Arguments against gays in military don't hold up

ROGER SIMON

March 31, 1993|By ROGER SIMON

We called them pansies. They were, we said, limp-wristed weaklings. They swished and minced and pranced.

So why are we now so afraid of them?

Why can't Marines defend themselves from such people in their own showers? Why is the Air Force scared, the Army frightened and the Navy petrified?

What strange power do gay soldiers possess that makes the knees of straight soldiers turn to jelly at the mere thought of sharing a barracks with them?

Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., who opposes lifting the ban on gays in the military, said the other day that we civilians simply don't understand.

Military life is "unique," Nunn said. It is a life in which men often live together in close proximity under "Spartan" conditions that can include showering together.

To which I say: Wake up, Sam, and smell the Lifebuoy!

Go to any health club in America and you will find men showering together. Go to any college dormitory or summer camp or high school.

When I attended public high school in Chicago, we had swimming classes in the nude. And you know what? I made it. I got through four years of nude swimming and communal showers without ever being molested by a homosexual.

So what are Nunn and his colleagues so worried about? Do they think that homosexuals find heterosexuals so irresistible that they cannot help but grope us? Do homosexuals find our lean, firm bodies (I am excluding members of Congress here) so exciting that they cannot control their lust?

If a gay soldier had an overpowering urge to grope someone, however, why wouldn't he grope another gay rather than attack a heterosexual in the shower? Especially considering those heterosexuals are trained to kill and have ready access to M-16s, bayonets and hand grenades?

Is sexual molestation a problem in the military? You bet. By heterosexuals. According to military records released last year, a woman serving in the Army is 50 percent more likely to be raped than a woman in civilian life. A Navy study found a 55 percent JTC increase in reported heterosexual rapes and sexual assaults at naval bases between 1987 and 1990. And need I mention Tailhook? Or that 19-year-old female midshipman at the U.S. Naval Academy, who in 1990 was dragged from her bed by a gang of male midshipmen, chained to a urinal, taunted and photographed? (Don't worry: The attackers got demerits.)

But Sam Nunn says we can't have gays in the military because it will spoil "cohesiveness." Norman Schwarzkopf says it will ruin the "esprit de corps." Colin Powell says it will destroy "good order and discipline" to have men so different living and fighting together.

Which are the same arguments, word for word, that were used to oppose integrating blacks and whites in the military in 1948.

But race and sexual orientation are not the same thing, we are told. Gays simply can't fight next to straights if we hope to have an effective military.

Except that they have fought side by side for a long time.

Retired U.S. Army Col. Lucian K. Truscott III commanded a rifle company in Korea and tells this story:

He had "at least one gay soldier" in his company of 150 men and, at first, the other soldiers ridiculed the "goddam queer" in their midst. "You know, one hand on hip, the other waving in the air with a limp wrist," Truscott said.

But when they lived together and worked together and fought together, they also learned about one another. They learned how you could judge a person by what he did and not what he was.

The gay soldier carried a Browning Automatic Rifle, a weapon so deadly that whoever carried it was always the first target of the Chinese.

And one "wet spring day in 1951," there was a firefight, and afterward, Truscott remembers, "I knelt down and looked at the small round hole dead center" in the forehead of the gay soldier.

"I noticed some of the men in his squad turning away from me so I wouldn't see them cry softly as they put him on a litter so we could carry him with us," Truscott said. "He was one of us, a soldier."

And I figure if you can die in the service of your country, you ought to be able to live in the service of your country.

Without lies, without harassment and without shame.

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