Monday, December 20, 2010

This Is My Weapon, This Is My Gun: A Gay Primer For Worried Straights In The Military

"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).


Anonymous said...

Er, TR, the point of the Parris Island ritual that you illustrate with your film clip was to keep recruits from calling their rifle a "gun", the point being that a rifle has rifling inside to spin the bullet, while a gun (such as a shotgun or the equipment being clutched in the film clip) is (hopefully at least) smoothbore.

And if you want to find out the military reaction to abolishing "don't ask don't tell", it seems reasonable to ask the troops who will be affected rather than their esteemed leaders (though I understand that the Commandant of the Marine Corps was against abolishing this policy).


Susan said...

Thank you for commenting on this. I read that article this morning and was horrified by both the quotes and the methodology employed by the reporter. I hope the NYT sees your review; their editors should take note.

Tenured Radical said...

Jack: That isn't the only point, and you know it! Anyway, doesn't the other item have rifling too :-)?

No, actually, I would ask the gunnies and staff sergeants, actually, since they are the ones who know what is going on at the level of every platoon and make things happen when they are supposed to happen. The military doesn't care about any other opinion that the newest enlisted men have -- why ask them about this?

Anonymous said...

Actually, TR, that is the point (or was when I went thru PI, anyway). Just like with historians, the Marines teach you an esoteric language to distinguish you from "sorry-assed civilians"). This includes not referring to your rifle as a "gun", which is what a despised civilian would do. As for rifling of that other object -- not on the inside, at least not unless one has a dread disease!

Finally, in this case it was a reporter that was asking questions, not a military commander.

By the way, if you actually watched "Full Metal Jacket" I am sure you detected an amazing amount of homophobia among these folks. I am pretty sure that that is still in place. I, for one, would definitely forego the honor of being in the Marine Corps, were I gay. But that's just me, and some Marines love danger! (And yes, there have always been gay folks in the Marines -- as with the priesthood, there is a fascination with costume and ritual--but in my experience anyway they kept a very low profile.)


Anonymous said...

interestingly, it's not appropriate to refer to one's penis as a gun, since the bore isn't straight. Near the opening, it shrinks, then widens, then shrinks again. This is a way to build up pressure and ensure that the ejaculate will come out straight and fast. There are some muzzleloaded weapons with a similar feature, but they're not much used anymore as they have a tendency to explode if not loaded correctly.

the more you know!

Tenured Radical said...

As I understand it, penises can also explode if not loaded correctly.

JoVE said...

or, if you really wanted to know what would happen you could ask your military colleagues in a country that allows openly gay and lesbian people to serve. Hell, up here, gays and lesbians can even get married by a military chaplain on base but that might be a step too far for our neighbours to the south.

Tenured Radical said...

The Republic would fall.

Neil Gussman said...

TR--I deployed to Iraq last year, returning in January. I first enlisted in 1972 and had a 25 year break before going back in and going to Iraq. The big difference between the 70s and now is that the homophobic jokes were the random bad jokes of 20 yr olds, when I returned in 2007, nearly all the jokes had a DADT riff. It will be interesting to see what happens after Wedenesday.

Comrade PhysioProf said...

there is a fascination with costume and ritual

Yeah, those fucken fagges are always running around in totally faggey-asse costumes and performing faggity-fagge rituals like some fucken jap tea ceremony shitte. I saw it in a movie that one time, so it must be true! And that's why those fucken fagges wanna join the Marines, suffer like fucken dogges for years, and have a great chance of being killed in combat. It's totally cause they wanna wear those faggity-asse Marine costumes and prance around in formations and do rituals like hundreds of fucken push-uppes and shitte like that.

Anonymous said...

Really good post TR, thanks.

The clip & some of the comments leave me wondering how in the world they teach women the difference between "rifle" and "gun." Not that the notion of hyper-masculinity and overt sexualization of military culture is all that new, really, but geez. Without the "equipment" to grasp and strut around with, how would a poor gal ever learn the difference between the two? Maybe THAT'S why women still aren't allowed to hold certain roles in some branches of the armed services.

Anonymous said...

Cpp, like Animal said in Full Metal jacket, you talk the talk but can you walk the walk? I don't theenk so!


Tenured Radical said...

Not so, Jack. I saw the guy in downtown Shoreline with a knife in his teeth, looking for cover. He's one scary d00d in search of justice.

Token Straight Breeder said...

This is 2010.
Aren't guys who can't tell the difference between a penis and a weapon called "rapists"?

GlassPen said...

I know a guy who served as a Marine in Gulf War I. He's plenty tough, used to run the Marine Corps marathons, etc. He also has a major thing for Miss of his current hobbies is having himself photographed wearing a Miss Universe sash and tiara in various locations. He told me once that, to stay awake on guard duty, he used to mentally review the annual winners of the Miss Universe pageant. I doubt he learend that technique at Parris Island.

Latest wrinkle: some idiot (need I say Republican) legislator is planning to introduce a bill to prohibit the state from inducting gays and lesbians into the Virginia National Guard. Some of his colleagues are already calling him out for wasting the leg's time (is that even possible?), but with Ken Cuckoo-nelli as top lawman, it guarantees a longer silly season on this issue.

Dyke Marine said...

Geez, maybe those straight male soldiers can stop sexually harassing female soldiers..that would be a good start.

And, how about an all lesbian marine unit sent in to go after those female hating male taliban...
We'd kick some serious patriarchal butt that's for sure!

I'd love to see all lesbian armies, police forces... making cities and the world safe for women everywhere.

What straight men fear is that gay men will do to them what they do to all women. Projection is the word for it I believe.

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