Why I (Mostly) Support “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

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Photo Courtesy of U.S. Army/(Melvin Zais Photo Collection) - Public Domain

As a gay man, even a conservative one, you’d think I’d support repealing President Clinton’s (in)famous compromise on the ban against gays serving in the military, commonly known as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). Well, I don’t.

Don’t get me wrong. I know – for a fact – there are many gay men and women serving in the military today, and some of them do so relatively “openly.” I believe those men and women serve our country for the right reasons, putting love of freedom and patriotism over whatever personal politics they may (or may not) attach to their sexual orientations. And, if DADT were to be repealed, I think the military would still attract the very same kind of gay men and women: real Americans. But I can’t be sure.

The more time I spend talking and listening to men who have served in the armed forces, the more I become convinced that the current policy works well and shouldn’t be repealed, though I do support a modification (which I’ll explain later).

For instance, I found this post today at Hot Air. Now, the short article itself is of interest, particularly the accompanying video and links, but the real meat of the story lies in the comments.

I won’t point to any particular comment or commenter, but I suggest you read them through, if you have any interest in this issue at all. The comments range from the blatantly (and, frankly, grossly) homophobic, to the wildly leftist, “gay-loving”, propaganda pushing insanity that has many servicemen concerned. Most of the comments present fairly reasonable, if somewhat heated, arguments either for or against DADT.

There is a real fear that social dynamics in a military unit would significantly change if members were to serve openly. Some are afraid there might even be pride parades on base, though I think that’s a bit far-fetched. Some men (and, as far as I can tell, all the commenters are men) have served knowingly, and comfortably, with gay comrades, while others maintain a deep loathing of all homosexuals, and go so far to insist that anyone who doesn’t share that loathing must himself be a homosexual.

Do you see the problem?

It’s not necessarily the gay soldier threatening “unit cohesion,” but the feelings of other soldiers at the very idea of being forced to accept not only an alternative sexual orientation, but perhaps an entire political/moral agenda along with that orientation.

I’ve never served in the military myself, but I do know a thing or two about men and how they relate to one another. Excuse me if I’m overly blunt for a sentence or two, but I can’t discuss this issue without bringing actual sexuality into the conversation. I’ll attempt to be tasteful.

Men are highly sexual creatures, and that sexuality is very visually and physically oriented. Almost all pornographic images are made for men. Men are more likely to seek out casual sexual encounters, and to be aggressive in pursuing those encounters. Anyone who has spent time in the gay community knows this to be true. While not all gay men are promiscuous, or engage in what many might consider immoral behavior, a high percentage of them do. Straight men know this about gay men, because they know it about themselves.

Straight men, quite frankly, don’t want to be looked at by gay men when they’re naked the way they themselves would look at a naked woman.

Every gay man who has grown up in a small town understands this instinctively. Gay men who go to gyms that aren’t specifically gay naturally try to hide their sexual orientation – or most of them do. No one wants to make anyone uncomfortable. No one wants to be accused of improper behavior. And those that do are quickly shunned.

Men who live and work in such close quarters as military men often do form bonds based on their shared social structure. They need to be comfortable around each other. That’s not to say a gay man would necessarily throw off that delicate balance, but he certainly might, and if the more conservative fears about what type of gay man the military might attract after repealing DADT are true, one can hardly blame them. (Think JM J. Bullock in combat gear.)

I don’t buy for a second that a straight soldier would refuse to defend the life of a gay one. Our servicemen and women are honorable. They fight for all Americans, even the ones with whom they don’t see eye to eye. But I do see how even the discussion of such a “social experiment” within the rank and file causes consternation and debate. This could only intensify if the hypothetical situation becomes a reality.

There still remain wild misconceptions in American culture as to what, exactly, comprises the gay male. Partly, they are fueled by ignorance, but are largely due to the very liberal Hollywood machine that would like to see DADT repealed, and that constantly portrays gay men as limp-wristed, wildly leftist, weak spirited pansies. Disco dancing, overly sexed club goers who have no thoughts beyond their genitals, their toy dogs and their designer shoes.

This stereotype needs to change, but until the left – who controls Hollywood and the mass media – changes it, they have no one else to blame for its perpetuation.

Many of the gay men I know could, quite frankly, mop up the floor with most straight men, including many soldiers. I don’t mean that to be disrespectful to men in uniform; it’s just fact. I’ve seen it happen. And many of those men have served in the Armed Forces themselves, so it should be no wonder they are so well trained and capable.

Really, if I’m right, and the military would continue to attract the same sort of “straight passing” gay men that would seamlessly blend in with their heterosexual counterparts, why fix what isn’t broken?

I do understand the drawbacks of being in the closet. I know of soldiers who have had to go far beyond “don’t ask, don’t tell.” They’ve had to create fake lives, sometimes finding female friends to act as girlfriends or wives, in order to fool their otherwise unsuspecting fellow soldiers. It’s a tough life, but if one is serving for the right reasons, and understands the importance of the brotherhood male servicemen enjoy, it’s worth doing.

There are already exceptions to DADT. For example, it’s my understanding a soldier can’t be kicked out if his gay or bi orientation is discovered either through a medical examination or a background check for security clearance. I’d like to propose one more exception. In this case, a change. If a soldier serves honorably, and then is released from service for being gay, I think that soldier deserves the exact same benefits he would otherwise enjoy if he’d left the service under his own terms. I feel pretty strongly about this change, in fact.

Over time, the impression of male homosexuality will evolve. Society will come to understand there are all sorts of gay men, and sexual orientation will be less and less of an issue. However, as far as the military is concerned, that time has not yet come. And, when we are waging wars on two separate fronts, this is not the time to test a theory.

I understand I’ve largely left women out of my discussion. That is deliberate, only because I can’t claim to speak for women, and female sexuality (including how straight women and lesbians interact) isn’t nearly as well known to me as the male side of the issue.

Finally, I’d like to leave you with a very lighthearted expression of what some soldiers serving in Iraq “fear” if DADT were to actually be repealed.

2 Responses to “Why I (Mostly) Support “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell””
  1. Interesting perspective… I think you’re being honest about the situation. Many aren’t. Men are wired differently than women. Most straight men would die a thousand deaths if they knew the guy next to them in the shower was gay. It’s a delicate situation. I’ve heard some say, “have all gay units”. That’s not fair and will just make that unit fodder for the extreme homophobic idiots that reside in all parts of society – including the military.

    I think DADT is a good compromise. It may not be perfect, but life never is and government can’t make it so. I agree, though, if someone serves honorably, they deserve the same respect as any straight person. I think all of us have some aspect of our lives that we choose to keep on the down-low from time to time. As a Mormon, it would be bad for me to stand in a group of, say, Evangelical Christians and declare my “Mormon-ness”. They aren’t traditionally fond of my religious beliefs and I would get a variety of reactions from “Whatever”, to “you’re going to Hell”. But, I might stand there and talk to them about Christianity in general as “common ground” with them. If they found out later that I’m LDS, hopefully it won’t matter because they will know me by then.

    My doctor is a Lesbian and I love her to death. It’s funny because I didn’t want to go to a male doctor. I chose her not knowing her orientation. I get a good laugh out of it but keep going. Is she any different than a male doctor? LOL

    • chrisisright says:

      That’s an excellent perspective and comparison. I’ve gone round and round on this issue for years, but it’s really the consternation among servicemen that settled me on my current stance.

      I see military service as markedly different than any other job. If someone is serving for the right reasons, their sexuality shouldn’t be an issue. Someday, it truly won’t be, but until that time, DADT is the best solution I’ve heard to date.

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