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December 07, 2008

Comments

Apparently the armed services are very solicitous of the tender sensibilities of service members who would prefer serving next to closeted homosexuals to serving next to acknowleded homosexuals.

I wonder why the services would even want personnel so lily-livered that a fellow service member's orientation would produce that kind of heebie jeebies. Doesn't that at best bespeak a lack of the kind of courage we should expect our warriors to have?

The only military I know of that demands complete chastity (=no sex at all) of its troops is North Korea*.
The Foreign Legion seems to be more appealing to the Pentagon than the Sacred Band (with the benefit that foreigners are expendable).
I think the ingrown anti-female tendencies in the military have their part in that (gays are seen as effeminate) as well as the influence of Kristian(TM) fundies in the officer corps (cf. Air Force Academy).

*I read that South Korean soldiers taunt their opponents at the DMZ about that by loudspeaker.

The problem with letting people of any sexual orientation serve openly in the military, is that it really cuts down on the amount of Gays Are Teh Evil political stuff you can do.

As the Republicans find demonizing lesbians and gays to be politically useful - as good as or in some ways better than demonizing women who need abortions - there is no way a Republican-controlled branch of government will allow LGBT people to serve openly, no matter how practical this is or how many NATO allies have LGBT people serving openly in the military.

This is not to say that the Democratic party is innocent of this crap: it isn't. But the Republican Party's dependence on right-wing Christians who believe misogyny, homophobia, and racism are the three pillars of Christianity, means the Republican Party is thoroughly dependent on never treating lesbians and gays as equal citizens, or women as equal human beings... and does explain why they're so convinced a black man couldn't possibly be President.

It would be very appropriate on all sorts of levels if Barack Obama becomes the first President with the moral courage to overturn the US ban on LGBT people serving openly. It's been sixty years since there was a President with that kind of moral courage.

But, Obama left Bush's pick in charge as SecDef, so whether he does have that kind of moral courage is open to question. Still, it would be nice...

"If someone could tell me precisely what military duties an undescended testicle might interfere with, I'd be very grateful."

I'd venture to guess that an undescended testicle comes with a considerably greater chance of sterility if the descended one gets blown off. Whereas if you've got two of them, you've got some chance of only one of them getting blown off. At least, that's the only sense I can make of it.

the military keeps kicking out perfectly good doctors, dentists, nurses, and linguists because it doesn't like their sexual orientation.
Apparently the armed services are very solicitous of the tender sensibilities

I know most people here already know this, but this is a pet peeve of mine so I'm compelled to note that Congress bears responsibility for making that decision. The military just implements the policy they're given. Yeah, the military leaders gave their opinions when DADT was under debate, but it's Congress and the President who made the rules. If Clinton and Congress had told them to suck it up and ignore sexual orientation completely that's exactly what they'd be doing today.

Like the general public's, the military opinion on this has shifted since the 90s and they generally support the idea of open service today. But no matter how stupid DADT is, the military cannot stop throwing folks out until Congress gets off their butts and changes the law. The military can't pick and choose when to follow civilian control, and public opinion of the federal government being what it is we really don't that changing.

The Dems have controlled Congress for two years, for all that time they have had recently retired senior officers like Shinseki telling them military opinion favored dropping DADT, and for all that time congressional Dems have been too spineless to even stick a toe in the water on changing this.

I wonder why the services would even want personnel so lily-livered that a fellow service member's orientation would produce that kind of heebie jeebies. Doesn't that at best bespeak a lack of the kind of courage we should expect our warriors to have?


I don’t believe that many service members are at all concerned about their fellow service member's orientation. SeanH already covered the rest of what I would have had to say about the history. Sam Nunn is the individual most to blame for the current policy. This is one thing you just can’t blame Republicans for.

Politically it would be a good issue – Obama should take the lead. It’s not 1993. 75% of the public supports repealing it:

Put differently, if Obama can't get a DADT repeal passed, then good luck with something like universal health insurance, which though also supported by solid majorities of the public, is not at 75 percent support, and will be met with much, much more vigorous resistance from lobbying groups.

I suspect that in the heat of a pitched firefight, most testicles climb as far up into their owner's abdomens as possible out of sheer terror.

In fact, if the powers that be found out about this phenomenon they would probably step in and call the whole thing off because all of the combatants on both sides would now be disqualified from butchering each other.

It is a scientific fact that most posters and commenters at Redstate have undescended testicles, their testicles somehow knowing what's in store for them with those war-loving policies.

I wonder in the wars of the future in which robots go at it if they will be required to have descended robotic testicles.

What I love about the fear of trying to change DADT is this: repealing DADT and allowing openly gay citizens to serve wouldn't greatly increase the number of gays in the military, it would just increase the number of people known to be Teh Gay.

It's like some sort of ridiculous tree falling in the forest argument: If you tell no one you are gay, are you still gay, or just moderately confused?

As to attitudes changing, that is so true. Fact of the matter is, people my age and younger, unless they are fundagelicals, don't care if someone is gay or not. One of my husband's friends announced he was gay and the reaction from everyone he knew could best be described as, "So what? Pass me a beer." Had he announced he was a Cowboys fan . . . well, that would have been different.

Is being a Cowboys fan the fault of nature or nurture?

Discuss.

"Fundagelicals" is my new favorite word.

Is being a Cowboys fan the fault of nature or nurture?

Although despicable and depraved pro-Cowboys special interest groups (e.g., "The Warriors of Troy", the IAFBL*) claim that Cowboys fans are born that way, every red-blooded fan of American Football knows that being a Cowboys fan is nothing but a digusting choice.

von

*IAFBL = the "International Anti-Fun Bunch League." The "Real" Anti-Funners (RAF), a militant splinter group, were responsible for the repeated assissination attempts on Art Monk in the mid-1980s.

SeanH, the military certain does have discretion in how they apply the policy and how much investigation is done for violations of DADT. (Which is, by the way, actually "don't ask, don't tell, DON'T PURSUE". Ever heard of JAG going after a military officer for overzealously pursuing a soldier who didn't violate DADT but happens to be gay?)

If the military were indeed just following orders (har) on DADT, then you'd see investigations and proceedings pretty evenly distributed across military bases and about the same number of men and women prosecuted. You don't and it isn't.

Regarding the testicle thing—I’ve heard that there is (was?) increased chance of serious infection in a dirty trench-like environment but that could be one of those rumor things that gets crazy.

RE: DADT, word on the street is that the Obama administration isn’t even going to look at it until well into 2010, which is almost certainly not the case because then Democrats are going to talk about how it isn’t the right time because they need to focus on getting to 60 Senators. I know that on *average* Democrats are better than Republicans on gay rights, but we shouldn’t forget that the average remains not so friendly.

Presidents do controversial things at three times—at the beginning of their terms, at the end of their second term, or when outside situations force them too. Nothing is going to force Obama to repeal DADT so IF he is going to change it, it will be either in the next 6 months or 7 years from now.

I used to have a shirt that said 'I'll root for Dallas when they play the Russians'. I miss that shirt.

Regarding the testicle thing—I’ve heard that there is (was?) increased chance of serious infection in a dirty trench-like environment but that could be one of those rumor things that gets crazy.

don't know about infection, but there is an increased rick for testicular cancer. though i'm sure the military's ban precedes medical science's knowledge of the link.

This is snark (if you want serious commentary, then what Jes and SeanH and OCSteve have said above goes for me as well), so take it with a grain of salt, but what about this:

Historically the path to full integration and acceptance in the US military for other repressed/distrusted minority groups (Japanese Americans in WW2, African Americans over a longer period of time) has been via segregated units, which by demonstrating competency, effectiveness and more often than not outstanding service records (e.g. overcompensating for the minority stigma via conspicuous valor in battle) demolished the notion that group X was not good enough. Then full integration follows.

So why not form a distinct LGBT combat brigade and let them show everybody what they are made of?

/end snark

More seriously, I think DADT should be repealed this coming year. I'm OK with prioritizing economic policy initiatives for the first 100 days, but after that DADT should be on the list of top agenda items and by summer of 2009 it should be gone. It's what Truman would have done.

DADT posits, if I'm not mistaken, that no gay person can be asked about their orientation nor can they be compelled to answer questions about their orientation. If this is correct, then it would seem that the only gay people who are being dismissed from the service are those who out themselves. Now, one can reasonably argue that orientation has nothing to do with patriotism or military skills, but is that what the DADT debate is all about?

If a gay person enlists knowing full well that DADT is the policy, isn't it implicit in that person's enlistment commitment to 'not tell'?

And I know its bad manners to make this point, but for the same reason military women generally don't want to shower communally with military men, some (many, most, a few, who knows?) heterosexual men prefer not to shower communally with men who openly consider them to be sexually desirable.

So why not form a distinct LGBT combat brigade and let them show everybody what they are made of?

You could call them The Queens Regiment!
(rimshot)

So why not form a distinct LGBT combat brigade and let them show everybody what they are made of?

Because LGBT people serving in the military have already been showing everybody they're as brave and as competent and as effective as heterosexual/cisgendered military personnel.

For decades.

It's not their courage and competence that's in question. It's the dedicated homophobia of the Christian right determined that LGBT people shall not be regarded as full citizens. It's the dedicated homophobia of some people senior in the military hierarchy who want those queers out. Or dead.

So, no.

I love how we get from this:

DADT posits, if I'm not mistaken, that no gay person can be asked about their orientation nor can they be compelled to answer questions about their orientation.

to this:

If a gay person enlists knowing full well that DADT is the policy, isn't it implicit in that person's enlistment commitment to 'not tell'?

without asking whether it isn't implicit in other military personnel's enlistment or service to 'not ask'.

I.e., if service members get outed, it can't be possibly anyone's fault but their own.

Lest I violate the posting rules, I will stop there, and hope that Jes will come along to respond to the part about showering together by pointing out in far more detail than I can the fact that the military of other nations don't seem to have this problem, and/or Gary will come along and provide links to threads where this has all been said before, far more cogently am likely to be.

JanieM--you are correct, the military is not supposed to ask and the service member is not supposed to tell. My understanding is that, if asked, the service member can decline to answer and that is the end of it.

I'm sure I will take a lot of flak for this, but can we wholly dismiss out of hand the issue of sexual privacy arising from being naked around others who might be sexually attracted to you, if such a situation arises on a regular basis within a confined space (e.g. an army camp or whatever). I'm not a prude but I would feel uncomfortable in such a situation, just as I suppose most people would be uncomfortable with unisex showers or dorms, which is why we generally have separate ones.

Just to be sure, I'll end with the customary disclaimer that really I don't have anything whatsoever against gays or lesbians and that "some of my best friends are gay" (it's true even). Also, I don't mind being chatted up by the occasional gay man, in fact that has led to more than one interesting encounter, once we had cleared up the issue of me not being interested in any sexual way.

who openly consider them to be sexually desirable

Goodness. (They should be so lucky.)

JanieM I don't know about showering (which suggests there's no problem); but do know our (British) armed forces recruit openly at Gay Pride marches. The sky has not fallen...

can we wholly dismiss out of hand the issue of sexual privacy arising from being naked around others who might be sexually attracted to you, if such a situation arises on a regular basis within a confined space (e.g. an army camp or whatever).

Maybe not, but if that's the worst thing that happens to you during your military service, sing hosannas to whatever deity you worship, because lots of people go through much worse.

More seriously, I think DADT should be repealed this coming year.

Failing that, let's expand DADT to religion.

Some people are born gay, some people are born Christian. Homosexuality offends some people, Christianity offends others. Merely being gay, like merely being Christian, is an internal condition -- nobody need know about it if they don't ask and you don't tell.

It's true that soldiers are discomfitted by the notion that the fellow showering next to them might be gay. They worry that, inside his own head, the secret homosexual lusts for their bodies -- just as a secret Christian lusts for their souls. That sort of discomfiture is no doubt corrosive to unit cohesion.

One solution would be to explicitly ban Christians as well as gays from the military. I could live with that :)

--TP

JanieM I don't know about showering (which suggests there's no problem); but do know our (British) armed forces recruit openly at Gay Pride marches. The sky has not fallen...

Nor has it fallen here in Canada; our armed forces lifted its ban on gays in 1992, and has allowed same-sex wedding ceremonies on military bases since 2005.

(Are some folks really going on about shower squick, complete with 'some-of-my-best-friends-are...' non-defense? Yeah, well, some of my best friends are homophobes who grossly overestimate their irresistible same-sex desirability, too. Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

At my age, I'm not sure I have anything but pity for someone who might encounter me in the shower, but that is not the point. Andrew Sullivan recently wrote (paraphrasing) that the difference between gay and straight men is that gay men look at and think about other men the way straight men look at and think about women. If that is the case--and it seems reasonable to me that it is--then it seems fair to ask why, if women can legitimately claim a right to privacy from men, straight men cannot make the same claim with respect to gay men?

The answer "it works in other countries" sidesteps the question. If something is fair for women, why isn't the functional equivalent fair for men? And if some women waive their right to privacy ("I don't mind showering with men."), would that waiver be binding on all women? If the answer is "no, it doesn't bind all women", then, again, why one rule for women and another for men?

But the larger issue, in DADT, is whether the policy itself is being violated by the military, i.e. forcing gay people to declare their orientation, or whether, some gay people, having signed on knowing the rules, out themselves anyway and then complain when the policy is enforced. If it's the former, I'd like to know because some serious hell-raising with the armed forces is in order. If it's the latter, then much like the young man who murders his parents and then demands mercy because he's an orphan, I am having a hard time working up much in the way of sympathy.

I'm not a prude but I would feel uncomfortable in such a situation, just as I suppose most people would be uncomfortable with unisex showers or dorms, which is why we generally have separate ones.

That seems like a completely invalid argument. There are currently plenty of closeted gays serving in the military, so people who would be bothered by that kind of thing are already having their sexual privacy violated. DADT just ensures that they never know who is secretly ogling them and who isn't. Wouldn't it be better to let gays serve openly, so that people who want to avoid them would at least know who to avoid?

A few things stand out about your comments, mkt:

- the assumption that all Andrew Sullivan speaks for all LGBT individuals (he doesn't).

- the implication that gay men aren't already showering with straights (they obviously are).

- that servicepeople are unaware that they are sharing the soap with teh queers (based on anecdotal conversation with US military personal, the military closet is relatively transparent day-to-day -- others may feel free to correct me if their experience in the service has been different.)

- that women don't serve in the military (they do, and some of them *gasp* like other women!)

- most amusingly, that the biggest impediment to open integration is friggin' shower privacy (judging by your lack of citation, a contention seemingly borne of your own insecurities and outdated prejudice).

Your analogy comparing an outed serviceman to a f*cking murderer seems to have further opened the window to your id.

that servicepeople are unaware that they are sharing the soap with teh queers (based on anecdotal conversation with US military personal, the military closet is relatively transparent day-to-day -- others may feel free to correct me if their experience in the service has been different.)

Well, my time was prior to DADT but yeah it’s pretty common knowledge. It’s also pretty common for the chain of command to be aware. But at least back in the early 80s it was mostly just ignored, unless they were looking for a reason to get rid of someone anyway. It was never really any big deal to the majority of the soldiers themselves – it was/is just a political football.

MB--don't go in much metaphor, eh?

Is Sullivan wrong? If so, in which regard? How straight men view women? Based on my 42 years of post-adolescent experience, even though he's gay, he does understand how straight men view women. I assume he understands how gay men view men, but if he's wrong, tell us with degree of specificity why.

That I think women don't serve in the military? Try re-reading what I said.

Are there gays 'in the showers' today and have there always been? Of course. But, that sidesteps the question: If women can legitimately insist on not showering with men, why can't straight men legitimately insist on not showering with gay men? Aren't the two functionally equivalent? If not, why not?

Don't try to infer my beliefs from my questions. Just take a shot at answering it directly or explain without ad hominem why the question is illegitimate.

Straight men raping or sexually harassing women is an issue for women in the army, yes.

That some straight men fear that gay men would treat them "like women" speaks more for the way they themselves behave towards women than for their own sexual desirability.

I'd also like to point out that the people who left the military without being explicitly dismissed had some pretty compelling reasons other than "I wish I could just tell everyone I was gay!". Which, for that matter, isn't a bad reason either; forcing someone to constantly hide their entire personal/relationship life and a component of who they are seems a pretty significant affront.

From one of the links in Hilzoy's post:

''Every time I would do something really dangerous, thoughts would occur to me that the military basically wouldn't let [my partner] know if anything were to happen to me,'' he says. ''They wouldn't pay him that courtesy, none of the life insurances would kick in, he wouldn't be offered counseling services, and the inverses were also true: If he got in a car accident back here, the military would never let me know. There would be no way I could request bereavement leave...like a straight person.

A normal, civilian employer not providing these benefits is bad enough. But in the military, with an increased risk of death or injury and a massively increased perceived risk of death or injury, this becomes particularly cruel. Forcing service members to hide their sexual orientation also means they can't receive any relationship-oriented benefits or recognition.

On top of this, there are lots of cases in the linked stories about how the "Don't Ask" part was never followed, and nobody tried to prosecute those who violated *it*.

MB--don't go in much metaphor, eh?

Your chosen metaphor was, IMO, rather telling. YMMV.

Is Sullivan wrong? If so, in which regard? How straight men view women? Based on my 42 years of post-adolescent experience, even though he's gay, he does understand how straight men view women. I assume he understands how gay men view men, but if he's wrong, tell us with degree of specificity why.

What Jes said.

Also, to assume that Andrew Sullivan speaks for every person who identifies as not-heterosexual (or heterosexual) is like appointing (eg) Rev. Wright, or, conversely, Bill Cosby, as Grand Spokesnegro. Individuals speak only for themselves (this individual included).

That I think women don't serve in the military? Try re-reading what I said.

I did read what you wrote. It's not my fault that you (apparently unintentionally) omitted female service members from your little gotcha ploy. Perhaps if you had specified that the showering women you were referring to were, in fact, in the employ of the US military (as I assume was your intent) your point would have been clearing (although it still centers male concerns uber alles (again, hello? Lesbians?)

Are there gays 'in the showers' today and have there always been? Of course. But, that sidesteps the question: If women can legitimately insist on not showering with men, why can't straight men legitimately insist on not showering with gay men? Aren't the two functionally equivalent? If not, why not?

And you are sidestepping the real point: your scenario is made of straw and has absolutely no bearing on whether DADT should or should not be repealed.

Don't try to infer my beliefs from my questions. Just take a shot at answering it directly or explain without ad hominem why the question is illegitimate.

Stop *ahem* baring your apparent insecurities and bigotry, and maybe then we can have a productive discussion.

"clearing" s/b "clearer" (just to clarify.)

If women can legitimately insist on not showering with men, why can't straight men legitimately insist on not showering with gay men?

Just take a shot at answering it directly or explain without ad hominem why the question is illegitimate.

The latter wasn't directed at me but I'll give it a shot anyhow. One reason the question might not be legitimate (or answerable) is that there's no evidence for the premise. If is a big word that covers a lot of unexamined assumptions.

I would like to see some evidence that service members have gender-separate showers because "women...insist" on it. I would think it's equally likely that it's just another instance of our cultural practice of separating men's and women's bathrooms in public/collective contexts.

I haven't heard of any straight men demanding that gay men have separate bathrooms in public buildings, have you?

And even if we grant the premise (that "women...insist" is the reason for separate showers), there might be plenty of reasons why straight men might not get to "insist" on the same thing. It's not a single-factor situation, i.e. there are lots of things in play besides gender and the possibility of sexual attraction.

Jesur--that's a Rumsfeld tactic, rephrasing the question into one that can be answered according to your own preference. Yours has the added attraction of diminishing anyone who doesn't echo the party line. Clever and sure to win over all of those undecided's.

In the meantime, a lot of people out there struggle with the gay marriage/gay military service issue on levels that defy description.

I set up a pretty straightforward question: if A is true and acceptable, and if B is the functional equivalent of A, then why isn't B also acceptable? Questions like these make dealing with DADT (a relatively minor issue compared to civil union--wouldn't gay people be much better off if they could, at a minimum, have a legally recognized, true equivalent to civil marriage, than if they could serve openly in the military?) and the larger issue of gay rights more problematical than they should be, simply because the true believers on both sides of the issue won't address even reasonably fair questions on the merits, but rather attack whoever it is who asks the question.

It seems obvious to me that gays serving openly in the military will require something new in the way of social convention when it comes to the up-close-and-very-personal aspects of communal living. No one wants to begin to discuss this notion, instead opting for the extremes of either dismissing out of hand that gays should ever be allowed to serve or, as Jesur implies, any straight male who has issues with showering with gay men is the one with the problems.

A family member recently became quite angry with me because I said I was tired of Republicans using gay people as an prod to get religious bigots who otherwise wouldn't vote out to the ballot box. I got about the same reaction from a fundivangical (good one, BTW) as I got from Jesur, just a different vocabulary and class of name-calling.

My apoligies, mckinneytx--upon scanning the thread, I see I missed your first comment re: women in the US military and communal showering (JFTR, my initial comment was actually directed towards someone else). So I withdraw part of my contention re: denial of women serving in the military.

But, again, your is both unquantifiable (because, as JanieM points out, you basically, um, made it up) and, as I originally, contended, irrelevant.

Now, a few questions for you:

What do you think of DADT? Do you believe it should be repealed? Were you opposed to its initial implementation? And how do you actually feel about not-heterosexual US military personnel, since you have implied that I'm misreading your intent based on the context of your hypothetical?

In the meantime, a lot of people out there struggle with the gay marriage/gay military service issue on levels that defy description.

Perhaps because for some of us, these are issues that directly impact our lives and our agency as full citizens. They aren't hypothetical situations to ponder in the abstract. Real. Effing. Life.

"our cultural practice of separating men's and women's bathrooms in public/collective contexts"

Do you think this is just some irrational eccentricity that has somehow insinuated itself into the fabric of society?

Back in the day--way damn back--I was a resident advisor in a co-ed dorm. Today, my wife and I spend a lot of time at a co-ed health club. My overwhelming impression is that women then and women now like their privacy while showering, not to mention various other activities. This is as true for women in the service as for civilian life.

Do straight men want gay/straight segregated facilities? No. But I suspect most straight men expect a men's communal facility to be sexual friction-free zone.

Finally, why don't straight men have the same general rights as women?

Because the thread is threatening to be completely derailed, a quote from the original post:

[T]he military keeps kicking out perfectly good doctors, dentists, nurses, and linguists because it doesn't like their sexual orientation. This isn't just unfair; at a time when we're fighting two wars and short of trained personnel, it's stupid.

That is the point. Real. Effing. Life.

Mckinneytexas, are you seriously asking whether the military ever violates the "don't ask"/"don't pursue" part of the policy? It sounds like this is the first time such a question occurred to you; if so, the answer is yes, and a little Internet research can tell you more than a conversation on this blog. Long story short, though: violations (i.e. people being asked and pursued, when they hadn't told) were extremely blatant and well documented in the first 5 years of the policy. There were some high-profile challenges to the policy, which were rejected. After that, there haven't been a lot of statistics to go on -- not surprisingly, since the military doesn't keep any data on "people we discharged who should've have even been investigated in the first place"; you need the discharged person to make a complaint and then you need lawyers & press to actively investigate each case. But it's still clearly going on.

Just this year a case from 2004 was granted a new appeal, after being dismissed in 2006 -- and this was just about the most blatant violation you can imagine, where the Air Force admitted that it started an investigation based on an anonymous tip. In other words, they didn't even try to argue that the target outed herself; the judge in 2006 just ruled against her based on the "legitimate governmental concern" behind the policy, even though they had not followed the policy.

I'm answering on the assumption that your question was an honest one, which I hope it was. But I agree with matttbastard that your orphan murderer joke was pretty offensive, as is the general idea of saying you can't "work up much in the way of sympathy" on an issue where you clearly haven't made any previous effort to get the facts.

mckinneytexas, if you were placed in a situation in which you were required to shower on a regular basis with a bunch of women, can you please describe for us how you would behave? Thanks in advance.

Are there gays 'in the showers' today and have there always been? Of course. But, that sidesteps the question: If women can legitimately insist on not showering with men, why can't straight men legitimately insist on not showering with gay men?

I don't see this as an illegitimate question because sure, people are often uncomfortable about being naked around others. I just don't understand how following a policy in which the gay men are supposed to pretend they have no interest in other men "protects" the concerned straight men from being looked at by gay men, since as you acknowledge, the gay men are still there. If the issue of showering in groups in which sexual attraction may occur is of such vital concern, how hard is it to put up some dividers in the showers? That seems like it would be much more effective than "don't ask, don't tell" and would not discriminate against gays in the military.

Do you think this is just some irrational eccentricity that has somehow insinuated itself into the fabric of society?

No, I don't think that, but nor do I think it necessarily has anything to do with "women insisting." I think it just as likely it's a survival of the days when women were considered to be shrinking violets and the property of men, and had to be protected.... (I was 34 years old before the shrinking violent idea had faded enough so that there was a women's marathon in the Olympics. Joan Benoit is still running competitively at the age of 51.)

But at least I know that this is "just what I think" -- and I know that "what I think" isn't evidence. What I'm trying to point out is that you don't seem to realize that about what you think.

My overwhelming impression isn't evidence of anything but your own mental processes. To go from there to This is as true for women in the service is a leap of faith, not evidence. Have you talked to any women in the service about this? That might be evidence, even if anecdotal. Your assumptions are not.

I suspect most straight men expect a men's communal facility to be sexual friction-free zone. Do you suppose gay service men feel differently about this? Do you actually know any gay men at all well?

Finally, why don't straight men have the same general rights as women?

Before, you were at least talking about one specific narrowly-defined right, the "right" to take a shower without people in the room who might (horrors) be sexually attracted to you. (Never mind the possibility that they might have the maturity, training, self-control, self-respect, and respect for you as a fellow service member to ignore that feeling, should it arise. No pun intended.)

Now you've expanded to "general rights." So I wonder: what the heck does that mean? Do men need insurance coverage for pregnancy? The right to buy birth control pills? Access to tampons? Pregnancy leave from work?

It also occurs to me to wonder how all the straight high school boys in America have survived years of showering in the same locker rooms with their gay teammates and classmates, ditto college, ditto practically everywhere else but the military. Are our straight servicemen actually the wimpiest men around, that they have to be thus coddled? The fact that shower rooms all over the country are not and never have been segregated by sexual orientation would seem to imply that it's not showering in the same room with gay men that's the problem, it's just having to face the fact that it's a fact that's the problem. Or in fact, that same old thing: if only gay men would stay in the closet, these straight men would be just fine.

And yet more -- it's pretty rich to bring up the idea that one group of people should have the same "general rights" as another in a discussion of the fact that gay Americans are denied the right to serve openly and honorably in the military.

Irony never ends.

And, again assuming that anyone here really isn't clear on how DADT has been put into practice: There are two good reasons that most of the court challenges and advocacy around this has been focused on getting rid of the policy, rather than just insisting that they follow it more consistently and stop investigating people who didn't out themselves.

The first reason is just that many people believe, for all the reasons others have mentioned here, that that's just the right answer on principle -- that the reasoning behind DADT is not valid and there shouldn't be any such policy.

The second reason is that it's very hard, if not impossible, to make them enforce DADT fairly and honestly if they don't want to. It's not a matter of criminal law; there's no standard of proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the person outed herself. And the wording of the law leaves the definition of "openly", well, wide open. They can argue (and have done) that you're "openly" gay if your anonymous online persona is labeled that way, because they were able to dig up your ISP registration and track that account back to you... again, after one of those anonymous tips. Or if someone knows someone who knows someone who knows your boyfriend in civilian life. The only way not to be "open", really, is to have absolutely no sex life during or even before your military service. So it's not about that; it's just about whether they decide they want to investigate you.

Now are you starting to get an idea of why people who aren't directly affected by this might still consider it a really disturbing injustice?

My last sentence was meant to be a reply to mck-tx's "a lot of people out there struggle with the gay marriage/gay military service issue on levels that defy description."

tariqata -- good point about shyness, and about putting up dividers. That's what I'd prefer if it were me.

[snark. But I wouldn't be surprised if "getting over it" is the response of certain people who also have clear limits to what they themselves are willing to "get over." [/snark]

MB--fair questions. But, since you ask, I'll try to give a more complete picture:

I am a straight, married for 33 years male who, about 8 year ago finally tumbled to the notion that being gay is not a choice. Over time, logic and what I hope is a sense of fairness, led to the notion that, at a minimum, civil union, civil rights, etc. should be the norm and that advocating for male/female marriage only is bigotry. When i referred to people who grapple with "the gay marriage/gay military service issue on levels that defy description", I was referring to people who oppose both of those, but whose reasoning for doing so defies description. Ultimately, gay rights will prevail, but it will be by persuasion, not by judicial fiat or by name-calling.

When DADT first was adopted, I viewed it more as a political cop out by Clinton than a policy issue in and of itself. At the time, I was opposed to gays serving openly in the military because I felt that unit cohesion and morale would take a hit. Now, I am persuaded that my earlier position was wrong, but I remain unpersuaded that simply abandoning DADT will achieve what I would hope we all want which is a functioning, effective and fair military.

As I attempted to intimate above, I think the next step is defining a new social convention that defuses/mitigates/whatever the replacement of DADT with gays serving openly. For instance: many straight men (sorry, I don't have numbers) are fine with gays but not interested--indeed, made uncomfortable by gay intimacy. Do gay men feel the same way about heterosexual intimacy? I have no idea. But, against that background, the kind of locker-room chatter, pin-up mentality that I suspect characterizes a good part of the 'straight only' service environment today is going to have to give way to a more sex-neutral environment or straight men are going to have to make room for the gay equivalent of locker-room banter or there is going to be more friction than the military really needs.

Put differently, straight young men are obsessed with sex and talk about it all the time--again, i don't have any numbers, but I am 99.9% certain I have this part right. They read Playboy, Penthouse and ten million other magazines, but not for the fine literature. They routinely say things that, even in the context of stupid young men saying stupid-young-men-things, are graphic and gross and pretty much any other adjective you might want to use. They view it as a fundamental right to carry on this way.

I don't think, however, that a lot of these young men would be open to the gay equivalent of locker-room banter. I am not saying one is ok and the other isn't--I am just saying that, as an example, two straight guys are likely to be perfectly fine with discussing the smallest details of sexual congress with a young woman and not at all interested in any detail whatsoever about two men being intimate with one another.

Yet, if gays can serve openly, shouldn't they be allowed to banter openly, and have pin-ups of their favorite guys, etc. just as straight male service members do? Wouldn't I expect, if my premise above is valid, that gay men would be as put off by the heterosexual banter as would the straight men be put off by equally graphic gay banter?

Yes, is the answer to all of those questions. Whether the specific context is gay men, straight men, gay women or straight women, some conversational subjects are welcome, others make the specific group members uncomfortable. I don't have a solution for how to fully integrate as to orientation. I am leaning toward some kind of rough or approximate layering in which, by tacit agreement, conversation in an 'integrated' environment be on a par with conversation in 'mixed company'. I am not saying this as well as I would like because I am well short of where I hope to be someday in my analysis.

I guess the punch line is that every American should have the right to serve in the military in a way and under circumstances that no one member gets a preference over another. The point above about a gay service member's partner being completely out of the loop if his/her partner is killed in the line of duty is solid and obviously unfair. It is also one that needs more play in the MSM.

Again, as far as the orphan/murder thing, its a metaphor, very commonly used in debate circles and in court rooms. No offense intended.

And no, I was not aware that DADT was routinely violated by the military. That was exactly my point.

Phil, another fair question, in the context of this discussion. I have to go back a number of years, of course, but I think initially, I'd be self-conscious and uncomfortable, both because of being judged by the women and because I would believe the women would really, really not want me there. The idea that most young men would want to share a shower with women in the same age cohort is more theoretical than real. But, there are surely men who, if given permission, would gladly camp out in the ladies shower facilities. In either case, whether embarrassed, shy and self-conscious or aggressively looking around, neither class of male would be welcome by the majority of women. And the man who would force his presence on an unwilling woman is not too far different from a man who would force other matters.

mckinneytexas, if you had said all that (your 4:14) in the first place, it would have been quite a different discussion.

I don't have time for another lengthy reply, but one of the headlines would be that it's a long way from saying gays in the military are a problem because some... heterosexual men prefer not to shower communally with men who openly consider them to be sexually desirable, to saying that the problem is related to the right of young straight males to be raunchy without hindrance.

Another headline would be that yes, there will be some adjustments required (mostly attitude adjustments) when gay people are allowed to serve openly. So what? We ask many things of service members, in fact we ask many things of anyone in communal contexts like schools and families, and I doubt this is going to seem like one of the bigger ones in hindsight.

Mckinneytexas: "Yet, if gays can serve openly, shouldn't they be allowed to banter openly, and have pin-ups of their favorite guys, etc. just as straight male service members do? Wouldn't I expect, if my premise above is valid, that gay men would be as put off by the heterosexual banter as would the straight men be put off by equally graphic gay banter? Yes, is the answer to all of those questions."

You're right, yes is the answer to both of those irrelevant questions.

The first one is irrelevant because posters are trivial compared to everything else people are arguing about. It's like saying, "Well if openly gay people can serve, then wouldn't you have to let men wear nail polish?" So what? Either soldiers are allowed to wear nail polish, or put up cheesecake posters, or they're not. Either they can tolerate their fellow soldiers' behavior within those rules of conduct, or they can't. Public institutions can't be constructed entirely around the personal discomforts of its employees; otherwise we might as well reintroduce racial segregation, since there are still white guys who don't like to look at black guys.

The second is irrelevant because it's not about reality, it's about your imagination -- what you would "expect" a gay man would think in a certain situation. That's really not for you to say, and it makes you sound extremely naive -- and I don't mean that in a bad way; there are plenty of straight people who just don't understand that this is not some new issue for gay people, it's just a freaking fact of life. Yes, of course there are gay men who get grossed out by sex talk about women. But to the same degree that typical straight guys get grossed out by sex talk about men? Almost never. That kind of revulsion (as opposed to just lack of interest) is 1 part personal taste to 9 parts cultural conditioning, and straight kids in America grow up hearing a constant refrain of GAY = GROSS long before they have any idea of the physical nitty-gritty of sex. And straight kids have never, ever had to spend years and years trying to fit in with gay kids. With very few exceptions, every gay/bi/queer/trans person I know went through a lengthy phase of camouflage, and got pretty thoroughly accustomed to how straight people talk in a locker room.

Kidding about the Cowboys aside, I oppose DADT. It should go. Openly gay folks should be able to serve their country -- and, yes, even shower occasionally while doing it.

That said, I think that a nub of McKinneyTexas' point is supportable. There is a level of discomfort in being in a vulnerable position with someone who habors a desire for you. (To be naked is to be vulnerable to most people -- and, yes, one can feel vulnerable without fearing sexual assault.) I've been in a shower and had another person make a pass at me while disrobed. I felt discomfort. I don't think that made me a homophobe.

Indeed, I don't think it's wrong to feel that discomfort from a same-sex scenario any more than it's wrong to feel discomfort when someone makes a pass in an opposite-sex scenario. In fact, it's probably normal to feel a little more discomfort in a same sex scenario where the pass is made while both of you are naked. Neither should be particularly tramatic, of course, but I wouldn't be so cavalier in dismissing the concern. It's legitimate.

The point, howver, is that having a vague sense of unease every once and a while and a very rare unwanted encounter isn't a sound basis for this policy. You've probably been showering with gay folks for years and somehow survived the encounters without even noticing them. In my entire post-adolescent lifetime of showering in gyms, lockers, etc. througout high school, college, and adulthood, someone made a pass at me one time.* And the remedy -- exclusion, DADT -- doesn't even resolve the concern because people are still going to make passes for any number of reasons in any number of cases.

von

*Now that I'm thinking about it: One time? That's all? Maybe I should work out my abs more? ;-)


Another headline would be that yes, there will be some adjustments required (mostly attitude adjustments) when gay people are allowed to serve openly.

Indeed. I'm sure servicepeople who were used to a racially uniform environment in which racist banter was (likely) the norm had to go through a period of adjustment after the military was desegregated.

The service seems to have survived that transition.

I've been in a shower and had another person make a pass at me while disrobed. I felt discomfort. I don't think that made me a homophobe.

I have as well, and I'm not straight. ;) Point is,the behaviour is inherently inappropriate and disrespectful, regardless of orientation. And specifically with regards to mckinneytx's military shower scene, I sure as hell don't want someone coming on to me within a work environment (which is what we're actually talking about here). Unwanted sexual advances are sexual harassment, and should be decried as such.

For me, DADT has always seemed straightforwardly wrong, even if implemented properly. For one thing, it forces people to lie. (What do you say when conversation turns to significant others?) For another, there's the point made above about one's lover not getting notified in the event of one's demise: if you can't tell anyone who your lover is without getting booted out of the service, your lover will just have to hope that your family will drop them a line. That's not fair to anyone.

For a third thing, it also means that your lover gets no survivor benefits etc. And for a fourth, no TriCare. For a fifth, if you're having issues that concern your sexual or gender orientation, you can't get counseling for it without going outside the military system, which I think is a violation of rules.

Etc., etc., etc. It's just unfair and unworkable.

It's also normal and understandable to feel uncomfortable if you have to move your bowels in public view, regardless of the gender of who's around. Soldiers still aren't guaranteed to have toilet stall doors - for that matter, not even all high schools do.

I don't have a problem with what mck-tx says about straight people's discomfort, especially since he seems to agree that it's not a good basis for policy. I do have a problem with people who come into a discussion expressing very strong opinions about stuff they don't know, or can't know, or haven't tried to know. It's one thing to wonder out loud whether the military is following the rules, or whether a gay man might think such-and-such. It's a whole other thing to jump into an argument with people whose strong opinions about these things are based on something more than speculation... especially if you accuse them of being intolerant party-line followers, etc., because they didn't give your opinions the proper deference.

If you're really concerned with straight men being uncomfortable living (and showering etc) around gay men, you really ought to read "Love My Rifle More Than You", by Kayla Williams, as she describes the reality better than I can. The whole issue of being uncomfortable when living in too-close proximity to other people isn't exactly new to the military. People deal with it; in the US military, it's generally the women and other minorities who have to do the coping. If straight men are occasionally made as uncomfortable as everyone else, well, pardon me if I don't cry too hard for them.

John in Nashville wrote: "I wonder why the services would even want personnel so lily-livered that a fellow service member's orientation would produce that kind of heebie jeebies. Doesn't that at best bespeak a lack of the kind of courage we should expect our warriors to have?"

Jesur wrote: "It would be very appropriate on all sorts of levels if Barack Obama becomes the first President with the moral courage to overturn the US ban on LGBT people serving openly. . .But, Obama left Bush's pick in charge as SecDef, so whether he does have that kind of moral courage is open to question. Still, it would be nice..."

I think it is important to remind everyone commenting here that the military did not create the current policy on LBGT in the military, the President and Congress did. The Generals/Admirals leading the military at the time of the policy's initial implementation are long gone, too. If the President and Congress so desire, they can change the policy whenever they want. Any SECDEF will do whatever the President tells him to do, especially on a matter such as this. What difference does a different SECDEF make, he has to follow the law of the land, like everyone else.

Passing such a law takes political courage, though; we'll see how much the new administration and inordinately Dem-heavy Congress have in the next year or so, I'll wager.

Most of the military under the age of 40 are indifferent to the military's policy (DADT), in any case. Social mores have changed since the 1990s within the military. If Congress/the President enact a law changing the policy, it won't be a big deal in the military, it will get implemented, and that will be that.

I would argue that most of the culture war animosity that created a siege mentality within the military has been washed away by nearly a decade of combat and long deployments. Military culture now, during a time of war, is vastly different than it was at the start of the Clinton administration. Both political parties have done a good job of building rapport with the military, thereby de-politicizing it, I might add.

McKinneyTexas, the answer to your rather rambling statement of your fears about how straight young men may be made to feel uncomfortable if they spent time in close proximity to gay young men who are talking raunchily about the kind of men they like, putting up pics of naked beefcake, etc...

Yes.

But then, in my experience, straight young men are equally made uncomfortable by having to spend time in close proximity to straight young women who are talking raunchily about the kind of men they like, putting up pics of naked beefcake, etc...

Seriously. Women who have had to deal with that kind of work environment - men who think pics of naked women are fun - tell me that the most reliable and effective method of getting the men to take down all their pics, is to put up lots of pics of naked, hunky men showing off their assets.

In answer to your somewhat rambling question, in the UK military the principle is that one serving soldier does not sexually harass another one. This principle is in practice often violated (as demonstrated by a recent tribunal decision on the conduct of the Royal Artillery and a Staff Sergeant who sexually harassed a Lance Bombardier working under him) but the principle is supposed to be upheld both by individual soldiers and by their commmand hierarchy. And I hope, given the payout, that the MoD pays attention>

I am saying two things:

1. Proponents of abolishing DADT, if they want to be effective, need to be able to engage undecided's on the question of privacy and sexual friction. A lot of people believe that gays serving openly will be all about sexual predation/friction, just as they imagine letting the boys lose in the girls shower would produce sexual predation/friction. Which lets the question: 'if it's fair for women to be segregated from men, why not straight men from gay men, since one is the functional equivalent of the other?' be asked. That question will resonate with many undecided's. If you want to cement their views, just call them homophobes and ignore them. Or, you can give the question serious consideration and try to come up with an answer that will move people.

2. My views, which are not always the same as the questions I raise, are that DADT is not fair--and participating in today's chat provides more support for that view--but that we have a way to go before 18-25 year old men can coexist comfortably and I think some dialogue along those lines is an important next step.

Which lets the question: 'if it's fair for women to be segregated from men, why not straight men from gay men, since one is the functional equivalent of the other?' be asked.

Really? How many straight men will be willing to say that they are, in the presence of gay men, functionally equivalent to women?

And what does it say about these straight men who think that the only way to protect women from sexual predation is to segregate them from straight men, and the only way to protect straight men from sexual predation is to segregate them from gay men?

And in all this, where will the bisexual men get to shower?

Would there be some discomfort in the shower and locker room (if DADT were repealed)?

Yes.

So bloody what?

I was uncomfortable when as a pubescent (and 1-2 years younger than my classmates) I had to change in the junior high school lockers. I got over it.

Years later I was somewhat uncomfortable in basic training when I realized that we had an "open plan" toilet. I always preferred (and still do) emptying my bowels in private, rather than surrounded by comrades. I managed to live with the inconvenience.

I have no doubt that Back In The Day many members of the previously all-white US military realized that they might have to restrict their racial/racist "banter" if/when there were Negroes in their unit. They learned to live with the awkwardness, despite prophets of doom foretelling a complete breakdown of military discipline, unit solidarity, social cohesion, and civilization as we know it.

Gays, IMHO, have a right to be in the military. Just as African-Americans did.

Moreover, as the original posting makes clear, we need their service. (As we need[ed] A-A's.)

So: Get over it. Learn to live with it.

Dr Ngo: A straight, married for 39 years, white male, since we're announcing credentials.

Apologies to the many who responded while I was writing the above, and whose comments (some foreshadowing mine) I overlooked.

I need to "refresh" more. Preferably alone.

A lot of people believe that gays serving openly will be all about sexual predation/friction, just as they imagine letting the boys lose in the girls shower would produce sexual predation/friction.

mckinneytx, Iyou haven't proven that "a lot" of people believe anything of the sort. Again, you only speak for yourself (even if, as you claim, you personally don't fit the hypothetical scenario you've constructed).

OCSteve, a former member of the US armed services, provided his own anecdotal experience as a straight male working alongside gay coworkers, which appears to contradict your assumption. I would contend that his (anecdotal) experience trumps your (unsupported) hypothetical.

YMMV.

And in all this, where will the bisexual men get to shower?

We have to be content with sponge baths.

Ah, but who will be holding the sponge?

I'd hold my own sponge, but sometimes I'm not comfortable with the kinds of looks I give myself.

mckinneytexas: …but that we have a way to go before 18-25 year old men can coexist comfortably and I think some dialogue along those lines is an important next step

Dialogue is always good. But really, I think you’re overestimating any discomfort level. Rather, there is plenty of discomfort but there is no sexual component to it. dr ngo mentioned the "open plan" toilets. He spared us the detail, but I’ll offer the visual: it’s a bunch of toilets, in the open, with no dividers or doors or privacy of any kind. And when 40 men have an hour to S…, Shower, and Shave they will be in heavy use. Once you learn to deal with that the thought that some dude might be checking you out in the shower seems laughable. There is nothing about the whole communal bathroom experience that is the least bit sexy. It wouldn’t be sexy if it was men and women. It’s just really not the environment where those thoughts can really form.

The main thing your squad mates are concerned with is whether you can do your job and pull your own weight. Your orientation is really the least of their concerns.

DADT was a huge step backwards for gays in the military. They had a much easier time before it was implemented. The ones in my unit were out and open and living normal lives.

All this talk about showers is really making me appreciate the coziness of my own home, where we have something I had never experienced until this year: an extra half bathroom. I'm comfortable enough with my life partner that one of us can pee while the other one is bathing behind a curtain, but that doesn't mean we have to like it. Not to mention the trauma of being overheard singing.


Hmm, I figured this was a dead horse and then I realized a whole new problem with mckinneytexas's train of thought. In the statement "Why don't we segregate gay men from straight men like we do straight men from straight women, because the groups are equivalent in terms of potential sexual attraction," there's a really basic flaw -- and I'm not surprised that mck-tx didn't spot it; it's a pretty common blind spot.

Here it is: If you separate straight men from straight women, you get two groups with no unwanted sexual tension within either one (assuming, as one does, that all the straights are just as straight as straight can be).

If you separate straight men from gay men (and let's throw the bi men in with the gay men), you get a group of straight men who will never (never, ever! really!) be interested in each other... and a group of gay men who still have exactly the same problem that the straight men and straight women were complaining about. That is, someone in the shower may be looking at me That Way, but I don't like him That Way. The only difference is the part about being generally grossed out by the gayness.

But like I said, this is a common blind spot - not just straight vs. gay but between men and women too. Some straights have the idea that all non-straights are just whooping it up in one big orgy and are all sexually compatible with each other. Some women (and men) have the idea that all men would welcome the attentions of any woman. Etc.

So if the message of mck's thought experiment is that we should consider segregation, the assumption behind it is that it's right and proper to subject gay people to a discomfort that straight people should not ever have to endure.

Straight men raping or sexually harassing women is an issue for women in the army, yes.

That some straight men fear that gay men would treat them "like women" speaks more for the way they themselves behave towards women than for their own sexual desirability.

Honestly, did nobody notice how outrageously insulting this comment was towards those who, like myself, merely pointed out that being naked together with men who might sexually desire them (like straight women might) could cause discomfort?

A retraction and an apology is in order here - thank you.

If you want to start tallying insults, here's another, which I mention to note earlier:

And I know its bad manners to make this point, but for the same reason military women generally don't want to shower communally with military men, some (many, most, a few, who knows?) heterosexual men prefer not to shower communally with men who openly consider them to be sexually desirable.

How about that little word "openly"? Unqualified, unconditional -- any and all gay men are sure to be openly desiring any men they get in the shower with.

I particularly want to thank OCSteve for throwing the cold bath of common sense -- and actual relevant experience -- on this fictional figment.

"mention" s/b "meant" -- sorry, writing in haste.

novakant: A retraction and an apology is in order here - thank you.

When you retract and apologize for your expressed attitude towards gay men. Which I doubt you will any time soon.

I was living in Israel at the time that the IDF (Israel Defense Force) decided to permit openly gay people to serve in the military. This was around the same time the stupid Don't Ask Don't Tell policy was decided upon in the U.S.

This was after a very respected Israeli researcher, Uzi Even, had come out as gay and revealed that he had lost his security clearance because he was gay - something obviously stupid because it meant his skills were lost. I don't recall there being a very loud debate about the whole thing. And since then, on my visits back to Israel, there hasn't been any discussion about how the straight men in the army are scared of showering with gay men (they have bigger things to worry about than whether some guy is looking at them).

And I don't think anyone has ever accused the Israeli army of wimping out or being insufficiently macho. Don't worry about it folks, it's really not a big deal to serve in the military next to gay people.

OCSteve: I had never worried all that much about the shower issue -- my general attitude being 'gosh, even basic training, let alone combat, seems to involve many much more unpleasant experiences which we rightly expect people to learn to deal with, somehow' -- but your comment made its remoteness from reality pretty clear.

I am now going to say a special thank you to my very own bathroom, just for having walls. Not that I'm that worried about the cats seeing me, but still.

When you retract and apologize for your expressed attitude towards gay men. Which I doubt you will any time soon.

So now I'm not only being branded as a misogynist, but also as an unreformable homophobe - and all that without any basis whatsoever. Whatever you might want to construct in your twisted mind, you're talking to the wrong guy here.

Not only do I not have any "problem with women", or for that matter they with me, I've also been around gay people for most of my adult life, which is rather unsurprising if you've lived the life I have. A friend and important intellectual mentor of mine during my student days was gay and I had to watch him die of AIDS, which was one of the most heartbreaking things I have witnessed in my whole life and it still makes me sad whenever I think about him. I happened to spend the last 3 and a half years in an office with two gay guys and a lesbian woman and we got along just fine, thank you very much. My circle of friends includes several gay guys and their sexual orientation is just not an issue.

So I do not take kindly to this kind of baseless character assassination, in fact I take it personally and if this is allowed to stand, I'm out of here.

Novakant: I'm sure I will take a lot of flak for this, but can we wholly dismiss out of hand the issue of sexual privacy arising from being naked around others who might be sexually attracted to you, if such a situation arises on a regular basis within a confined space (e.g. an army camp or whatever). I'm not a prude but I would feel uncomfortable in such a situation, just as I suppose most people would be uncomfortable with unisex showers or dorms, which is why we generally have separate ones.

So, you're just fine - as JanieM noted - with gay and bisexual men being made to feel uncomfortable in this way, or lesbians and bisexual women.

And yet, you are getting up on your high horse, looking down your nose and snorting about how "baseless character assassination"...

No.

I have been sharing changing rooms and showers with lesbian, bisexual and straight women all of my adult life. If you've ever worked out in a gym, probably so have you got naked around straight, gay and bisexual men.

It isn't the presence of someone who may find you sexually attractive that makes a person uncomfortable.

It's how they behave. And straight men who are convinced the presence of a gay or bi man would make them uncomfortable are saying a lot about how they'd behave in the presence of a woman whom they found sexually attractive if non-sexual necessity made her and them get naked in the same room.

Or at least, to be fair, how they think they'd behave.

(And I see it was Hob, not JanieM, who pointed out that the presumption that segregating straight men from gay/bi men eliminates unwanted sexual attraction, when in fact it only allows straight men to remain happily sure no one is observing them who might find them sexually attractive as they "s..., shower, and shave".)

The answer is, really, the same one as preventing sexual harassment anywhere: a strong top-down clear policy that under no circumstances is it ever acceptable. That people need to behave well towards each other.

If the military asserts it's impossible to make straight men do that, maybe they should change the direction of DADT...

He spared us the detail, but I’ll offer the visual: it’s a bunch of toilets, in the open, with no dividers or doors or privacy of any kind. And when 40 men have an hour to S…, Shower, and Shave they will be in heavy use. Once you learn to deal with that the thought that some dude might be checking you out in the shower seems laughable.

Hmm .... I really don't want this side of the argument, but .... I once took a crap in latrine pit on the top of a mountain surrounded by a bunch of folks. I felt a lot less unfortable about doing that than I did when someone made a pass at me in a locker room. There's a difference between an expected inconvenience that everyone endures (crapping in full view on mountataintops) and an unexpected inconvenience that you endure alone (I thought I was just taking a shower, you had something else in mind).

For the reasons set forth by Hilzoy and others, DADT is a bad policy. Get rid of it. But don't act as though every 18 year-old kid who feels awkward about showering with teh gays is stupid or homophobic. There's a difference between an overriding concern and a legitimate concern.

von -- There are people who feel awkward about showering in the open with other people at all, particularly those who haven't had to do it before. I was certainly like that, and I sympathize. That doesn't stop the military from expecting people to do it, and I'd bet that if you tried to say on behalf of new recruits that such awkwardness was a "legitimate concern," and that those shy and modest people's tender sensibilities should be taken into account in setting policy, you'd be laughed out of the room.

It's apparently only when the awkwardness is generated by people's fantasies about gay people that it suddenly becomes "legitimate."

But don't act as though every 18 year-old kid who feels awkward about showering with teh gays is stupid or homophobic.

Why not? They are. (Mostly, I would think, they are stupid, not homophobic.)

Would you be equally tender towards the feelings of a white kid from an all-white school who joins the army and discovers he feels really awkward that he's expected to shower with black soldiers? Is his awkwardness about this "legitimate", or is it just stupid or racist?

Hey, I had trouble just having a shower with other guys. It's not something they gently phase you into; just one day you've never had a shower with company, and the next you're taking a shower with forty other people.

Many of whom have beaten you through puberty by a good margin, which makes for some extra discomfort.

So, yes, I'd feel probably uncomfortable having a shower with gay men, but I don't think it's something I couldn't get over. If that discomfort seems stupid to you, I can live with that.

Slarti, the discomfort that some people feel about having to share changing rooms and shower rooms with others is very real and I don't mean to discount it.

Von, if I appeared to be dismissing as not worth discussion your experience in a shared shower when someone made a pass at you, I apologize for that - I agree that's an extremely discomforting thing to happen, but in principle, in communal showers in the workplace, it shouldn't - regardless of the sexual orientation of the people showering. The issue is that someone was rude enough to make a pass - not that gay men also get to use those showers!

mckinneytexas 5:35 12/8 -- You are absolutely right about effectiveness and dialogue. Gay people, though, are only human, just like everyone else. Some of us never had any patience in the first place, and some of us ran out a long time ago. Sweeping cultural changes don’t happen in an orderly fashion and because everyone behaves in a perfectly modulated and saintly fashion. They happen because we all just do what we can, and it’s messy because it’s human.

You wrote, If you want to cement their views, just call them homophobes and ignore them. Or, you can give the question serious consideration and try to come up with an answer that will move people. There has been some name-calling here, but it hardly seems to me that you are being ignored. There have been quite a few responses, some snarky, but many substantive (even some of the snarky ones had substance) to the hypothetical question you are putting into the mouths of a lot of people. And yet here you are, posing the identical question again, as though no one had said a thing to respond to it:

'if it's fair for women to be segregated from men, why not straight men from gay men, since one is the functional equivalent of the other?'

So here’s my attempt to respond to that question directly, in your own terms.

A haywagon is the functional equivalent of an automobile insofar as it has wheels and can carry goods, critters, and people down the road. We don't treat them as equivalent, though, because there are other ways in which they're not.

Similarly, the scenarios you're positing are functional equivalents in one very narrowly defined way, but not in others. One of the others, the first one that comes to mind and (I think) quite a compelling one, is that we already have a long-standing and completely unquestioned custom of separating bathrooms and showers by gender, but not by sexual orientation. Gay and straight boys and men have been showering together in high schools and colleges and on sports teams and in the military for as long as there have been showers, and the same goes for gay and straight girls and women.

You folks just didn’t realize it. ;)

The sky hasn’t fallen.

Not only that, any and all discomforts arising from the situation have had to be borne by gay people. And guess what: they managed.

You can too, or your hypothetical 18-25-year-old males with their tender sensibilities. The fact that what they will have to get used to is knowing that some of their colleagues are gay, instead of not knowing, points to a subtheme of this entire thread: the thing they’re being asked to adjust is in their own heads, not in the outside world. What’s changing isn’t that gays are there, it’s that now other people have to actually know about it.

As a 12-year-old boy said in a film I once saw on this general subject: “Big whup.”

Alright, since a retraction or an apology seems not to be forthcoming, and since instead Jesurgislac has felt the need to reiterate and even up the ante, I would like to report a posting rules violation, ask the moderators to evaluate the posts in question and take the action they deem appropriate (I wanted to link to the individual posts to make that easier, but it doesn't seem to work for some reason).

To recap:

I was pointing out that I would feel uncomfortable in a situation where I would be exposed and might be the object of sexual desire and that such feelings should be taken into account when discussing the matter at hand. Now I was prepared for some dismissive or even derisive responses, both because of the rather delicate nature of the subject matter and because my point seemed to be going against the predominant consensus here - and I could have lived with that, whatever.

What I was not prepared for was to be called:

a.) a diehard homophobe:

"When you retract and apologize for your expressed attitude towards gay men. Which I doubt you will any time soon."

b.) a misogynist:

"That some straight men fear that gay men would treat them "like women" speaks more for the way they themselves behave towards women than for their own sexual desirability."

c.) a person who might sexually molest or assault women, i.e. a latent rapist:

"And straight men who are convinced the presence of a gay or bi man would make them uncomfortable are saying a lot about how they'd behave in the presence of a woman whom they found sexually attractive if non-sexual necessity made her and them get naked in the same room."

Now of course none of these accusations have any basis in reality, nor can they be deduced from anything I've written in this thread. Furthermore, I find the attitudes I am accused of having totally despicable - they go against my core beliefs - and would certainly never contemplate any of the actions implied.

If refusing to be accused of such things puts me "on a high horse", so be it, I can think of few things that would be more insulting. I've been in a few bare knuckle internet fights over the years and am generally pretty robust when it comes to both dishing out and taking it, but there are limits.

Jes, I didn't take your comment as a dismissal of my experience of having a person make a pass at me in a locker room. It wasn't scarring in the least, and I showered in the very same locker room the very next day.

My points are threefold: First, DADT is an unjust policy however you cut it. Second, the very rareness of my one experience with inappropriate behavior in the locker room suggests that the fears of some % of straight men are wildly overblown. I've showered in locker rooms a good number of times. (Indeed, assuming I make my workout today, I'm going to wash in a communal shower within the next few hours.) Assuming that I am a damn sexy guy -- and, of course, I am ;-) -- that suggests pretty much nil risk of even an inappropriate pass.

Third, however (and this goes to JamieM's comment): minimizing or making fun of a straight guy's concern that he might be inappropriately ogled in a shower is:

1. Not wise politically, in terms of convincing undecideds to change the policy (I take it that this is McKinneyTX's main point) and

2. Not fair to straight men. It may be hypersensitive to fear communal showers, but it's not hypersensitive to have this specific concern.

In any event, my 2 cents.

Oh, and I agree with Jes that most/all 18 year-olds are stupid. So consider my prior remark amended.

novakant --

Not taking a stance on the question of the posting rules and extreme interpretations of other people’s words, but what exactly do you think “homophobia” is? Your self-assessment implies that if a woman were forced to take a public shower with you, she would have nothing to worry about because of your “core beliefs.” At the same time, your portrayal of the corresponding situation involving gay and straight men as one in which you would be uncomfortable because you “might be the object of sexual desire” implies that you impute less admirable “core beliefs” to a whole class of people, i.e. gay men. What would you call that, if not homophobia?

I’m not talking about your discomfort as such -- we feel what we feel, and I honor that. I’m talking about your projection of “sexual desire,” and an inability to manage it in a public/collective context, onto other people. Whether you think you would feel no sexual desire for a woman forced into a public shower with you, or you think you might feel it but would be entirely capable of managing it in such a way that she would have nothing to be offended about, you are implying that gay men would not be capable of such mature and virtuous behavior. That seems like homophobia to me, admittedly a subtle variety, but maybe for that very reason all the harder to deal with.

Just something that I think can be "deduced from" something you've "written in this thread."

Also, to repeat: I'm willing to "take these feelings into account when discussing the matter at hand," but not to give them legitimacy in the shaping of policy. As people have pointed out repeatedly, many people are uncomfortable getting naked with other people no matter what. The military doesn't coddle that discomfort, why should it coddle this one?

Perhaps throwing a match into a powder keg in terms of opening up a whole different can of worms (not to mix metaphors or anything;):

Almost everything written here (including my own offerings), to the extent that it has had to do with sexual desire at all, has focused on the real or imagined sexual desires of men. There has been some mention of the mixing of lesbians and straight women, or lesbians with each other, but unless I've missed something, no one has even remotely alluded to any possibility of a problem arising from women's sexual desire for men in unisex contexts.

Why not?

Hint 1: the answer isn't that no woman would ever feel any.

Hint 2: the answer might (or then again might not) be another facet of the answer to mckinney's question about "functional equivalence."

von: It may be hypersensitive to fear communal showers, but it's not hypersensitive to have this specific concern.

Repeating in response to repetition: "this specific concern" comes not from having to shower with gay men, but from having to know you're showering with gay men.

I don't see why one is any less hypersensitive than the other. One comes from feelings of privacy about the body (very widespread, and thus from that point of view the opposite of hypersensitive). The other comes from the fear of characteristics that have been projected onto other people. Where that belongs on a scale of "sensitivity" I don't know, but knowing myself as a reasonably harmless gay person (albeit female), but one who's also very private, I have a lot more sympathy with the one than the other.

Of course, that's just a subjective viewpoint. Which is exactly what I'm trying to say about your assertion of relative "hyper"-ness.

JanieM: Hint 2: the answer might (or then again might not) be another facet of the answer to mckinney's question about "functional equivalence."

I think a large part of our attitude towards nudity is cultural. (google "Nudity Japan") Having same sex showers would probably not in fact cause much problem, and not doing so seems a waste of tax payers money. As a male, initially I would find it somewhat embarrassing, but only because I don't think I'm as perfect a specimen as I should be. Few of us are.

I think you are right that part of the problem is personal: the thought that it would be socially acceptable for same sex propositions to openly occur, that it might actually be OK to accept, and that you should base your choices on what works for you and not what has heretofore been socially acceptable.


A different take on mckinney's concerns with pin-ups and dirty jokes:

In my experience, when you have a bunch of rowdy guys working together in a setting where straightguyness is assumed, there's a lot of rowdy guy humor and sex talk, and women and gay men often feature as punchlines, sometimes in a not very nice way.

Also in my experience, when similar rowdy straight guys are working in a mixed crowd with openly queer guys, when they all know each other well - the jokes just expand into a whole world of polymorphous dirtiness, where the straightest of all straight guys will go into maniacal detail about all the gayest possible things they can imagine doing, and not in a mean way. It's like if no one is allowed to be queer, then there's this aggressive and defensive edge to all the humor, because you don't want to be the one unmanly man. But if the guy across the table is already clearly the gay guy and it's all cool, then it just becomes a big game, because sex is funny and gross. A kind of utopia of 12-year-old boy humor. I say boys & guys, but I've seen the same effect in mixed-gender groups where women gleefully embrace the chance to practice all-purpose vulgarity. (Especially nurses.) In a segregated crowd of any kind, there are insecurities and status games that can be really exhausting; getting used to a mixed crowd can be liberating.

I don't see what the fuss is all about -- the military is clearly following the example laid out in the Bible:

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron, saying, ‘No man of your offspring throughout their generations who has a defect shall approach to offer the food of his God. ‘For no one who has a defect shall approach: a blind man, or a lame man, or he who has a disfigured face, or any deformed limb, or a man who has a broken foot or broken hand, or a hunchback or a dwarf, or one who has a defect in his eye or eczema or scabs or crushed testicles.

-- Leviticus 21:16-20, New American Standard Bible

As with the American military, it took a real manly man to be a Biblical Priest.

Just to clarify my post, which I now see is a complete non-sequitor from the rest of the very engaging debate taking place here:

I did mean it as somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but I also think it's worth considering the symbolism behind this policy. Just as a lot of the pro-DADT arguments center around hypothetical situations and presumptions about people's comfort levels with privacy and sexual attraction, there's also a strong element of what it means to be a "soldier" in the sense of a fighter in an idealized male or female (but not both!) body.

It gets back to hilzoy's point that military physical requirements are "full of bizarre manifestations of the idea that the military should be the guardian of sexual and genital normalcy." It's particularly bizarre because the military is supposed to be (along with sports) a natural meritocracy, where the imperative to win is supposed to trump all cultural biases. How can it be that this idea of "sexual normalcy" is so strong that it overrides real and pressing issues of national security?

Why is it that every debate over DADT seems to trade on the premise that the primary occupation of our military servicemembers is showering?

Seriously, is showering policy really so important to our military's functioning? Or is it just that supporters of DADT (and associated concern-trollish opponents) can't think of any actually relevant area of military practice that would benefit from continuing to discriminate?

To add a completely tasteless joke to Mark's remark: I would discourage US soldiers in Iraq/Afghanistan from showering (communal or otherwise) as long as KBR etc. are responsible for the showers. It's too dangerous (electrocution, infection...).

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