More on Gays in the Military: An Opinion from the Other Side

A slow morning at the coffee shop gave me time to find an interesting op-ed that related to our class discussions of Gay New York. In the Friday, March 4th issue of the New York Times retired Air Force Chief of Staff Merrill A. McPeak contributed a controversial editorial in which he argued in favor of the military’s current homosexual policy.  McPeak’s argument in “Don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t change,” reveals the strength of the homosexual-heterosexual binary that we discussed in class.  The author believes that “advocates for gays in the military” have not addressed the important issue of unit cohesion in their arguments against the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.  McPeak’s feelings are quite transparent at the end of the piece where he writes,

“I know some will see these ingredients of the military lifestyle as a sort of absurd, tough-guy game played by overgrown boys. But to prepare warriors for a life of hardship, the military must remain a kind of adventure, apart from the civilian world and full of strange customs. To be a fighter pilot or a paratrooper or a submariner is to join a self-contained, resolutely idealistic society, largely unnoticed and surprisingly uncorrupted by the world at large. I know some will see these ingredients of the military lifestyle as a sort of absurd, tough-guy game played by overgrown boys. But to prepare warriors for a life of hardship, the military must remain a kind of adventure, apart from the civilian world and full of strange customs. To be a fighter pilot or a paratrooper or a submariner is to join a self-contained, resolutely idealistic society, largely unnoticed and surprisingly uncorrupted by the world at large.”[1]

This paragraph is particularly revealing of how the homosexual-heterosexual binary has changed our ideas of masculinity.  In Gay New York sailors who engage in sexual behavior with other men have no stigma attached to them.  As military men they represent the essence of masculinity and thus their sexual activity, as long as it remains within the masculine norm, is not called into question.  Unfortunately, McPeak has missed his history lesson and thinks that the military has always been an “idealistic society,” “uncorrupted by the world at large.”  I think that the military has been more “corrupted” than McPeak realizes.

[1] Merrill A. McPeak, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Change.” New York Times March 4, 2010.

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