Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Don't Ask, Don't Tell, Don't Peek, Don't Stare, Don't Touch, Don't Think.....

As I surmised, the content to my post of yesterday regarding what it is I believe and don't believe triggered a veritable avalanche of comments from our board contrarians, several of which shall spawn over the next few days additional posts.

For this one, we'll talk about the issue of gays in the military. When I was stated to be someone who would "let-gays-in-the-military", my response was as follows:

I am in favor of the general idea of this, although how it's to be implemented will be an absolute bitch. You can separate heterosexual males and females, but what do you do with gay men and women? If I were straight, I'd have questions about ogling in the showers (although I consider that an ironic reversal for male chauvinism) if gay men were mixed with straight men -- and putting gay men in the same barracks is like putting together straight men and straight women. Someone has to come up with a good answer before we can really push this as such.

The reaction, of course, was swift and pointed.

Oh, one more thing about the gays in the military:

Are you saying that straight soldiers are incapable of following orders to treat gay soldiers with respect, or are you saying that gay soldiers are incapable of obeying the rules about fraternization?

What a low opinion of our men and women in uniform you must have.

Next one:

On gays in the military: I think it's odd for those who trumpet their support of our military and its prowess to doubt the ability of its soldiers to deal with open gays in their midst. This attitude also betrays a parochialism peculiar to the US in that it ignores the experience of the militaries in other countries.

The question I would ask is simply this: does the fact that US armed forces choose to separate male and female living quarters whenever possible mean that male soldiers are incapable of treating female soldiers with respect, or that female soldiers are incapable of obeying the rules about fraternization?

In both cases, I would say certainly not; what it means is that the armed forces are aware of the logical point that, while one may certainly be able to resist temptation to violate practices and rules, it makes sense to limit it as much as possible if it can be done.

What makes the situation an "absolute bitch", as I put it, is that previously, there was only one issue with which you had to deal -- gender. Separate the two genders, and you minimized the problem of virile people being tempted into non-military-spec behavior. With glbts, though, it now becomes TWO issues -- gender AND the gender to which one is attracted. You can still separate men and women, but you now have to consider that you have men who are attracted to other men and women who are attracted to other women.

At many points, that doesn't make any difference whatsoever. Gay men and women are theoretically no different in terms of physical or mental capacity or trainability than their heterosexual gender counterparts. Despite the fact that they ain't straight, it doesn't seem to affect their ability to shoot that way. On the battlefield, on the training ground, in the tactics room, there's no difference on the basis of sexual orientation -- just like at any other workplace.

However, unlike the vast majority of employers, in the military, you shower, sleep, eat, and live your life in the presence of your coworkers. While it's nice to focus only on the workplace aspects of the military, it is an inescapable fact that communal living is part of it, and the solution to that is what ultimately will determine the success or failure of integrating gays into the US armed forces.

This is, to be kind, an area that seems to be completely ignored by gay activists and produces a roaring double standard in the process. If we were to tell a woman she would have to live in an environment of minimal privacy with men, strip in front of them, and shower in front of them, and then, if she felt uncomfortable, say her concerns are unwarranted since none of the men were attracted to her and that she needs to be more accepting of differences, the words "massive sexual harassment lawsuit" would not begin to cover the scope of what that would create. It wouldn't be the first time the military has been sued (and lost) for it, either. However, when it comes to putting a straight man in with a gay man or a straight woman in with a lesbian, what do we do? Tell them their concerns are unwarranted and that they need to be more accepting of differences.

Making this more difficult, sticking gay people together fixes the issue of making straight people uncomfortable, but it runs full bore into the other reason we don't stick straight men and women together -- the temptation of fraternization and the potential effects of unit cohesion. Sure, there are rules against it, but, in the words of Martin Luther when describing priests and their housekeepers, why should we stick fire next to straw and not expect it to burn?

I don't have an answer to this. I wish I did, because polls show a majority of Americans think gays should be allowed to serve in the military; however, there are inescapable issues with communal housing and rules about sexual harassment as they are. I don't think it's possible to get rid of communal housing; however, perhaps it's time we simply say that one of the issues of being in the military is having to deal with uncomfortable situations and limit sexual harassment to overt acts.

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