de-hatted” and threw the homophobic sergeant in jail (Army drill instructors wear a distinctive campaign hat). The Army’s Criminal Investigation Command is involved and there will be a trial.

A Good Example

This next story is from the Huffington Post. Joseph Amodeo resigned from the junior board of New York’s Catholic Charities. The Catholic Charities Junior Board is a group of professionals in their 20s and 30s interested in taking an active role in assisting New Yorkers in need. Amodeo said he had enough of Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s attitude. What attitude? Seems that the cardinal refuses to help homeless youth who are gay. The conflict started when Carl Siciliano, founder of the Ali Forney Center, a nonprofit offering emergency services to homeless LGBT children, wrote a letter to Cardinal Dolan. In it, Siciliano wrote that the cardinal’s harsh anti-gay message caused parents to turn against their gay children and turn them out into the streets to fend for themselves. The cardinal responded: “For you to make the allegations and insinuations you do in your letter based on my adherence to the clear teachings of the Church is not only unfair and unjust, but inflammatory. Neither I nor anyone in the Church would ever tolerate hatred of or prejudice towards any of the Lord’s children.” This response made Amodeo, a gay catholic man, resign.

About That Shadow

Why these two stories? Because we want to use them as examples for a more specific topic, namely, the difference between policy and reality. A policy is a general statement of intent, a stated principle, something to strive for. It is not what actually happens.

The Army (and the rest of the armed forces) repealed their Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. This means that the Army can no longer discriminate against openly LGB soldiers (transgender people in the military are excluded from protection and can be harassed without recourse). Yet, here is a sergeant, a four time Afghanistan tour of duty hero, who totally ignores the policy and does harm.

The Catholic Church has a policy stating that to be an LGBT person is against the teachings of Christ. Yet here is a gay catholic young professional militating against that policy. Amodeo wrote: “As someone who believes in the message of love enshrined in the teachings of Christ, I find it disheartening that a man of God would refuse to extend a pastoral arm to such youths.”

The Road Ahead

Establishing policy and passing laws are necessary steps in the fight to gain acceptance and respect for LGBT persons, but they are not sufficient. Individuals implement policies and laws. When you hear activists say: “We have to change hearts and minds,” that is what they are talking about. Changing individual hearts and minds is where the action is.

Belinda and John Dronkers-Laureta are board members of Asian & Pacific Islander Family Pride


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