Father Tony

New Rules For The Barracks

Filed By Father Tony | June 03, 2010 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: Don't Ask Don't Tell

According to recent studies, most soldiers are OK with the idea of gay comrades in arms, but the generals would have us believe that straight military personnel are trembling with fear at the thought of the elimination of DADT. I am not the only one who has occasionally asked a homophobe "What on earth are you afraid of?" I usually frame this heartfelt question with the explanation that homophobia is irrational. Gay marriage won't destroy straight "traditional" marriage. It won't destroy the "family". Letting gay men and women become ordained priests will not dilute the leadership of churches, nor would it pollute the pristine waters of heaven to affirm the presence of gay post-mortem angelic souls (for them that find comfort in fairy tale endings.) Openly gay military personnel won't cause weak links to form in the chain of command and within the ranks of those who have each other's backs.

Last week, I finally got an answer to my wondering about the basis of fear in the hearts of military brass. The rarely uttered truth is that some generals think that ditching DADT will mean that gay male soldiers will boldly creep into the beds of snoring straight soldiers and fellate them in their sleep.

There you have it. I knew that if we pushed hard enough, we'd eventually get the homophobes to blurt out the ridiculous fear that is at the root of their anxiety about the functioning of the military post-DADT.

Obviously, the real homophobic fear is not that a sleeping soldier will orgasm in the mouth of a gay soldier but that the straight soldier will enjoy gay sex, awake or otherwise. In the minds of homophobes, anti-gay rules constitute a dam that keeps their own guilty desires in check just as much as it keeps gay people in check. Homophobes tremble with fear at what is in their hearts. Let's help them out of their fear by suggesting some new rules for the barracks.

When I first heard the news that the military brass felt the need to study the impact of the repeal of DADT in order to prepare itself for a change more frightening to them than anything they faced in any war, I knew we'd be heading down a laughable road of absurd duplicity. Because we are getting closer to beginning our trip down that terrifically yellow brick road to bunks and showers shared by openly gay and straight warriors, I thought perhaps we ought to help the generals help themselves to an anxiety-free future.

No stranger to shared facilities, I feel qualified and compelled to help our generals assure the safety of our straight soldiers, because really, they are the ones over whom the generals are fretting. They are not really concerned about the wellbeing of the gay soldiers whom they assume will be giddy over the possibility of dropping soap with their comrades. They are worried about the damage to the frail masculinity of straight soldiers who will now be forced to navigate a minefield of polite behavior more treacherous than anything underfoot in Iraq. How will those poor boys manage?

I've got some new rules for the barracks. What do you think?

1) Custody Of The Eyes. Straight soldiers should be reminded that their gay comrades have already seen "it", and it has not yet driven any of them to distracted madness. There is an unspoken suspicion that once DADT is eliminated, straight soldiers won't be able to freely swing their junk about in the privacy of the barracks. Oddly, when the YMCA switched from men-only to co-ed, forcing its members to wear bathing suits while swimming, the heterosexual male members were the loudest objectors. Let's call this the "uneasy intimacy of naked admiration" and let's not deny that this attitude is not universal but common in straight men. Openly gay soldiers will need to be mindful of this uneasiness until, over time (centuries?), it evaporates.
2) Soft-pedaling Sexual Identity. What is often unspoken in the homophobic mind is that there will need to be a wholesale turning to the wall while changing undergear or showering as a result of the repeal of DADT. You can always spot the homophobes at the gym. They are the ones who drop their gym bags in the corner of the weight room rather than enter the dreaded locker room, or, they are the ones who shield themselves from view and glare at the wall tiles while mouthing silent homophobic slurs to the showerhead. These men, civilian or military are to be pitied. The angry and unresolved battles being waged inside their heads will not desist even if gay men continue to masquerade as straight. The repeal of DADT should not be seen as a hunting license for flushing out homophobes with serious sexual identity problems. The repeal of DADT will focus on behavior over mindset.
3) Military Life Demands Superior Behavior. We cannot use the argument that straight men and gay men sharing health club facilities have resolved these shared-facility issues and that the military should simply follow suit. There are significant differences between the two cultures. My gym buddies are not committed to protecting me from a life-threatening enemy. We are not teammates who pledge to support each other to the death. The peaceful coexistence of gay and straight men at a health club is uneasy and with frequent disruptions. Soldiers will have to dig deeper within themselves to find the higher aspects of human nature that will be needed to effect an integration that is efficient rather than begrudged.
4) The Mix Is Never Easy. Although we are often told not to compare the struggle for marriage equality with the struggle for racial integration, I think we can and should look to how the military racially integrated its ranks as we prepare for the integration of openly gay soldiers. There were missteps. Racist soldiers had to set aside some very strong prejudices against racial minorities. The current challenge won't be as difficult given that precedent, but we need to have reasonable expectations for post-DADT barracksular harmony. It will not be a bunk of roses.
5) Learning The Difference Between Private Homophobia and Manifested Homophobia. Phobic behavior will erupt because it is a part of human nature that has not yet been rooted out of us. We distrust strangers. We shoot at the flying saucer before we greet the alien. There will always be friction between straight and openly gay soldiers, just as there will always be friction between the races and between the sexes. The repeal of DADT does not presume the altering of human nature in order for it to achieve success. Homophobic soldiers must be allowed to continue to harbor any misgivings they may have about homosexuality, just as racist soldiers must be allowed to harbor their racist opinions, and Christians their god-fearing opinions, but in all these cases, their behavior and words cannot give evidence of their prejudices. Homophobes will be required to stifle it. When you consider how difficult it is for any civilian to keep his or her mouth shut in common public congress, and how feverishly our culture encourages the open trotting out of our pet demons, I think soldierly heroism post-DADT will consist of knowing how to keep mouths shut in order to build the bonds needed between soldiers. The military should cast a new medal for "Excellence in Toleration".
6) Binding Ourselves To A Higher Standard. Gay soldiers are and will be called upon to go beyond and above ordinary restraint given their comingling with naked men, but this is nothing new. One of the benefits of spending a night in a gay sex club is the revelation that gay men are quite capable of self-control. We have countless verbal and non-verbal indicators governing access to our bodies when we are naked and horny together. Some straight men assume that any dick will attract us and that we will jump anything that can't run faster and that when we see something we really like, we grab it without regard for the feelings of the object of our desires. The straight men who feel this way understand only the notion of the fox in the henhouse. Straight soldiers will learn much from gay soldiers about sexual navigation that will assist them in their approach to straight sex in the post-DADT world. Civilian women in every port will eventually thank gay male soldiers for what straight male soldiers will have learned from them. No, this good side-effect of the post-DADT world will not happen overnight.

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Father Tony am I to understand in your final paragraph that straight men fear being perceived as sexual objects and being subjected to lustful comments as well as having to fend off unsolicited advances? Well then the updating of military training should be very easy. All the military brass needs to do is recruit a few thousand women to explain to the heterosexual men the various techniques for handling such situations.

Dear Deena,
That is why I think that the elimination of DADT will in the long run be good for our American culture, just as military service sometimes helps an undisciplined recruit get his life in order and gives him the tools that guide him through his post-service civilian years. Straight soldiers who have been forced to relate well to openly gay soldiers will develop new and better social skills. That is why it is true that the rule of majority is not best in the area of discrimination. It takes a wise doctor to tell someone "you need drastic and painful surgery to make you healthy." The patient doesn't see it but the good doctor does. Our legislators are supposed to be good doctors. In this case, they are grudgingly entering the OR on our behalf. We should be worried.

Rick Sours | June 3, 2010 12:35 PM

Members of the LGBT community should remember to respect diversity. There are individuals in the United States military from many parts of the world where according to their culture and/or religion homosexuality is wrong and evil. As members of the LBGT community we should realize this and in certain cases not present ourselves as LBGT or discuss LBGT issues since this would deeply offend these individuals. As members of the LGBT community we should realize that if we acknowledge our homosexuality we are not respecting their culture or religion and not treating them with dignity and respect.

Dear Rick Sours,
Really? Should straight married Christian soldiers refrain from talking about their wives, children and Jesus? Should they refrain from presenting themselves as straight?
I can only assume your comment is meant as a joke, but I'm not sure.

Rick Sours | June 3, 2010 4:21 PM

Saddly, this is the way some so-called "educated" people really feel. In a recent social situation, my Partner and I expressed our views for repeal of the ban. We basically stated that Lesbians and Gay male are in the US military at all levels and it is simply a non-issue. A Jewish couple stated the above and subjected us to what we felt was a
personal attack.

Joe-Allen Doty | June 3, 2010 2:40 PM

When I was in the US Army on Active Duty during the period of July 26, 1966 thru July 25,1967 I wish there had been a "Don't Tell Unless You Have Been Asked" rule for heterosexuals, especially when it came to their sexual activities.

When I was in Basic Infantry Training and in Clerk and Clerk-Typist schools at Ft. Polk, LA, some "straight" guys did look at guys' parts in the latrine showers. Some guys took their evening showers and wore only towels until it was time to hit the sack. Then they put on their GI skivvies.

I never stayed naked any longer than necessary when I was in the Army.

When I was with the 196th Light Infantry Brigade and later Americal Division in South Vietnam, married men and even guys with girlfriends chose certain R&R locations because they could have sex with hookers there.

And, some of them brought back pornographic proof of their activity, too. And, even if you didn't ask them about their R&R, they would not only tell you, they shoved the pics under your nose while they bragged about what they did.

I went on R&R to Hawaii because I wanted to attend an Assembly of God church service. I no longer belong to the AG; but, my basic doctrine is the same at the AG's. They do have an "Official Paper on Homosexuality" but, none of that is in the official doctrine. I know a couple of AG pastors who accept gays just as normal people.

I worked for JAG officers in Nam. One definitely straight guy in my sleeping quarters at the 196th told about having a hole in the head of his penis and if anyone wanted to see it close up, he would show them one at a time. I had already seen him naked and that was enough for me. But, the guys who bragged about having girlfriends back home sure had to look.

While I was with the Staff Judge Advocate Section of the 196th, there was one case related to "sodomy." The activity took place in an outdoor toilet of all places.

I didn't attend the court-martial but, I did type up the paper work related to it. It was odd that only one guy was charged and the other one who actually was mutally involved wasn't even charged. The convicted guy did come to the office with his escort, who was there to pick up the travel related orders. The guy was about 19 but he was somewhat still an immature boy. He could have been drafted into the service.

I spent the last 5 months of my tour of active duty at Ft. Bragg, NC with the 35th Signal Group. A guy in my barracks dated a local girl and he complained LOUDLY when he came on the floor about how she wouldn't have sex with him.

Dear Joe-Allen. Fascinating. Nothing talks like personal history.

Michael @ LeonardMatlovich.com | June 3, 2010 3:33 PM

Depending on the locus, availability of "privacy" is actually becoming more and more common in the way military facilities are being constructed, but that's beside the larger point which I believe is less the fear of "being looked at" or actually physically assaulted than something else. After all, you can say to those most rabidly opposed to open serve, "Well, you know gays are already in the military," and they'll respond, "Yes, but I don't want to KNOW who might be 'looking' at me."

Certainly, bigotry itself remains a factor. When the current head of the Marine's [the only branch that has two-to-a-room sleeping quarters, made an ass of himself in testimony in which he railed about gay Marines sharing such accommodations with nongay Marines it wasn't just his following in the tradition of his predecessor Peter Pace who compared being gay three years ago with adultery, and declared us "immoral," but also the Marine Commandant in 1941 who, among other excuses for opposing racial integration, insisted that the branch was simply too small then to build separate Negro-only barracks.

And the chief civilian architect of DADT, Charles Moskos [who remembered being mocked for once having a "girl's bike"], who ranted and raved in 1993 about the damage to unit cohesion lifting the ban would be, according to "Unfriendly Fire" author Nathaniel Frank, eventually admitted that it had nothing to do with that at all, but the antipathy for gays mere existence in the military, regardless of their individual or collective abilities or protections of "privacy." It was a "prejuce" that has a "rational basis."

Still, I believe the main opposition is the same one that was mostly behind opposition to black integration [which meant not just sharing space but integration into the "royalty" of the military....the officer ranks] and of women.

High and low liked to say it was just because "they" weren't capable of doing the same jobs that white males were, and, in fact, there was some unwitting truth in the earliest days of racial integration because the education of blacks due to segregated, poorly funded schools was so far behind that of the average white. Better educations, and military training fixed that. And the overall differences in physical size and strength between the "average" male and the "average" female has been addressed the same way it always was between males of different physical abilities...appropriate assignments not banning the entire gender.

No, I believe it's driven more than anything else by the need for the heterosexual male, like the white male before him, to feel superior. If even women and gay men [read: women-like men], can be allowed in the military with claims to centuries-old concepts of heroism...what's left for the Kinsey 0s to lord over?

Neither black literacy nor bizarre-when-you-think-about-it warnings of greater incidence of syphillis among WHITE soldiers following military racial integration was at the forefront of former KKK leader and now Sen. Robert Byrd when he wrote in 1944 that:

"I shall never fight in the armed forces with a Negro by my side... Rather I should die a thousand times, and see Old Glory trampled in the dirt never to rise again, than to see this beloved land of ours become degraded by race mongrels, a throwback to the blackest specimen from the wilds.”

Reinforcing my thesis today is the frequent nexus between opposition to women in the military at all or in combat roles and opposition to gays. Moskos opposed both women and gas, as does banshee Elaine Donnelly, and though he has since repented his rabid opposition to women in the military, Sen. Jim Webb was the only Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee to vote against even the toothless, no guarantee "repeal" bill.

And Byrd, who may have outpunked SECDEF Robert Gates, the head of our virtual new fourth branch of government when he amended the amendment to require approval AGAIN by Congress somehow if Gates shocks me and recommends unequivocal open service...what's his attitude? Well this was Bill Clinton's recollection from 1993's lift the ban wars:

"Senator Byrd took a harder line than Nunn. He believed homosexuality was a sin; said he would never let his grandson, whom he adored, join a military that admitted gays; and asserted that one reason the Roman Empire fell was the acceptance of pervasive homosexual conduct in the Roman legions from Julius Caesar on down."

Dear Michael, Thanks for the input. Although we often disagree, I do believe we are in agreement about this issue. Which is nice.

Michael @ LeonardMatlovich.com | June 3, 2010 5:25 PM

You're welcome, and I agree it's good to agree. Sorry for all of the typos. At least I don't think they include my most common one, "pubic" for "public.

“New rules for the barracks”….
Wow, so few who responded that have lived in a ‘Q…
(BEQ = Batchelor Enlisted Quarters, BOQ = Batchelor Officer Quarters. Both are referred to as ‘The Q’.)
20 year veteran, about 15 years worth of living in BEQ or on ships. There are tons of unwritten rules and some are well known like ‘shake a leg’.
Your insights are stilted due to a lack of knowledge that is impossible to obtain unless you’ve lived in a barracks for a few years.

1) No one walks around naked, not since Tail Hook. BOQ’s are single man rooms with a bathroom and is like a well appointed hotel room. Even has maid service. BEQ’s are more often 2 man rooms now. If you have a roommate that you cannot deal with you can ask to be moved and as soon as they have the space they’ll let you move. The ship is a different environment but it still has the same prohibitions to nudity. If you need to change, ask for a bit of privacy and change quickly. Some ships have drapes to provide some privacy between the racks (bunk beds).

2) Your equating your life experience in your gym to a military gym. I lived in the Q behind the gym, why use the locker room there when I’m done? Its waste of time. Besides I can use a few minutes to cool down after my work out walking or running back to the Q. (see, you’ve never lived 100 feet or a single flight of stairs away from your gym have you??? LOL)

Sadly, your total lack of knowledge of military barracks is telling. There are written rules and regulations that have to be followed. Sometimes they are stupid (like baring microwave ovens because they draw so much current it can melt the wires in the walls but a 8,000 watt stereo system is ok :P that was real world too… the command ‘re-evaluated’ that rule after everyone in that Q cranked every stereo to max one night in protest.)
There are also unwritten rules you have to follow and sometimes those can be stupid as well. The sock on the door is for one hour, after that you get a knock and it’s a 10 minute warning. If you bring pizza into the room it’s for everyone, not just for you. Just because your married doesn’t mean you own the room. Your wife shows up, go to a hotel. (seriously, married guys are the worst roomies in the Q)

In the end, if you have a roommate in the Q you do not get along with you can change rooms. Adding ‘Gay’ or ‘Lesbian’ to the mix doesn’t change anything. You may see some people change rooms, but that happens now for the same reason. The “I think they’re Gay/Lesbian” will be an issue in the BEQ’s but it cannot be an issue on ships. There you have 80 to 110 roommates. You can ask to change your rack but it may not happen. There the pecking order is new guys top or bottom. Senior’s middle or where ever they want. First day on board, rank has its privilege and a sr can boot a jr out of a rack. Many rack cubes have curtains to provide privacy to change. This is due to Tail Hook. The only place its acceptable to be naked is in the head getting in to or out of the shower. Wrapping yourself up and going to your rack to change is standard.

Maybe a week in a Q or on a frigate would clue you in on what it’s like… .
The military can accommodate Gays and Lesbians (and even Trans and Intersexed) openly because it accommodates them silently now.
It doesn’t take ‘new rules’ just the same common respect they show each other now.

Some of those guys at the civilian gyms who avoid the locker room are trans. And you can't tell by looking when they're clothed.

FYI. I stay out of the locker room, but I'm not homophobic.

Dear Les,
That is certainly true, but mostly the guys I am describing are not trans. They are homophobic thugs with big chips on their shoulders.

Dear Gina9223,
Do you think maybe you could have fit in a few more "You're totally ignorant of barracks" statements? I mean the several repetitions of this accusation in your comment don't quite make the point (that's a joke, in case you are tone deaf, and I suspect you might be because my post was more about rules of human behavior and less about facilities.) I think what you are trying to get us to realize is that you spent time in the military. Why not just say that like the other commenters did?
Also, I'm sorry to disabuse you about your suppositions, but I once spent two weeks at a military base in Karlsruhe, Germany. Also, a few years back I was given a complete tour of the USS Hartford, including the racks and showers. We even left port for a few hours. Read my post again when you get over trying to hammer us with what you think is exclusive experience.
And to all other readers of this exchange, yes, I am growing impatient with rude "you don't know shit about yadda yadda" comments. They just drag everything down to a level where no one comes away feeling more or less than in need of a shower - alone or with others.

"there will be friction among straight and openly gay soldiers..." good one

Also this, too
"Soldiers will have to dig deeper within themselves to find the higher aspects of human nature that will be needed to effect an integration that is efficient rather than begrudged."

Unfortunately (or not), this act of digging deeper for higher aspects for human nature would have to include at least a casual glance into the nature of the institution these soldiers have involved themselves in, i.e the U.S military.

(I hate this part) I'm a gay vietnamese man, who was born and raised in the U.S of A, who came out of the ashes of born-again christianity. I have long waged a battle against U.S/Western imperialisms before i even knew what it was. Both of my parents drove me away from viet. culture and language and attempted to raise me as american as possible. I grew up confused and exiled from my own history.

I've made efforts to collect pieces of myself, and to see myself as a whole. gay, vietnamese, american, et al. I came face to face with a part of me that is the devastation the U.S caused to the my homeland when i visited there.

I understand individual soldiers do not enlist w/ the concious desire to occupy, subjugate and kill innocent human lives (most are forced economically for example). But that is the unavoidable truth about the military, and also the truth about DADT and other homophobic and dscriminatory laws of the u.s.

We gays (gaysians are gays too, you know?) should not help this cause to normalize the nasty, costly, irrational monster, that would ultimately (if not already) cost us our own 'freedom' and 'liberation.' Nevermind others' to begin with.

But if this is a part of a greater agenda where intergrating more gays in the military would result in the distraction of the straight soldiers and cause them to abandon orders in favor of more 'friction,' then count me in. Otherwise there other 'higher aspects of human nature' we should aspire to.

copp3rred | June 6, 2010 3:42 PM


It may be less about you than most of "bloggerati" but Gina's post is a trove of information and on point. Most people, gay or straight, have little to no clue of what military life consists of. It both perfectly ordinary and average and radically different.