|“Simply because you’re near me, I’m in the mood for love!” Credit.|
This is my rifle, this is my gun;
One is for fighting, one is for fun.
– The Rifleman’s Creed, 1941
Want to know whether repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is good policy? Why listen to the generals or the Secretary of Defense? Go ask an expert — an 18 year-old boy in South Carolina.
In today’s Grey Lady, James Dao goes to Jacksonville, South Carolina to do just that. Although a few young soldiers offered indifferent or positive responses to the question, “Would you want to share a foxhole with one?” (another version of, “Would you want your daughter to marry one?”) others are worried. Among the memorable quotes are:
From an 18 year-old soldier who says he is socially comfortable with gays: “They won’t hold up well in combat.”
From a 22 year-old soldier who has served a tour in Afghanistan: “Coming from a combat unit, I know that in Afghanistan we’re packed in a sardine can….There’s no doubt in my mind that openly gay Marines can serve, it’s just different in a combat unit. Maybe they should just take the same route they take with females and stick them [in] noncombat units.”
From a 19 year-old soldier who is happy to serve in combat with gay men: “Showers will be awkward.”
From an 18 year-old soldier: “Being gay means you are kind of girly. The Marines are, you know, macho.” Ain’t that the truth, Ruth: especially macho are the Marines who are already playing Seven Minutes in Heaven with each other at off-base parties. That’s what makes it so sexy.
Part of what I find amusing about this, and perversely cute, is the absolute certainty of many young men that they are infinitely and universally attractive; and that they spark desires in others that cannot be reined in. In this scenario, gay male soldiers are simply an addition to the already substantial female population that thinks they are hot, hot, hot.
Anyone who is a college teacher knows that there is a substantial population of athletes (and guys who look like athletes but are too lazy to go out for a team) who, once the weather warms up, spend hours in prominent campus locations, stripped to the waist, six packs a-rippling, playing wiffle ball or some other pseudo-sport. Why? Because they know they look so good and they are dying to share it. Oh yeah, this has a dark side too, but at its most benign, it is a core feature of a certain kind of masculinity.
And don’t you think it’s interesting that Dao interviewed no women for this article? What do you think that was about? Enquiring minds want to know.
Interviewing worried straight people is not, however, a good data set to base a transition to the post-DADT military on. So here are some positive steps I would like to forward to Secretary Gates.
In each service, pick out an all-gay platoon, an all-straight platoon, and a mixed gay/straight platoon. Send them all to Ranger School and see how many in each platoon come back with Ranger tabs. The platoon that comes back with the most soldiers in tabs wins. I’m putting my money on the gays: we are incredible overachievers.
Put lesbians in combat. If gay men are girly, it is another well-known fact that lesbians are mannish, right? I’m thinking while we are waiting for the gay guys to man up in non-combat related jobs, we can fill in the gaps with lesbians who are definitely not going to sexually abuse men in those tight little foxholes. Think Joan of Arc. Furthermore, after a tour with some super-star dykes, I guarantee some of these straight men will be combing the ranks for gay soldiers who won’t be kicking their a$$es nonstop.
Gently break it to the straight boys that it seems to be them who are “looking” in the shower. I mean, how do they know that anyone is looking in the shower, or become experts about what is behind the look? I rest my case. Boys will be boys. They always look at each other, when they are not looking at themselves.
Gay men are not women. I’m just saying. And by the way– what if they were? Lose the sexism before some female Marine comes along to kick your a$$.
Young men are in a constant state of arousal no matter what. This is simply a fact. If you see a guy walking past you with an erection, don’t take it personally. Look to your own short arm and make sure it’s in its holster.
Any erection that arrives while the body attached to it is under fire, or about to be under fire, is likely to be a source of mirth rather than a threat to the sexual safety of others. I mean, seriously.
Homosex and heterosex are not actual differences. It is a fiction that straights and gays are actually different kinds of people. Furthermore, there is no difference between what men and men; men and women; and women and women do in bed, and there is no difference between homosexual and heterosexual desire that wasn’t invented by some doctor, psychiatrist or cleric. It’s all sex, there are appropriate and inappropriate venues for having sex, and people agree and disagree about what they are regardless of whether they are bent homo or bent hetero.
Military people are overwhelmingly religious. Make a list of the crazy $hit that folks say about GLBT people, hand it out to all the chaplains, and get them to work with homophobic soldiers on it. While you are at it, get the chaplains to stop saying crazy $hit about gay and lesbian people as if it were actually coming straight from God. Jesus would serve happily with a gay man. I am absolutely certain of this (and come to think of it, Jesus looks a little girly in most pictures.) But on a more practical note, since one of my closest kindred spirits is a Christian conservative straight woman (whose son is on the brink of deploying) I would say that one of the finest features of our friendship is that although we have differences on some core issues, we don’t say the kind of crazy $hit to each other that is the lingua franca of our different constituencies. This, in turn, I would like to think, promotes genuine tolerance (as opposed to the fake-y hypocritical tolerance) in both of us towards the attitudes represented by other. This form of tolerance then becomes a bridge to sympathetic understanding, transformation, respect and deep friendship.
And now, to reinforce distinctions that are already well-known to any grunt who has gone through basic training, a performance of the Rifleman’s Creed from Full Metal Jacket (1987).