« The History Behind My… | Home | An On V Update to Old… »

The Military’s Gay Shower Fiasco...and 5 Other Anti-DADT Predictions that Never Came True

As I wrote in my Washington Post op-ed “I didn’t deserve my combat pay”, I rather enjoyed the plush living conditions in Iraq in 2011, especially the showers.

You see, when I deployed to the Korengal valley in Afghanistan (as seen in the documentary Restrepo) in 2008, showers were a luxury and showers with hot water non-existent. When we moved bases, we eventually got showers, but not always hot water.

When I served on a special operations compound at Victory Base Complex in Iraq, the buildings had heat or AC as needed, and plenty of hot water. And the showers worked like a charm. (They had, though, years before, electrocuted a Green Beret. KBR fought a civil court case for years, instead of admitting its own negligence.)
   
Except for one big problem: these were the only showers in the complex. Since our base employed a large number of contractors--indeed most special operations do--they used the same showers as the soldiers. Even worse, the military cannot legally stop contractors from hiring homosexuals. This led to a horrifying situation where...I showered with a gay person! Me, a red-blooded heterosexual male, showering next to godless homosexual man, just itching to stare me up and down and imagine who knows what.

Terrifying. Except that, in college (at godless, liberal UCLA), our dorms didn’t differentiate by sexual orientation. Same with the godless gyms I have joined over the years; they didn’t exclude homosexuals either. Most gyms don’t even ask!

If my tone doesn’t convey it, I spent all of about two minutes thinking about showering with gay people in my entire life. I went to UCLA, and within about two weeks, I had increased the number of open homosexuals I knew from zero to a dozen, if not more. It hasn’t been an issue since. It took less than a split second to think, “Oh man, this is a complete non-issue.”

Which is why, since I joined ROTC and the U.S. Army, I have considered “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” one of the silliest, nonsense laws ever passed by Congress.

Last year, as Congress dithered over repealing one of the most regressive policies in the land, Eric C and I wanted to write an op-ed on DADT, telling my story about showering with gay contractors. Fortunately, we didn’t have to, because Congress repealed the law. With the first anniversary of the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” coming up this Thursday, Eric C and I wanted to look back on the excuses for not repealing DADT, and the non-arrival of those predictions:

Prediction: Gay soldiers will shower with straight soldiers. (Links here, here and here) A complete non-issue, as I wrote above. Soldiers have been showering with homosexuals for years.

Prediction: Gay soldiers will sexualize the battlefield. (Link here.) We can “desexualize” the battlefield when we “desexualize” life. Only America’s puritanical Army vainly tries to enforce General Order Number 1--a standing order that forbids sexual relations downrange. Soldiers regularly break that rule, and it has since been rescinded.

Despite this ruling, PXs in Afghanistan and Iraq still sold condoms. Other more enlightened militaries encourage their female soldiers to bring condoms. (Oh, and one of the fiercest fighting forces in history had sex with each other. They left that out of 300 though. Sorry Army Companies and Battalions that unironically adopt the “Spartan” moniker.)

Prediction: Large numbers of homophobic soldiers will flee the military. With a downsizing army, a bad economy and the disinterest of the vast majority of soldiers in homosexual politics, this exodus never happened. It turns out for the vast majority of people under 30 don’t care about homosexuality, and they make up the vast bulk of the Army.

Either way, the Army’s recruiting numbers are just fine.

Prediction: This is social engineering. Eric C wants me to clarify what this means, but I can’t do it; I didn’t create the term. Trying to ban sex seems like social engineering. Choosing who can and can’t serve in the military seems like social engineering.

Again, the federal government cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Neither can most private businesses or academic institutions. If this is social engineering, the results have been in for a long time: it doesn’t matter.

Prediction: Gay soldiers will suffer harassment and physical violence. Again, this didn’t happen. Protected by sexual harassment laws, openly homosexual soldiers can now report harassment without fear of being discharged for their sexual orientation, where previously homosexuals couldn’t report abuse or violence. I worried that a major hate crime would occur after implementation. Thankfully, that never happened. Like all things, this excuse didn’t hold water. Fortunately, the repeal of DADT provides soldiers and sailors with more protection than ever, and the military must remain vigilant.

Prediction: Most importantly, military readiness, combat effectiveness and unit cohesion will collapse. As alleged by Rick Santorum, the Center for Military Readiness and others, this supposed “collapse” never came about. I welcome any Republican who supported DADT to come out and say that our military isn’t the greatest in the world now that DADT was repealed. (I can see the Democratic response ads already.)

Of course, Republicans won’t say that because it didn’t happen. Unit cohesion has more to do with the quality of its leaders and members than sexual orientation. I still believe the recruitment of soldiers with felonies (repeat, felonies) did more to harm military readiness than DADT.

So one year on, will conservatives who fought the DADT repeal stand up and admit the error of their ways?

In today’s culture wars, I doubt it.

nineteen comments

So, none of these anti-homosexual predictions came true. Who’s arguing against marriage equality again?

And, just for clarification, federal law does not protect homosexuals from employment discrimination…yet.


Triumphalism a whopping 1 year after the policy went into effect may be a trifle premature. You may be correct on all points but it may be best to wait a few years and especially to wait until after some fighting on the scale of WWII, VN or the Civil War before saying it worked.

One thing I never read about was why the prohibition was established in the first place. Perhaps it was a manifestation of simple prejudice but maybe it was a reaction to a genuine problem. I don’t know. It wasn’t something that was freely talked about in any event. I’ve only read two times in books where it was mentioned. One was Stafford’s account of his subchaser days (I think) in which he briefly mentioned having to deal with, in some way, a Chief who was lusting after a new seaman. The other was a very dark account of an incident that occurred on a South Pacific island in Michener’s autobiography. So I wonder if there was a good reason, or not, for prohibition in the first place and if it got lost in the debate.

I would like to bring up something also that will thoroughly establish me as a philistine, mixed sex crews in the Navy. In the history of the world, seriously, in the whole of human history, there has never been a big navy that has sexually mixed the crews of fighting ships like we have and tested them in combat. Never. Nobody has anything other than blind faith to point to when saying this will improve, detract from or have no effect upon the fighting power of the Navy. This worries me. I bring this up whenever I can and mostly I get the LCD screen equivalent of blank looks and shoulder shrugs. No response. What worries me is this. In human history, all of it, even the part that isn’t written, humans have probably tried every arrangement that can be. Those that haven’t worked were abandoned, perhaps so long ago that we have forgotten why. So maybe mixed crews were tried found wanting and faded from memory. I don’t like the fact that the USN upon which I depend is conducting an experiment to test a thesis that the refutation of which means we get beat.

Since I am now so deep into un-PC territory I will bring up something else that will put me beyond the pale-which I actually like. When you get to be my age, even if you are a guy, you realize that menopause is a very big deal with women, a huge deal with some of them. It can affect everything and not in a good way. And it’s a physical thing like teeth coming in. You guys will have no idea for another 20 years or so, but believe me, it’s big. If I had a choice between a 50-55 year old starred officer who was male commanding forces in combat and 50-55 year old female starred officer who might be in the midst of menopause commanding forces in combat, I would not pick the female.


Something else occurred to me that you guys may have covered before that has to do with mixed crews on fighting ships. How do you handle women intentionally getting pregnant in order to avoid combat? Men have maimed themselves in the most extraordinary ways to avoid battle in the past and getting pregnant isn’t extraordinary, it’s normal. If it became known that a ship was going to be going into sustained danger like at Guadalcanal in a month or two, would number of the crew on a mixed sex ship decide there was an easy way out of that? Some most certainly would. How would the Navy stop that? Could it be stopped?


God dammit, Carl. You’re going to patronize us about how we don’t understand shit because we’re too young, after opening with a blatant misuse of the term “triumphalism”?

I wanted to respond to your four “points”, but I keep writing snarky shit. Suffice it to say, you’re grasping at a lot of straws, man. Does this worrywart pragmatism inform all your principles, or just those relating to gender and sexuality? I.E., do you similarly argue for more gun control and more government involvement in the economy?


MKP:

I don’t mean to patronize anybody. All I’m doing is looking back 20-25 years and realizing what I didn’t know that I know now. So I flatter myself by thinking you guys aren’t all that much smarter than I was back then and figure some of the things I didn’t know, you don’t know. Besides us old guys get to do that. Teenagers get to bug their parents by doing incomprehensible things. Old guys get to bug young guys by saying “You don’t know now but you will in few years.” in weary voice. It’s fun when it works. You’ll know when you get older.

As far as my misuse of the term “triumphalism”, lighten up Francis.

Snark away. Us old guys can take it.


MKP:

I been thinking on this phrase you used “worrywart pragmatism” and I’ve decided it’s great. I don’t know exactly what it means but I like it.


So, no need to fisk your comment all snark-like; I think the grasping at straws characterization is accurate enough. That’s where “worrywart pragmatism” comes from, really – despite Mike’s rather clear point above, that great armies throughout history have been a-ok with buttsecks, you’re ever-so worried about historical ramifications and future risk. None of which is terribly reasonable, mind you. But, because you want to believe them, it’s all presented as very “pragmatic”… when, in fact, you’re just being an unreasonable worrywart.

Of course, that’s the kindest interpretation. Were I less reasonable, I’d be accusing you of downright misogyny for claiming a career female couldn’t handle ageing as well as a career male (hey, some dudes crash and burn because of a mid-life crisis or hypogonadism; clearly men aren’t fit for duty). Or I’d be accusing you of bigotry for trying to classify all LGBT service based upon your two supremely compelling anecdotes (I mean, come on – some dudes rape chicks, clearly we shouldn’t have dudes in the military).


*straight dudes being, of course, the specific sort I failed to specify in order to make the analogy work.


Hey guys, ease down the personal attacks. No need to get angry.


MKP:

Whooaa Big Fella. Here, have an apple. I’ll get that saddle off and give you a grooming in a minute. Things will be fine. You outran the Kiowas and Kicking Wolf won’t sell you to the Black Vaquero.

The preceding was a stream of consciousness riff that had about as much to do with what MKP said as what MKP said had to do with what I said. But it was more fun. (You’ll understand better when you are older.)

Now MKP I will plead guilty to all that you accuse me of and of being if you will tell me what the Navy could do to control combat avoidance via pregnancy in a mixed sex crew of a fighting ship.

And I will confirm your judgment of yourself as a very reasonable fellow if you will concede that menopause results in some pretty significant changes in a woman’s hormone levels and that can, depending on the woman, have a very great effect upon the body and behavior. I would consider that a very great victory.

Eric C: I’m not angry. I am playing around a bit but mainly I am trying to get just a hint of a discussion of some things that are genuine concerns the discussion of which seems to be taboo.


Sincere apologies – I wasn’t being mean in that last paragraph. It wasn’t supposed to be read in a sarcastic tone, and I did mean quite literally that it would be less reasonable to level those criticisms at Carl. However I felt it bore noting that his arguments did have a rather unsavory patina about them.

Er… now that I’m rereading it, I think you may also be talking about the worrywart bit. Man, I suppose I do read like an ass. It was supposed to be light-hearted (worrywart? worrywart!).

bah. apologies all around. i’ll show myself out.


…and then I read Carl’s latest. We simultaneously posted, it would seem. I guess I’ stick around after all.

RE: your concerns –

1) Primary: good leadership and fostering unit cohesion (in a tight unit, NOTHING gets in the way of deploying together). Secondary: UCMJ action. Pregnancy is 100% optional, and the UCMJ already provides for soldiers who voluntarily render themselves unfit for duty.

2) Conceded. Still not a reason to second-guess or deny female service. You set standards, and you enforce them – standards have no gender. If, statistically, more women drop or don’t pursue a profession because their biology differs from men, c’est la vie. Denying them the opportunity in the first place should not, however, be la vie.


MKP:

No apologies needed and I am glad you stuck around.

Good units will stick together, but not all units are good and not all the people in a good unit are good. Individuals will shirk. So that still leaves us with the problem of women who want to shirk being able to do so pretty easily by getting pregnant.

UCMJ is an option but that does nothing to keep the ship from being short handed if a number of women decide to avoid combat by getting pregnant. They will still have to be removed from the crew. And how will you penalize a pregnant woman even if you could get a conviction? Society cuts pregnant women a lot of slack because there is an extra innocent life involved. I would expect the military to have to do the same thing. If that happened, there would not be a serious penalty involved with getting pregnant and if there wasn’t, there would be small disincentive. And if as Michael C. suggested, the Navy took an enlightened view and conceded that the young gentlemen and ladies were going to eff like bunnies, would not a viable defense against the charge of voluntarily rendering oneself unfit for duty be “Sir, it was a bad batch and it wasn’t my fault.”

Pregnancy confers a special status upon women, as it should. The problem with it in this context is it could be used freely and with minimal penalty to avoid combat.

As far a your 2) goes the function of the military is not to provide all with equitable chances at career opportunities, it is to win wars. Everything should be secondary to that. In my view, your position puts equal emphasis upon career and war winning. I shall explain.

Similar standards are good as far as it goes, but with menopause, how can you have similar standards? Men don’t go through it and it affects different women in very different ways at different times. I don’t think you could establish a go or no go standard for menopausal women by which you would remove them from combat command. I use combat command on purpose. That is the most critical time and many lives depend on the combat commander getting it right. I don’t see how you could insure that a menopausal woman wouldn’t be more thrown off by something physical and unique to women, those hormone fluctuations, than a man of a similar age. Individuals will vary of course but it is more prudent to plan on group tendencies in this case.

This all has to do with combat command. Logistical or stateside commands are different. I know when I bring this up I am far beyond the bounds of PC acceptability but there are realities of life that have to looked at, especially when dealing with war. We don’t look at them.


I should have noted last time, btw, that we’re completely off topic now – presumably because there is no real issue with LGBT service members?

Anywho, why would you expect the military to cut women the same slack our civil society does? None of the things you’re worrying about require the consideration of an organization whose sole purpose, as you pointed out, is to win wars. So someone’s chosen form of birth control failed? Luckily there are a plethroa of options to address the matter, from day-after pills to ice cream scoops. I wasn’t exaggerating when I said pregnancy is 100% optional. If you screw up your birth control, and then choose to carry to term, you’ve voluntarily rendered yourself incapable of performing your duties. Hope you enjoy 9 months confinement followed immediately by a dishonerable discharge.

Do you have any substantial proof that a readiness-damaging percentage of women who volunteer for hazardous or critical MOSs go on to pursue pregnancy instead of their duty?

As for menopause, you set the standards like this:

“In order to get this job, you must meet standard a, b, and c. If you fail to meet the prerequisites, you will not be selected. If selected, you will meet standards x, y, and z. Failure to do so will result in releif for cause and reassignment.”

This, as it turns out, will work for both women and men. Fortunately for everyone, not even 50-year old men lead troops in combat, and female success in stressful corporate positions seems a pretty good indicator that any female who is raised in a combat branch will probably know how to adjust to the less stressful combat commands held by her 50-year old peers.


MKP:

I like wander about so being off topic is normal.

Personally I don’t know if I have a problem with LGBT (what are Ts?) service members. Gentlemen and ladies keep private things private and they don’t ask. So I didn’t see anything at all wrong with what was before. And I find it a bit offputting if somebody makes it a point to tell me what they are. My original point stands (see my first post).

50 year olds do lead units in combat. Since we are on the subject of fighting ships, check out the ages of Admirals Scott, Callaghan, Spruance, Cunnningham, Nagumo, Fletcher, Turner, Halsey and numerous others when they saw action. Winfield Scott and Robert E. Lee too. And Bill Slim and Chesty Puller…you get the idea.

The military should, should that is, subordinate everything to fighting effectiveness, but it doesn’t. Which in my view is why we are having this discussion in the first place. So more than likely, a pregnant woman will get cut the slack in the military that she would be cut in civilian society.

What you seem to be proposing if a method of birth control fails is very interesting. What you seem to be proposing is that the pregnant woman has a choice of aborting the pregnancy, or being subject to prosecution if she does not. That is attempting to coerce abortion. If you want to create a firestorm of controversy, that is the way to do it. Which is my point actually, mixed crews will ultimately cause the Navy to be in an impossible position, coerce abortion on the one hand or accept an easy was to avoid combat on the other.

Even if you confined the woman for 9 months and then gave a dishonorable discharge, you would still be out a crew member. And the shirker would have successfully avoided combat. A dishonorable discharge would be a small price to pay in some people’s eyes to an alternative like meeting the Tokyo Express as it comes thundering down the Slot some dark night.

As I said before, this whole thing is an experiment. There is no proof of anything, yet. My fear is that when there is proof the consequences will have already been suffered. One thing I do know, a certain number of people will try to avoid combat.

One of the problems with menopause is things change so your testing will have to be frequent and some of the things that are affected, mood for example, can’t be easily quantified. It isn’t like being able to pass a pushup test every 6 months. Testing for deficiencies will be a bit difficult.

Corporate positions, no matter how stressful, are not a good analog for combat command. Nobody dies in the boardroom like Admiral Scott died on the bridge nor do their employees die with them.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LGBT

If you don’t know weather LGBT service is problematic by now, you never will. You’ve had to work to keep yourself in the dark – for at least as long as you’ve been participating in this conversation, if not for the entire time you’ve been a-OK with LGBT discrimination.

Further, artificially truncating the pool of available talent for military service by intentionally excluding females affects military effectiveness – THAT is why we’re having this conversation.

A certain number of people always try to avoid combat. A certain number of them will succeed. A certain number of military leaders have shitty moods. A certain number of them let it adversely affect their work performance.

None of your objections to female service are ultimately unique to females. Your points boil down to “Girls have vaginas! Who wants to deal with THAT shit!? AMIRITE? GUYS? YEA!”.

History is filled with homosexual and female combatants, limited only by the cultures from which they were drawn. There is nothing innate about either that prevents them from fighting.


MKP:

I will know if openly proclaimed LGBT (T’s-so that’s what that means)service is problematic or not after some serious fighting occurs on the order of WWII, VN and the Civil War, as I noted far above. One year of minor skirmishing in Afghanistan is not a test. I alluded to this far above also.

(Before anybody gets on me, I know when you personally are in a fight that is the biggest battle in the history of the world. But in a historical context, Afghanistan is minor skirmishing compared to something like the Civil War.)

The argument concerning reducing the pool of available talent is a shibboleth that is always trotted out in these types of discussions. It doesn’t stand up for the following reasons. Note that we have been discussing the composition of crews of fighting ships, combat ships, not the composition of the entire Navy. Compared to the total number of people in the Navy the number serving in fighting ships is quite small. If we were to prohibit females from serving on those ships, there would be small effect on the ability to provide those ships with efficient crews. We were able to man far more ships in the past without having to embark females. During WWII we manned a titanic number of fighting ships, with all male crews and the country’s population was only a little more than half of what it is now. I do not think we would have any problem embarking all male crews on fighting ships. Even in the unlikely event that we had small problem, it would be outweighed by peril of doing something no big fighting navy in the history of the world has done and hoping it will work.

Yes certain people have always tried to avoid combat. Females have a recourse to do so that is unique. I still don’t see any good way to stop that. And a certain number of people do have physical problems during the course of their lives. But only females are affected by the hormonal changes associated with menopause.

Mr. or Ms. MKP surely, unless you know of cases where men have become pregnant with child, you will wish to reconsider this statement “None of your objections to female service are ultimately unique to females.”

Surely homosexual and females have fought in wars through the ages. But I am not so sure that history is filled with examples of open homosexuals fighting (yes I know about the Sacred Band of Thebes) in military units and I am sure that it is not filled with females serving in the ranks (and yes I know also about Scythian archeological finds). It is true that there is nothing innate about anybody that prevents them from fighting. That is not what I am concerned about. I am concerned about how that will affect the fighting power of combat units.


clearly, if we lose WWIII it will be the fags’ fault; or perhaps, after years of skirmishing successfully, when teh gayz have to maneuver against fortified fighting positions, they’ll finally show their true colors and flee limp-wristed from the machine gun fire. or! because everyone’s cool with buttsecks now, we’ll all be too busy getting each other off to defend the country from the great mexican invasion of 2032.

…a reasonable position, good sir!

i’ve obviously been wasting my time here. diminishing the applicant pool isn’t a valid concern because we’ve mustered lots of male troops in the past? are you fucking with me? quantity != quality, and i was very clearly not talking about the former.

i’m not certain i haven’t just been trolled for the last two days. FML.


MKP:

You seem a little tired. You should rest now.

I will note, quietly though, that the crews of those many ships from long ago, the Helena, the Borie, the Enterprise, the Campbell, the Cod, the Fletcher, the Barb and so many others; those crews were pretty good and they fought their ships well.

What does FML mean?