Lesbian Reservist torn between private and military commitments
GAYS AND THE WAR: PART 2 By
SHERI COHEN DARBONNE
"Basically, I excuse the ignorance of the
military in order to be able to serve my
Reflecting on the anti-gay policies of
the U.S. Armed Forces, Capt. Lauren
Garza (not her real name) wavered a little in her otherwise forcefully delivered,
wrenchingly patriotic commentary. As a
committed officer in the U.S. Army Reserves, Garza wants to be involved with
the Allied war effort in the Persian Gulf,
a desire she tried to explain as concisely
as possible—in true military style—on
Monday, as the world tried to analyze
the chances of an impending, devastating ground war
As a gay woman who recently validated her committed relationship with another woman in a holy union ceremony,
however, she realizes there are other concerns. Garza, known to friends as a
workaholic in her career, church and volunteer activities, is also now in training
for a new job, and is still balancing numerous involvements with gay and lesbian community events.
Nevertheless, she said, "If I were single, I would go in an instant."
Deeply spiritual, she said she has
prayed long hours about the conflict going on in her own mind.
"I'd say the only reason I haven't already (volunteered) is because of my lov-
erT she said. "I've made a commitment to
her for the rest of my life...it wouldn't be
fair to put my life on the line without considering her wishes," she said. While her
partner supports her and "does her beBt
to understand" her way of thinking,
Garza said she has so far respected the
wishes of her lover, choosing to let her decision on active duty wait.
Time to decide is a luxury of her highly-specialized unit, which will not itself
deploy. Garza's unit has a high-ranked
structure—less than ten percent enlisted
personnel. The rest are officers—intensely trained experts— many of whom have
been called up individually.
"I know I could be called up at any
time," Garza said. "If there is a ground
conflict...I think my chances of being
called would be much greater I have told
my commanding officer that I don't want
to be used as 'filler' (in a domestic base).
If I'm going to give up my job and everything else I have here, I want to go to the
"...My friends at church say they are
praying for me not to have to go. What I
believe is that if God wants me to go, I
will...if not, then I won't," she continued.
Garza does not hesitate in stating her
Capt. Lauren Garza (right) has been struggling to balance her love for her partner, her
country and her community in her personal decisions under the pressure of the Middle
East War. (The photo, taken in Honduras in 1985, shows her inspecting the Military Police
shift supervisor prior to her platoon going on duty)
belief that America's posture in the Middle East conflict is necessary and correct.
She is unflinching in defending the war
effort as part of a larger picture that will,
ironically, lead to greater chances of
world peace. Garza sees the U.S. military
as a guardian force whose abilities help
to preserve that fragile peace.
"In training, if we become the bestthat
we can be...that helps to assure world
peace," she said.
"I see victory (of Allied forces) as a step
toward peace. I think it would make other leaders in the future think twice before
doing what Saddam has done. It's unfortunate that it has to happen this way...I
don't pray for war I pray for peace, always.
"...Saddam Hussein is despicable.
What he has done to his own people, and
to those around him, is inexcusable.
Something had to be done to let (other
leaders) know that he would not be allowed to get away with it."
Garza said her background—she came
to the United States from Cuba as a political refugee—is partly responsible for her
deep patriotism. "I love this county. I
think perhaps I take less for granted
(about the U.S.)," she said.
She also loves the military, a way of life
for her for over a decade. Entering the Reserves out of college, Garza spent four
years on active duty. Counting ROTC,
she says proudly, "I have spent 12 years
serving my country."
Garza added that she has many gay
friends already serving in the Gulf.
Her views are not exactly the norm in
the national gay and lesbian community,
whose organizational leaders, including
the National Gay and Lesbian task
Force, have stated opposition to the war.
Gays and AIDS activists, fueled by the
war effort's devastation of U.S. domestic
programs through loss of funding and
leadership, have hitched gay causes to
the peace movement. Gays participated
in recent demonstrations against the
war in Houston, Washington, D.C., and
San Francisco—including Garza's own
brother, a San Francisco resident.
"My gay brother and I are complete
opposites, in our lifestyle and beliefs,"
she said. "My brother has, in fact, been
very active in the anti-war demonstrations in San Francisco. I think this just
shows that we (gays and lesbians) are really a very diverse community.
"I think the people who areinvolved in
(the demonstrations) are a very important part of the process. I think what
they're doing is right and necessary...they provide a balance, we need to
see both the pro and con. And if there is a
possibility of peace, without having to
go into a ground battle...perhaps this objective can be helped by (the pacifists')
efforts," she added.
Although it is not enough to weaken
her pride in her country and lifestyle,
Garza feels strongly about the U.S. military's homophobic policy of excluding
gays and lesbians, which she says many
commanding officers now choose wisely
to "quietly ignore." So strong are these
mixed feelings, she said, that Garza has
made plans to take her "next step in coming out"—by risking the very thing she
Although she asked that her real
name not be used in this article, Garza
agreed to include a photo that shows her
profile. And, in what she calls her biggest "coming out" move yet, Garza said
she decided to be photographed— in full
uniform—for the Houston Gay/Lesbian
Pride Week 1991 "Take Pride Pos1f■r'■
"This is a very big risk for me," she
said. "I have ten years left to military retirement. If the military sees (the picture
on the poster), and decides to act on it, I
could lose everything. However, if it does
happen, I will fight.
"I read about the poster about three
weeks ago, and decided to be on it about a
week later!' The reason? She believes her
actions will better the chances of reversing the anti-gay and lesbian policy, and
will inspire other gays in the military. "I
think it will help others who are serving,
to see someone who is willing to take a
step for them. Sometimes, you have to be
willing to accept the possible losses to
take a stand," she said.
Lesbian and gay group's UN bid delayed until 1993
For the first time in the history of the
United Nations, gay and lesbian international activists have lobbied for official
recognition and inclusion in the United
Nations. But officials with the International Lesbian and Gay Association
(ILGA), which submitted the application
for recognition last year and testified last
week at the U.N., say their bid for recognition has been postponed until 1993 by
delegates who were unable to reach an
ILGA, which represents gay and lesbian groups throughout the world, is seeking consultant status with the Economic
and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the
U.N., which oversees, among other
things human rights issues. Consultant
status means ILGA would be able to intervene in human rights issues at the
U.N. ILGA officials testified before the
ECOSOC Committee on Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs).
"We're very pleased at the amount of
support we received from African, European and Latin American delegates, particularly unsolicited and highly positive
comments by Ethiopia," said Lisa Power,
ILGA secretary general. "We're disappointed we did not get in, but not surprised. The deferral was due to religious
beliefs and was no reflection on our suitability—we are clearly eligible and have
much to offer the U-N."
The countries on the NGO committee
include the Philippines, Sweden, Libya,
Lesotho, Nicaragua, Oman, Sudan,
USSR, Costa Rica, Cyprus, France,
Ethiopia, Burundi, Ireland, Greece and
Iraq. Decisions of the committee are
made by consensus, not majority vote. A
majority of countries supported ILGA.
However, the ambassador from Libya,
Abdussalam Derguwa, called ILGA a
"sexually immoral" organization and
said homosexuality is "contrary to the
law of life" and "not in line with our religious morals." He then quoted from the
Koran before saying that "studies and
research have shown that their sexually
immoral practices have led to the spread
of AIDS," and that IGLA "will in no way
contribute to the work of the U.N." Libya
said it would oppose the application now
and again in 1993. Oman also opposed
the application, and the Philippine delegate, Ernastina Kodikara, said she was
"not at home with this."
An unexpected supporter of the bid
was Ethiopia. Heile Mariam Goshu
strongly advocated acceptance of ILGA
into the U.N., saying, "We are not making moral or value judgments. We must
face facts whether we like it or not—they
(gays and lesbians) are a minority of
thousands or even millions." He also
spoke of ILGA's work on AIDS and other
Costa Rica also supported ILGA, say
ing, "This organization has great
merits." Sweden stated that ILGA is
"clearly in the framework" of Paragraph
1296 of the ECOSOC mandate, which
"calls for the discussion of legal and social problems of sexual minorities."
Representing ILGA were Power and
John Clark, secretaries general of the organization; Susan Allee, ILGA's U.S. attorney and member of the board of directors of the National Gay and Lesbian
Task Force (NGLTF); and Michael
Weltmann and Dr. Harold Kooden of the
N.Y. Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center.
ILGA will continue to lobby the U.N.
for inclusion, and will discuss the issue at
its 1991 International Conference in
Guadelajara, Mexico, June 30-July 6. In
the meantime, ILGA officials said theor-
ganization will cement relationships
with the supportive delegates and work
to "enlighten the delegates who cannot
see the need for gay and lesbian rights.''