Openly Gay Men in the Military?

Don’t Ask Me

by Paul Rudnick,  from The New Yorker

“I do not see how permitting open homosexuality in these communities enhances their prospects of success in battle. Indeed, I believe repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell” will weaken the warrior culture at a time when we have a fight on our hands.”

—General Merrill A. McPeak, former Air Force Chief of Staff, on the Op-Ed page of the Times.

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My name is Marine Corporal Roger T., and I am one gay soldier who agrees wholeheartedly with General McPeak, although I think that he doesn’t go far enough. Because my staying closeted, in fact, makes me a better soldier, through what I term sublimation. For example: Right before heading out into a firefight with Iraqi insurgents, I always imagine myself at the beach with Merrill A. McPeak, both of us in helmets, camouflage-print Speedos, combat boots, and sunglasses. I picture myself rubbing sunblock all over the luscious, leathery hide of General McPeak, and the adrenaline rockets through my veins, and by the time I leave the Green Zone I’m ready to kill anything that moves, and then make savage, passionate love to its corpse. I’m at what I like to call my sensual, combat-ready McPeak.

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As a gay man, I naturally spend much of my time debating casting issues involving the musical theatre, although, thankfully, I can’t share such thoughts with my unit. Instead, when I spot a potential suicide bomber, I think of him as someone who insists that Tyne Daly was the greatest Mama Rose of all time, even better than Merman. This makes me so enraged, and my aim grows so steady, that I can pick off the bomber with a single well-flung grenade, while shouting to myself, “Tyne was appealing, but she didn’t have a shred of Angela Lansbury’s esprit, or Patti LuPone’s thwarted fury! Anyone who ranks Tyne over Patti deserves to die! ” It’s called valor.

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General McPeak speaks movingly of unit cohesion. He says, “We know, or ought to, that warriors are inspired by male bonding, by comradeship, by the knowledge that they survive only through relying on each other. To undermine cohesion is to endanger everyone.” To which I say, Sing it, sister. I love male bonding more than anything, and I live for unit cohesion. Just the sound of the words makes me tingle with manly aggression. Whenever I see my unit, or anyone’s unit, all I want to do is cohere. I embrace my unit, with both hands, and I draw it to me, again and again, in a vigorous manly embrace, often until the guy on the top bunk says, “Roger, calm down. That Vogue is from two months ago.”

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If I were to serve openly as a homosexual, nothing would be the same. Slaughtering terrorists just wouldn’t feel special. It would be, like, Yeah, so today I detonated a bunker filled with snipers, and then I texted my boyfriend, and I agreed that we should only use cerulean for an accent wall. Big whoop. But now, when I have to be more coded and paranoid, every time I strap on my body armor and hoist my M16 I can think, Hey, Mr. Jihad, how about a brunch date with my rocket launcher? I’m not an openly gay soldier; I’m a secret gay soldier, and that makes me fierce! I’m Project Gunway!

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General McPeak also notes that “to prepare warriors for a life of hardship, the military must remain a kind of adventure, apart from the civilian world, and full of strange customs.” It’s heaven. I like to think of the military as the most exciting video game, or a sweeps-week episode of “Survivor,” or a big butch drama club, where you get to shoot the parents and friends who don’t applaud hard enough. That’s why soldiers like to give one another stirring nicknames, like Maverick or Big Dog or Little Miss Bazooka. Scourging the enemy is a grand adventure, like climbing Mt. Everest with your buddies, and then hitting the sauna and joshing about whether someone named Merrill is really a dude you can count on. gay3

I’ve been so inspired by General McPeak’s words that I’ve had a vision of a truly masculine, all-man military extravaganza. Why can’t we talk to all our enemies, maybe at the U.N., and agree that, from now on, war will be like the original Olympic Games, fought by only the manliest combatants, in the nude. Wouldn’t that be the ultimate expression of camaraderie and adventure and unit cohesion? In a nude war, I’d be proud to have my buddies’ backs, and their fronts.

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I know that some people might be wondering, What place would women have in such a man’s war? And my answer is that, just like openly gay males, the ladies should stay home, while we defend them. For once, let’s blast through all the politically correct nonsense, and have a real war, with platoon after platoon of hot, disciplined, gung-ho guys charging directly at the penises and scrotums of the opposing forces. I’d be proud to serve in that Army, and to take my place beside Merrill and the other two or three elderly fellows who still oppose allowing gays to serve openly. Naked old men with guns—now you’re talking.

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