It was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who, in late
September, 1993, a week before his retirement, initiated what would be
known as the "don't ask, don't tell" policy for homophobes in the
"I wouldn't say this if I weren't about to retire," he told the
other Joint Chiefs, "but it's crystal clear that homophobic propensities
are incompatible with military service."
There was a sharp intake of breath around the table as his
colleagues grew pale and involuntarily crossed their legs. The Marine
commandant was the first to respond.
"Holy abomination," he gasped. "Whatever do you mean?"
The chairman presented his evidence:
Sgt. Jose Zuniga, medic in the Gulf War, Sixth Army 1992 Soldier
of the Year, forced out of service by homophobes after he marched in a
gay parade in full uniform, including medals.
Col. Margarethe Cammermeyer, 26-year veteran, Bronze Star for
heroism in Vietnam, forced out of service by homophobes after she
revealed she's a lesbian.
Marine Col. Fred Peck's testimony that he opposed allowing his
homosexual son to join the Corps, not because he'd be a bad Marine, but
because he "could be killed or injured" by homophobes serving with him.
Barry Goldwater's charge that homophobes have "wasted a
half-billion dollars in the past decade chasing down gays and running
them out of the armed services."
"It just has to stop," the chairman concluded. "Homophobes have a
pathological fear of some of our best people, and as soldiers they
attack what they fear. It plays hell with unit cohesion."
The other Joint Chiefs squirmed, then calmed momentarily when he
opened his Bible.
"And get this," the chairman said, turning to Second Samuel 1:26
and reading aloud King David's lamentation over the dead body of his
good friend Jonathan: "Very pleasant has thou been unto me: thy love
to me was wonderful, passing the love of women."
"Had the Israelites been as homophobic we are," he said, "the
greatest military leader in the Bible would never have been issued a
Murmers ran round the table, then finally the Marine commandant,
playing devil's advocate and trying to uncross his legs at the same
time, made a telling point in defense of homophobia.
"A homophobe can be just as good a fighter as the rest of us," he
argued. "And if we tell him the enemy is gay, he can be a helluva lot
meaner. And even retain his self-righteousness. Sanctimonious violence
can enhance our combat readiness."
Eventually, of course, they hammered out the compromise policy that
allows homophobes to serve so long as they simply deny their basic
identity. Its key provisions:
The Truth, Mainly
Recruits won't be asked and they aren't to tell about their
homophobia. However, homophobic conductsay beating hell out of the
guy who's insufficiently appreciative of your girlfriend's bikini photo,
or who doesn't give a damn how the game comes outwill result in
Latent homophobia will not in itself keep a soldier from
security-clearance jobsso long as he doesn't cross the line into
active homophobic practices which might leave him open to blackmail.
Service personnel will not be disciplined for hanging out in
homophobic bars or listening to homophobic radio talk shows, homophobic
football coaches, or homophobic ministers. However, they may not repeat
the arguments, either on base or off base, in uniform or out.
GIs may continue their unconscious displays of sexual
insecurityoften the root of homophobiasuch as the involuntary
crossing of legs during discussions of homosexuality or other subjects
that threaten their manhood.
When the Joint Chiefs presented their compromise to the President,
he said it was "not identical with some of my own goals," but he'd
accept it because who's in charge anyway?
Militant homophobes in "Act Down" opposed the policy because it
would treat homophobia as a pathology instead of a virtue. Republicans
opposed it because it came from a Democrat.
"Certainly we'll vote against it," the Senate Minority Leader
said. "I'll figure out why after I've read it. My guess is that it'll
undermine military morality. Or something like that."
Nevertheless, the new policy became law on a straight party vote.
The session ended on a bipartisan note, however, when aging males on
both sides of the aisle had to be rolled off the floor in wheelchairs.
They couldn't get their legs uncrossed.
Satterfield is a college professor and writes as a means of discovery.