I’m mindful that it’s a mad mad mad mad mad mad mad world where Momma Super Liberal Pacifist Anti-War Pants sweeps in to defend the troops. But that’s because it’s even bigger madness that Republicans are booing gay service members.
This soldier, who has made the brave decision to come out in light of the repeal of DADT – at a hostile, dangerous job thousands of miles from home, widely known and by the looks of it praised for its sexism, racism and homophobia – wants to know what this crop of Republican candidates would do with LGB* soldiers if elected.
[I say LGB because, as is under-reported, the repeal of DADT doesn’t cover trans soldiers, who still cannot serve openly. There is still work to be done on this matter.]
And before his image even disappears from the screen, the audience starts booing. To be specific, one asshat starts booing and then other asshats join in. Because hatred is both a contagion and a yardstick of Republican principle, and no one wants to come up short.
The message is clear. When conservatives could walk around pretending that the entire US armed forces were an upstanding heterosexual monolith, we had to “support our troops.” But now that LGB service members are no longer required to lie, Republicans get to pick and choose which troops to support.
“When I was in the military, they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.” So reads the tombstone of Air Force Sgt. Leonard Matlovich. And it seems under the theoretical (blessedly, probably entirely theoretical) presidency of Rick Santorum, precious little would change. He indicates that he wouldn’t discharge members who came out while the policy was lifted, but also states that he would bring the ban right back.
“I would just say that going forward, we would reinstitute that policy if Rick Santorum was president. Period. That policy would be reinstituted and as far as people in, I would not throw them out because that would be unfair to them because of the policy of this administration, but we would move forward in conformity to what was happening in the past, which is — sex is not an issue. It should not be an issue. Leave it alone. Keep it to yourself — whether your’re heterosexual or homosexual.”
Okay, first off, it’s called the subjunctive. Have you heard of it?
Right, everyone should keep their sexuality to themselves. God, if I had a dime for every time I heard a straight person say this, I probably wouldn’t have needed student loans.
And I’m not going to say this argument is tenable, but let’s just go with it for a second.
Dear straight people: If everyone really kept their sexuality all to their lonesome, you would never again be able to do any of the following:
1. Mention your husband, wife, girlfriend, boyfriend, or anyone you’re dating or currently sleeping with. No more anniversary parties!
2. Nor would you be able to talk about your ex-wife, ex-husband, ex-boyfriend or -girlfriend or anyone you used to date or sleep with. Alimony got you down? Bastard won’t pay child support? Keep it to yourself!
3. Small talk about your children? Well, that’s right out! They came from somewhere didn’t they? Sorry, no flashing around that ultrasound at work! And, did you conceive through penetrative vaginal intercourse? Golly gosh, I don’t know if you’ll even be able to leave the house!
4. And those loving family portraits framed on your desk? Well, that’s practically sexual harassment! Making us think about your private home life like that.
5. Does the guy who sits by the copier have nice, tight buns? Keep it to yourself, sister! This is an office, not a sexatorium!
6. I’m afraid I don’t really know how the mating dance will really continue, since you have to assert your sexual identity publicly to ask someone to dance. Although the upside is that pickup lines would be totally taboo.
7. Live in the same place as your heterosexy spouse or special friend? Well, better stick to calling it “my place.” We wouldn’t want any sense of impropriety.
8. You will, of course, have to find time to schedule your “family emergencies” within your existing sick days and regular days off. Your kid having the flu – or your wife needing a splenectomy – that’s practically wagging your genitals in my face!
9. And you definitely won’t be able to talk about your religion or politics. Why, you can draw lots of conclusions about heterosexuals that way!
10. And, please, first and foremost – no PDA! Heterosexuals are constantly shoving it in our faces, walking hand in hand at the mall, making out in the movies, brazenly walking their children to school! It’s enough to make you sick.
The fact of the matter is that straight people out themselves in hundreds of ways, big and small, on a daily basis. But almost no one notices, because, well, there are just so many gosh darn people walking around being all straight everywhere everyday.
When straight people do this, why, that’s just normal folks being normal. But when gay people do it? You’re shoving it in our faces, you’re jamming it down our throats! [Nah, we’ll save that for Mark Foley, Ted Haggard, Larry Craig, Bob Allen, George Rekers, Eddie Long, Philip Hinkle and Roberto Arango.]
I mean, have you ever noticed that in order to say, “I’m straight and you don’t see me walking around everywhere going ‘I’m straight’,” you have to say “I’m straight” twice?
Our troops come out all the time, too. Male troops reminisce about their wives and girlfriends, and female troops talk about their husbands and boyfriends. They show around pictures of the children they miss and long to come home to.
They post pictures of people they find attractive and listen to music by their favorite straight musicians. They pray from their holy books and know that their benefits and pay are helping their families out at home.
LGB soldiers? Not them. Not until this week. And many of them still won’t. Today, North Carolina Public Radio’s The Story ran a profile with the 20-year partner of an active-duty service member who related how they couldn’t say “I love you” over the phone – they had to use a code word. And when one day the military man slipped up and started to say I love you, his partner was terrified to say it back, not knowing what the repercussions might be.
LGB service members can’t talk about their loved ones. They can’t flash around pictures of their boyfriends, girlfriends, and kids. Some of them make up stories about fake straight lives. A lot of them try not to say anything at all. And you can’t leave a written or pictorial trail of evidence about your life. Well, not until this week.
And some soldiers, like the one profiled on The Story aren’t rushing to come out. Because the military is still a terrifying place to be queer. Lots of service members are waiting to see what the fallout will be from overturning DADT, meaning they will still be forced to lie and to hide. And even after repeal, gay families still can’t expect benefits like their straight counterparts.
What part of unit cohesion and peak performance is that promoting?
So as to the idea of sexuality being something everyone ought to keep private, I say: straight people, you first. And as for booing a serviceman for performing his duties bravely and with integrity? Well, it’s a mad mad mad mad mad mad world.