By Jeff Girod
You can be a gay private, but you don’t have to be gay in private. That’s according to the U.S. Senate, which voted last week to repeal the long standing “Don’t ask, don’t tell” military policy which requires gays serving in the military to keep their sexual orientation a secret.
“Don’t ask, don’t tell” has been policy of the military since it was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993. Don’t ask, don’t tell? It sounds like the most confusing game of Red Light, Green Light ever. “Don’t Ask! . . . Don’t Tell!” Wait. Which command is the one where I’m supposed to run forward and which is the one where I don’t tell you who I want to see naked?
Believe it or not, at one point “Don’t ask, don’t tell” was considered a groundbreaking achievement. Imagine that: After more than two centuries of America’s independence, a gay person could finally risk life and limb—literally getting shot to death in defense of his or her country—as long as they didn’t slip up and “tell” someone who they preferred to kiss during a game of Spin the Bottle.
What a proud moment that must have been in 1993: You could be a Navy Seal/Top Gun/Special Forces commando, the top 0.1 percent, best of the very best. You could parachute out a of cargo plane in the dead of night, survive for weeks in desert heat or frigid cold, stalk your prey like a phantom and expertly kill with your bare hands in 20 different undetectable ways. But the minute you “ask” or “told” someone you were gay? Bzzt! Sorry. Kicked out or court-martialed. You can’t be gay in the U.S. military, solider. It’s a no-gay zone. It’s practically written on the sides of the fighter jets (next to the other frilly decorative insignias).
I mean, sure, estimates are that roughly 4 to 10 percent of all human beings are gay and that presently there are 3 million soldiers serving actively or as reservists. But are any of those proud soldiers homosexual? Of course not! Just as “In the Navy”—the 1979 hit song by The Village People—is really just a completely asexual patriotic tribute by a motorcycle cop, a construction worker an Indian chief and a cowboy.
The Senate can pass all the legislation it wants, but I have several gay friends and none are rushing to enlist. The Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines are filled with brave men and women. But, with all due respect, soldiers are not typically the most, ahem, “accepting” of people. It’s essentially a football locker room with grenades and camouflage.
There are no openly gay players in the NFL, NBA or Major League Baseball, and I’m betting it will remain the same in the military. With or without the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” gays are not suddenly going to come out. If they are career-minded military, they’ll keep their mouths shut and play the game. It doesn’t make it right, but it’s probably not worth the hassle, particularly when you’ve got bigger worries, like whether or not you’re walking into a Taliban ambush.
I’ve never been in the military, per se, but as a rule I try not to go places where people are shooting at me or things are exploding. But if I was in a situation where someone was aiming a surface-to-air missile at me, the last thing on my mind would be which members of my platoon were “on the market.”
At that point, homophobia should take a backseat to survival. No one cares about who’s staring at whose ass when everyone is just trying to keep theirs attached to the rest of their body.
At the very least, the repeal of “Don’t ask, don’t tell” is a small step toward erasing an embarrassing chapter in our nation’s history, as deplorable as slavery, “separate but equal” and acid wash jeans. Anyone who serves in the military is a hero, regardless of sexual orientation, and whom you are attracted to shouldn’t disqualify you from serving your country.
More importantly, I think we’re all a little gay for the Village People. Get those hands up! “It’s fun to stay at the Y-M-C-A . . .”
Contact Jeff Girod at email@example.com.