Published 4 February 1993 in The Carolinian (The University of North Carolina at Greensboro)
Ban against homosexuals must remain
by Matt Wallace
In his zeal to keep at least one of his plethora of campaign promises, Bill Clinton has created a political firestorm. He has also made a grave error. Lifting the ban against service by homosexuals will only harm the one function of the federal government that actually works.
For over a week, "experts" who know nothing of the military experience have spouted psychobabble about the military's "need" to overcome its "homophobia." The media have done their part by parading homosexual commissioned officers whose experience is hardly representative.
I have yet to hear any input from the junior enlisted members (EMs) and the junior noncommissioned officers (NCOs) who will be most affected by a change in policy. These people make the bulk of the services; they are the military. Having risen through the ranks from Private First Class to Sergeant, I speak as an enlisted soldier.
There was a time (even as late as one year into my enlistment) when I would have argued for lifting the ban. I have always been somewhat sympathetic towards homosexuals. Having come of age as an atheist in the Bible Belt, I know what it is to be a member of a reviled minority. Prior to joining the Army, I worked with homosexuals and even had one as a manager, and while a student here at UNCG, I definitely went to school with homosexuals.
In basic training, during an equal opportunity class given by our company's senior drill sergeant, one of my fellow recruits asked, "Isn't the Army's policy against homosexuals discriminatory?" The big NCO allowed himself a moment of humor and replied gleefully and enthusiastically, "Oh, yeah!" We all laughed, but I remember thinking how narrow-minded and ignorant he was. As an "enlightened" college boy, I arrogantly assumed my own moral superiority. But theory and practice are often very different, and I received my comeuppance in the fullness of time.
During the middle of the second year of my enlistment, I began to suspect that two of my roommates were having a homosexual affair. They were keeping it out of the barracks, so I wasn't sure. Other soldiers had begun to take notice as well. I was often asked what was up with them. I would feign ignorance and answer, "I don't know; what do you mean?" I knew full well what they meant, and their suspicions lent credence to my own.
I returned to our room late one night and discovered the two of them in the same bunk. I no longer had any doubts. They were starting to awaken so I decided that it would be best to just go to bed as if I had seen nothing. They became emboldened and continued their affair in our room. For three weeks, I endured being locked out of my room and interrupting whatever it was that they were doing so that I could get in.
I finally decided that I had no choice but to inform our superiors. I asked our platoon sergeant how to get a couple of homosexuals out of the Army. He knew to whom I was referring. The command was informed of the situation, but it was determined that nothing could be done without hard evidence.
I wanted to move into another room, but there was no extra space. Anyway, the problem would be partially solved when one of my roommates was transferred back to the States during our upcoming field exercise, but I was stuck with them both for ten days. I was never so glad to go to the field.
Everyone was aware of the situation. My roommates' affair had pushed our unit out of its normal rhythms. The feeling of trust had been violated. The presence of known homosexuals is disruptive to the good order and discipline of military units. Barracks life is highly communal, and privacy is very limited, but these conditions foster the camaraderie and the unit cohesion that is vital to the proper functioning of a combat-ready force.
The outrage over the lifting of the ban expressed by veterans such as myself is understandable and well justified. We sacrificed part of our lives and part of ourselves by serving in our country's armed forces. We gave up far too much to stand by idly while those who "loathe the military" attempt to destroy that which we made part of ourselves and which we will always love.
Matt Wallace is a Finance/Economics major from Winston-Salem, N.C.
When I wrote this editorial, I knew that I was in for it. The Board Opinion from the week before was headlined, "Lift the ban," and there was no response against it. Well, the truth hurts, and someone has to take the lumps.
Unsurprisingly, most letters were semiliterate and irrational screeching by homosexuals and their "allies." Upon reading these letters, I had to reread my article to see what they were so upset about. I (and others, including many who disagreed with me) couldn't find what they were ranting and raving about. It seemed they either read some other article or literally read between the lines to get some concealed message from my subconscious. Apparently, they read the headline and assumed the rest; if you've read one "bigoted homophobe," you've read them all.
My "favorite" response came from an old enemy from my pre-Army Philosophy major days. Unfortunately, it was completely unprintable.
In the letter, I was, of course, called a "homophobe," which was quickly followed by "racist" and "sexist." What would a knee-jerk, left-wing, counterculture attack be without invoking the PC trinity? After all, the trinity is the only refutation required when arguing against a heterosexual, white male. Strangely though, further on, I was accused of being a "latent homosexual." An unfounded charge of hypocrisy may seem excessive, but then all's fair in love and Culture War!
After editing out the ad hominem attacks, libelous comments, and gratuitous insults, only the salutation, closing, and signature would have remained. One would think a doctoral candidate in English, published novelist, and former Carolinian editorial staff member and columnist could have done a more adequate job, but then what more can be expected from a pretentious, pseudointellectual wimp with an inexplicable ax to grind?
The two letters that were printed required extensive editing to make them minimally readable. This editing also made them seem far more rational than they originally were.
Letters to the Editor published 11 February 1993 in The Carolinian (The University of North Carolina at Greensboro), copyright © 1993 by The Carolinian
Lifting the ban was a good move
I was offended and disgusted after reading Matt Wallace's mindless article in last week's The Carolinian ("Ban Against Homosexuals Must Remain," Feb. 4).
He attempts to fool readers into believing he's just an oppressed atheist who understands and is sympathetic to the struggle of homosexuals, but this is merely a façade. He is indeed a bigot who perpetuates a hate with the unintellectual propaganda that underscores the theme of his entire article.
This hate is very wrong, and an institution such as the military is often one of the major culprits in condoning this intolerance.
Any institution that advocates hatred and dehumanization of persons who differ from the "norm" needs to be seriously reexamined. People need to realize that stereotyping, violence, and general denial of basic rights for lesbians and gay men must cease if we are to live in peace.
As a lesbian student at this university, I am proud of who and what I am. I think Wallace needs to deal with his homophobia and get over it.
The Compleat Heretic responds:
Talk about mindless, unintellectual, hate-filled, bigoted, intolerant stereotyping. Miss Rogers, all you know about me is what you've read in one of my opinion pieces with which you vehemently disagree. While I expect any claim I make about previous attitudes and experiences to be met with skepticism, I was offended and disgusted that you could so facilely and wantonly dismiss them as deceptiveness.
I've been an open, no-bones-about-it atheist since I was 13. I endured having "good Baptist children" literally try to slap Jesus into my head. Throughout the ninth grade, I suffered the bullying of an ignorant, fundamentalist goon (I'm certain that you're familiar with the type!) who apparently thought God had anointed him to be my personal inquisitor. I knew (and know) more isolation than I care to remember; I was always the only atheist even in a school with almost 1500 students. Don't talk to me about "façades."
You didn't hear my adolescent call to a local radio talk show in the late '70s in which I advocated homosexual marriage. You weren't in my high school creative writing class to hear me read my "poem" against Anita Bryant and her anti-homosexual crusade in 1978. In 1985 when the UNCG Student Senate voted 3-25 to impeach a fellow Senator for making "homophobic" comments, you, unlike me, weren't one of the three who voted for impeachment of that Senator who was also my pool-shooting buddy. Don't talk to me about "façades."
I doubt if you can equal my five years active duty experience in the U.S. Army, so what makes you think you are more of an authority on this subject than me. Yes, the Army is an "institution that advocates hatred and dehumanization of persons who differ from the norm." I was trained to use a variety of weapons to kill other human beings brutally, willfully, and with malice aforethought simply because they were in the wrong damn place, at the wrong damn time, wearing the wrong damn uniform! As a soldier, I existed to destroy things and to kill people. Ultimately, this is the only reason the military exists. The military certainly does not exist to serve as a laboratory for social experimentation by counterculturalists, such as yourself, who want to normalize their private perversions.
Up until the time of the experience I related in my article, I was what is now called an "ally." The experience forced me to reevaluate my previous attitudes and actions. In the process, I became what I had once reviled. I became the enemy, and the hardest part of becoming the enemy, is admitting that one was wrong. I was wrong, and, Miss Rogers, you are far more wrong than I ever was. I think you need to deal with your hysterical homosexism and get over the fact that your sexuality, regardless of its origin, is a deviation from the biological, hence social, norm.
It is disappointing although somewhat obvious that some of us here in the 20th century still live in caves. We live in caves because we refuse to move out into the light. We refuse to see other people as human beings, just like us. Instead, when we look at a person we tend to judge them by what they look like, the way they dress, or what they do in their own private lives.
I write this in response to the article in last week's The Carolinian entitled "Ban Against Homosexuals Must Remain." It is a sad sign for the United States when something so simple as whether or not it is right to allow openly gay people to enter the military becomes a national crisis.
A homosexual, just like any other American, should have the right to defend his or her country if he or she chooses to do so.
If the two roommates to which Mr. Wallace referred in his article were keeping him from his room and making his life uncomfortable, it was because they were acting irresponsibly, not because they were homosexual. It worries me as an American to think that if ever we should need to call upon the military to defend this country, will the soldiers in the field be concentrating on defeating the enemy, or will they be worrying about which of the ones among them are gay?
The Compleat Heretic responds:
Mr. Aldridge, I am no troglodyte, and I have never denied the humanity of any person for any reason. Just because I might disagree with you on some issue and further consider you to be wrong, or misguided, or even evil, does not mean that I don't see you as anything other than a fellow human being. And yes Mr. Aldridge, we all "judge" people based on physical appearance because it gives us information about a person, especially those features that are easily manipulated such as dress. We do the same with behavior, including private behavior when made public. As an aside, if two (or more, for that matter) adults engage in consensual relations in the privacy of their home, that's their business; I only insist that they keep it that way.
There is nothing "simple" about allowing open homosexuals to serve in the military, and you're simply being disingenuous to suggest as much. The survival of our people, our country, and our way of life depend on the strength and proper functioning of our military. The disruption of our military would constitute "a national crisis," and lifting the ban would create such a disruption. But of course, lifting the ban is simply one of several tactical means used by those who desire the normalization of homosexuality.
There is absolutely no right to serve in the military; military service is a privilege. One can be rejected for military service, or involuntarily separated from the service at anytime for a multitude of reasons based solely on the needs of the service.
In the military, homosexuals pretend to be heterosexual, and heterosexuals pretend to believe them. My roommates were proofs of this truism. One of my roommates arrived in our unit before me; the other arrived after me. The first time I saw the later-arriving roommate, I pegged him for a homosexual (He was such a mincing little flit!) but never made anything of it. After the earlier-arriving roommate had returned to the States, our other roommate told me that this roommate was even worse than the other when he first got to the unit. He and a previous roommate had him "butched up" by the time I arrived; they did a very good job. Homosexuality only becomes an issue when an issue is made of it. When my roommates entered their affair, no one could pretend anymore, and it became an issue. Also, I would argue that my roommates "were acting irresponsibly" precisely because they were homosexual in as much as homosexual behavior is intrinsically irresponsible. My roommates were well aware that their behavior was in violation of regulations, yet they willfully pursued their relationship.
Finally Mr. Aldridge, you can set your mind at ease concerning the defense of our country. In combat, the "paranoid homophobes," not to mention the homosexuals among them, will be so concerned with their own survival that nothing else will be of concern. But of course, if the ban were lifted, they would know for certain who the homosexuals were...
Letter to the Editor published 25 February 1993 in The Carolinian (The University of North Carolina at Greensboro), copyright © 1993 by The Carolinian
Expected change will be gradual
I would like to address the topic of Matt Wallace's article of Feb. 4 ("Ban against homosexuals must remain") and Paige Rogers' letter ("Lifting the ban was a good move") of Feb. 11.
Mr. Wallace's article was referred to as "mindless, and he himself was called "a bigot who perpetuates hate..." That may be, but Ms. Rogers, are you not perpetuating hate yourself?
Is Mr. Wallace not entitled to his opinion? What right does any human have to judge another? Are you not judging him in return?
There is no question of whether hate is right or wrong. I think all would agree with Ms. Rogers on this issue.
However, being closed-minded is also wrong. Both Mr. Wallace and Ms. Rogers have presented the view of the closed-minded. They stand so far in their own corners that neither have attempted to understand the other's point of view.
Mr. Wallace does not seem to understand the homosexual or the homosexual's struggle for acceptance. Ms. Rogers on the other hand, does not appear to understand the integral parts of the military or the cohesion needed to maintain a successful unit-- a cohesion that would be disrupted by forcing something not wanted.
It is obvious that homosexuals have always been in the military and, ban or no ban, will remain in the military.
In calling on our military to be tolerant, we must realize that tolerance does not come with the snap of a finger. Tolerance takes time, education and understanding, as does change.
In my opinion, effective change needs to be gradual. For instance, consider the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.
Great legal strides were made in that era to allow African-Americans a right to equality. Yet, how much has public opinion changed? There is still a strong "anti-black" sentiment. The bottom line is that we must learn to accept each other as human beings, nothing more.
Until heterosexuals in the military no longer irrationally fear being attacked in the shower or while they sleep and until homosexuals realize that change and acceptance is gradual, we will all stand in opposing corners.
Amy W. Goss
The Compleat Heretic responds:
Ah, sweet moderation! Thank you, Miss Goss ... I think.
Apparently, you read my editorial either as carelessly or as dismissively as Miss Rogers. Did you not read and understand the fourth and fifth paragraphs of the editorial? Please explain to me how it is possible for a person to be "closed-minded" when he readily changed his mind on an issue given additional information and experience. I fully understand Miss Rogers's point of view; I held that same point of view as late as eighteen months into my enlistment. I was as wrong then as Miss Rogers is now.
And I am far from not understanding "the homosexual or the homosexual's struggle for acceptance." I grew up an open and avowed atheist in the Bible Belt. Throughout my teens, I waged my own "struggle for acceptance" until I realized that the best I could hope for was tolerance. There was no way for religionists to "accept" my atheism as this would be tantamount to denying their own beliefs. As long as I'm left to live my life unmolested, I could care less whether or not religionists "accept" me. What really matters is that I understand and love myself and that I make the most of my life.
As for drawing a correlation between the Black Civil Rights and Gay Liberation movements, I, as well as most African-Americans, assert that there is no comparison. The discrimination against Blacks was based on inborn physical characteristics and the lingering legacy of slavery. On the other hand, homosexuals are a self-identified minority based on sexual behavior which is probably learned as is much of human behavior. Homosexuality most likely has no genetic basis, the illusory "gay gene" notwithstanding, as it serves no biological function. This is in contrast to heterosexuality which has its biological basis in the reproductive function. What discrimination exists against homosexuals is a societal reaction against their unnatural, abnormal sexual behavior. Of course, the subject remains open to discussion, but I rather doubt any change will occur.
Finally, I assert that homosexuality is already broadly tolerated within society generally speaking; just look at what happens to anyone who dares speak negatively on homosexual issues. While I'm tolerant of homosexuals as individuals, I do not accept homosexuality as an appropriate lifestyle choice. I realize that many find this position contradictory. As a radical individualist, I support each human being's quest for self-discovery and self-actualization so long as he or she isn't harming others and accepts personal responsibility for the consequences of his or her choices. I understand that there are as many ways of being human as there are human beings, none of which excludes any other, least of all my own. I don't oppose (some ignorantly say "hate") homosexual individuals; I oppose the normalization of homosexuality. I do so because I think the underlying sexual behavior is dangerous and destructive, both individually and societally. Accordingly, I think the homosexual lifestyle must remain marginalized. It's just my opinion of course.