By Michael Joseph Gross
From The Advocate November 2009
You’ve heard the threats — about how gay men in the shower might bring down the U.S. military with a wink, a pinch, or a flick of a wet towel. But where’s the truth in that? What’s it really like to serve alongside gay and lesbian service members?
I don’t have permission to be on base, and I’m nervous, because when I told veterans what I planned to do, they all gave me pretty much the same warning: Any soldier I approach could call the Military Police, who would escort me to the gates and kick me out — unless they detained me for questioning.
At lunchtime on a gray September Sunday, a retired officer drove me onto the Fort Lewis Army base in Washington, about 50 miles south of Seattle, and dropped me at the PX (military lingo for “post exchange”), which is basically a food court wrapped in a mini-mall that includes a GNC store, a barber shop, a video arcade, and a folding table where a friendly old guy sells wooden American flags he carves out of what he claims are 1,000-year-old logs. (A sign on the wall behind him reads, ask me how i know the logs are one thousand years old!) Until the cops come, I am haunting the food court, walking up to straight soldiers and asking whether they’ve ever been aware of serving alongside a gay soldier and, if so, what it was like.
I’m conducting this extremely unscientific survey in hopes that the straight guys will tell some stories that might shed light on the debate about repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell,” the federal law and Pentagon policy on gays in the military, which will be the subject of a Senate hearing this fall. DADT is based on the proposition that straight soldiers cannot work with openly gay soldiers. Supporters of the ban argue that gays, if allowed to serve openly, would harm unit cohesion, troop readiness, and morale, largely because their presence would make straight soldiers self-conscious showering or dressing in front of them. Continue reading ‘The Advocate: Straight Guys Tell’