|by Charlie McGrath|
It's a dream assignment. I have been on this remote Air Force base in Hawaii for the last six months, a single male sleeping with a barracks full of women. The gals have been such good sports. We have to share the same open shower, and they always have a lot of laughs at my excitement, and are so open and casual about sharing everything! My tech specialty was difficult to fill and the Air Force said I might have to endure this assignment for another year!
Don't I wish? Reality at age 19 was running around the induction center in NYC with a bunch of other naked guys, all of us playing matador with a tiny white towel, trying to ward off a bunch of leering men in white coats. Then there were the private interviews with even weirder old men who managed to give most of us some snickers with their stupid "queer" questions.
Reality sex was even sillier. Memories of basic training at the half-way-mark and we are in formation outside the barracks, slicked out for our first pass into San Antonio. The NCOs are walking in the ranks hawking their wares, "get your rubbers, and don't forget your pro-kit, take two at least, those gals are hot." This did add a different swagger to one's step, but for the vast majority the rubbers stayed in our pockets to be fondled in fantasy when we needed to feel like "real men." Real sex was alone under the covers late at night trying to keep the bedsprings quiet. After basic it might get better simply because of increased opportunity. For me, there was a dream of becoming a priest that was accompanied by a period of celibacy. Five "wet dreams" in a week got me back to the real world.
So what's my purpose? Steve Elkins, Letters editor, has been open to my sharing for some time. I am the one who has been playing chicken. My hope is that another view of the, "don't ask, don"t tell" policy relating to gays in the military will create a productive dialog between the gay and straight community. I am sure of a gay audience and feedback. The view from the straight community may not be as forthcoming.
It will not be productive to review the political history except to point out that the courts have ruled in favor of the present policy and rejected the view that it is a denial of free speech. Militant gays see the issue of free speech while to their counterparts in the straight community the issue plays to their fears of free sex. The issue lies somewhere between, but will not be solved by shouting across the divide. We need to appeal to that mature audience of Americans on both sides of this divide. Those champions of human rights, who have stepped forward before.
Homophobia makes what's normal into a sickness. It is a belief that is rampant in this country so it's understandable why the gay community and their friends in the media would be reluctant to bring up a point of view that might fuel this homophobia. But the avoidance of the truth actually does a disservice to the young gay male (certain of his sexual orientation) who may be considering military service. The "don't ask, don't tell" policy is not going to work for the average gay enlisted man in almost any branch of the military. Admittedly gay men love to be with other men, to look at male bodies, especially naked male bodies. They are no different from heterosexual males in the strength of their drives or seeing sex objects in their partner. The only difference is in the sex of their partners. Gay men living in the real world, could have a similar dream fantasy about a barracks full of men, but being realists they would know it has to remain a fantasy.
The "don't ask, don't tell" policy would benefit the gay serviceman or woman who discovers their sexual preferences later in their military careers, but only if the spirit of the law is truly honored. Many commanders, with their own agenda, bypass the law to unnecessarily force gay men and women out of the service. The same men and women who have served their country with honor and distinction are not being judged on their record but on the fears and
paranoia of a few who keep us divided. We are a country founded on the premise that we only grow stronger together by nurturing our differences. True patriots are those trying to reach across this divide, to nurture that vision. Those who cannot honor this law and vision should resign or be removed from their position.
Gays and Lesbians who want to stomach the stress of the straight military life should also be allowed the choice. However, they are going to have to live the same sex life that everyone has to bear on isolated posts and aboard ship. I know from personal experience that (as a teenager) it would have been very difficult serving on a remote post in Greenland with a woman in the next room, let alone in the next bunk. Of course, now that I am a "mature" male, I would like to think that I would behave, but only if we had separate showers!
Charlie McGrath, MA Psychotherapist can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 11, No. 3, Apr. 6, 2001.