By: ADAM GROZA
I was listening to this radio interview yesterday about a book called Unfriendly Fire (Thomas Dunne Books, 2009) by Nathaniel Frank. The book argues that the ban on gays in the military should be lifted. You may recall that President Clinton enacted the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy, introduced as a compromise by Bill Clinton in 1993, and then signed into law by HR2401. Clinton had promised to overturn the ban on gays, and saw the bill as a successful compromise. Whereas before HR2401 those seeking to join the military were asked if they were homosexual, the new policy was that servicemen would not be asked whether or not they were gay. That was good news for them. However, HR 2401 effectively prohibits homosexuals from engaging in homosexual relations. So while the military agrees not to ask, gay soldiers must agree not to be, well, gay.
First, it seems to me that if the military is going to ban gays, the better way is to screen servicemen as we did between WWI and 1993. Just ask people if they are gay, and if they say yes, then don’t let them in the military. The Don’t Ask policy is an elaborate lie. The government deceives itself into thinking it allows homosexuals into the military, but then tells them not to tell others they are gay, have gay relationships, or talk about being gay. The soldiers are asked to lie about who they perceive themselves to be in the abandonment of the very relationships that define their sexuality.
Second, I take issue with a statement made by Frank. He talks about the stereotypes of homosexuals perpetuated by the military (and those who supported HR2401). The stereotype is of the radial San Francisco gay pride scene: Drag queens, glitter, and the like. When I heard Frank say this, I expected Terry Gross (who was conducting the interview) to interrupt him and ask some kind of follow-up or clarifying question). Blaming the military for homosexual stereotypes? How about blaming homosexuals for homosexual stereotypes! After all, those images from the gay pride parades are provided by, um, the gay community!
But Frank is saying the “queer image” as weak, effeminate, etc. is misleading and enforced by those who wish to keep gays out of the military. The fear, he says, is of a pink military where bases start looking like the images of gay parades. When I heard him say this, he failed to mention Hollywood! If Frank is wondering how everyone got the image of gays as effeminate weaklings, perhaps he should consider the following:
• Marc St. James on Ugly Betty
• Rickie on My So Called Life
• Lloyd on Entourage
• Jack McFarland on Will & Grace
The list could go on, but Hollywood puts forth gay characters that enforce what Frank sees as a negative stereotype that has made it hard for gays to find a place in the military. The fact that Hollywood is not indicted is obvious bias. Frank blames chaplains and the religious right, but why not the so-called gay icons who play characters who are gay and effeminate? The homosexual community celebrates the characters listed above, but Frank says these are the stereotypes that keep gays from the military.
Whose really to blame?