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Mark Olmsted Headshot

DADT: John McCain and the Politics of "Ick"

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The Pentagon study officially issued yesterday confirms what most of us already knew: Most soldiers react to the reality or perception that a colleague is gay with a big yawn.

Cohesion, schmohesion, military readiness is not remotely the real problem for Senator McCain and his phobocronies. But I disagree with Dan Savage, who I admire profoundly, that it's simple bigotry. It's far more irrational.

The Senators think gays are "icky." When they think of us, they have a momentary flash of having sex with a man, and it grosses them out. They also seem to believe that if a gay man had a chance to impose himself sexually on them, he would. This perception makes them mad at gay men, for imagined crimes of presumed intent.

It all projection, and full of vanity to boot. I submit that the only thing they find more unpleasant than imagining another man wanting to have sex with them is imagining that he would not. Their egos, perpetually primed by botoxed trophy wives, wouldn't permit such a deflated thought.

So they take offense at this fantasy of unwanted homosexual attention, even frothing themselves to a fevered imagining that the repeal of DADT would somehow give carte blanche for male-on-male sexual assault. What a convenient way to deflect from the acutely serious problem of male-on-female sexual harassment reported by 1 in 4 women soldiers, some resulting in P.T.S.D? Where is McCain decrying that current and very real crisis on the floor of the Senate?

John, get over yourself. This is the reality. When gays want to have sex with each other we have bars, bathhouses, the internet. Sometimes friends even introduce us, or we meet at the laundromat -- just like "normal" people! Bottom line, we have plenty of options, more than most straight men. And we make the same choice as straight men do entering the military -- for the duration, our priority is serving our country. Like heterosexual soldiers, we still get horny. Like heterosexual soldiers, we jerk off when we can and have sex on leave. And just like them we grow very close to our brothers-in-arms. Any veteran will tell you it's a bonding that transcends sexual orientation, particularly in combat. In the cases where two gay servicemen develop a particular bond, they will continue to pursue that off-base or post-deployment, just as men and women who meet in the military do. Rules concerning inappropriate fraternization would still apply.

You see Senator, gays are very well-trained by this society in taking the temperature of their workplace. We generally don't come out if and until it feels comfortable, even if we legally can. Pastors, teachers, corporate execs, doctors, lawyers, truck drivers, students, postal workers, prison guards; all kinds of gay Americans make the choice of omitting or side-stepping questions of sexual orientation for the simple reason that we want to get our jobs done without a hassle. We deeply value laws that protect us from getting fired, but that doesn't mean we still don't have to deal with ignorant co-workers and assholes. You don't have to legislate the "Don't Tell" part. We do that pretty much anyway.

Gay recruits go through two basic trainings; the one they receive in the military, and the one they just survived in high school. It is ludicrous to imagine that anyone whose foremost priority is living out loud and proud is going to choose the military as his preferred career option. He doesn't want to be hazed, ribbed or viewed through a prism of assumption. He wants to bond with his team. But as a result of that process, he also wants to be comfortable not lying to the very people he grows close to. It's really what happens in most of the cases now. But the repeal of DADT would, practically speaking, finally make that honesty a safe choice.

Honesty, Senator McCain. It's comes from the same root as "honor" -- about which you might still have a vague recollection. So do the honorable thing. Repeal DADT.