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August 26, 2011 7:22 AM   Subscribe

"I finally said, you know what, I'm going to tell my story. The first American injured in the Iraq war is a gay Marine. He wanted to give his life to this country." ~Eric Alva, 40, former Marine and veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom
Tell: An Intimate History of Gay Men in the Military posted by zarq (29 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite

 
But I passed it off. All my life. Acted as straight as possible. Listen, my life was a pretense the whole time.

Holy goddamn.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:49 AM on August 26, 2011


My "holy goddamn" is the caption on Tom Norton's photo:

"I went to Vietnam with PTSD, which I had had from the age of five when I learned the word 'homosexual' and knew that's what I was."

He went TO Vietnam with PTSD.

This sounds so awfully church-cheesy, but the words that popped into my mind were "We have got to stop letting this happen to our sisters and brothers in the human race."
posted by Madamina at 7:56 AM on August 26, 2011 [9 favorites]


My wife performed a same-sex wedding for two active-duty servicemen at Leonard Matlovich's grave recently.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:57 AM on August 26, 2011 [7 favorites]


Dulce et decorum est, pro patria moria.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:00 AM on August 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I found this really moving; thank you, zarq.
posted by cider at 8:27 AM on August 26, 2011


DADT was never anything more than institutionalized hypocrisy, sold as some sort of worthwhile compromise. It was and remains an utterly shameful, cowardly and dishonest policy.
posted by binturong at 8:33 AM on August 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


That's a great read, thanks. The Marine Corps is always good for a little comic relief:

"I mean, if you want to hide, the Marine Corps is one of the best places to do that, because nobody wants to admit they are standing next to a gay guy."

"You'd be amazed how gay Marines are when they don't believe there's anyone gay around."

posted by FelliniBlank at 8:36 AM on August 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why did they decide to focus on gay men? Lesbians serve, too, and have the added burden of the generally shitty way women are often treated in the US military (including the frequent assumption that any woman who doesn't want to fuck a specific guy must be a dyke).

I mean, it is great to focus on how DADT has failed, how gay people have always served in the military and all of that, but leaving out women while doing that is just a different kind of discriminatory and belittling invisibility.
posted by QIbHom at 9:00 AM on August 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Because it was for GQ and one project can't do everything, I'd guess?
posted by liketitanic at 9:10 AM on August 26, 2011 [2 favorites]



JM: "I found out right after the war that if someone were discharged as homosexual, a notice of that fact was sent home to their local draft board, so that their whole community would come to know that they were gay. And this led indirectly to the formation of gay ghettos in the major cities, where people who couldn't go home, because their sexuality had been revealed by the army, had to move into Greenwich Village or the San Francisco Castro. This was the beginning of the huge gay communities in the major cities."


Huh. I always wondered what drove the formation of the big gay communities. This certainly makes sense.
posted by magstheaxe at 9:37 AM on August 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


GQ never talks about women?

You weaken the argument against DADT when you whack half of your examples off the board to begin with.
posted by QIbHom at 9:49 AM on August 26, 2011


I'm not getting in a fight with you about this. There's a footnote on the first page of the article that says that lesbians have both similar and distinctly different and equally important stories to tell, but that this one article, in a lifestyle magazine directed at men, focuses on gay men. If this one article were to be the only thing ever said on this topic, then yeah, it would be a problem. But it won't be, and it's not, and one article can't do everything.

I'm not even sure this is ABOUT "the argument against DADT" in anything but an implicit way. It's an oral history piece, and choosing one population to focus on doesn't make it weaker.
posted by liketitanic at 9:52 AM on August 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


> The Marine Corps is always good for a little comic relief

Gay or not, they're some tough motherfuckers. Stereotypes notwithstanding.
posted by ostranenie at 9:52 AM on August 26, 2011


...President [Obama] went in the Blue Room and was just standing there waiting for Biden. And there was no Secret Service around or anything, and I went, 'Fuck it, I'm going to go and talk to the president about "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." ' He was looking out south—there's an incredible view down past the Washington Monument to the Jefferson. And I just stepped in and said, 'Sir?' and he turned around and walks to me and I just started: 'You know, sir, I want to let you know that there are a number of us that work very close to you who appreciate very much what you're doing on "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"—more than you probably realize.' And he was shaking my hand, he looks up and it's like...he got it. I said, 'I want to thank you for this.' And he goes, 'No, I want to thank you. Thank you for your service, and thank you for your courage.' "

That made me happy. And I also had a little sympathetic tachycardia for the guy.
posted by robstercraw at 10:33 AM on August 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


"You'd be amazed how gay Marines are when they don't believe there's anyone gay around."

John Waters: Bobby Garcia is my favorite pornographer. He has made thousands of these Marine tapes, he got busted at Camp Pendleton. They're basically like Andy Warhol's Blow Job, only the camera's back further. *
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:37 AM on August 26, 2011


This is great, but man am I getting tired of the phrase "intimate history" in stories about sexual minorities.
posted by psoas at 10:40 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Robstercraw, that graf teared me up a little. I'll be so glad when this stupid, stupid policy is dead and gone.

Marines #1: "When we finally get certification, for me it is no longer controlled information. I don't give a rat's ass who knows. And I'm not going to swallow words rather than saying it. If you say something fucking stupid then I'm going to say: 'Hey, motherfucker, you're a fucking idiot, shut the fuck up. Because we ain't going to put up with that shit no more.' I mean, I'm ready for that. Right now I'm angry. I've had e-fucking-nough. We've eaten a shit sandwich for seventeen years. History is here."

Would love to be a fly on the wall for those conversations as well.
posted by longdaysjourney at 10:42 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


The article does a good job in avoiding any mention of what it is the U.S. military does, so the reader doesn't get distracted by the thought of what it is these gays and lesbians are actually demanding the right to do: support and execute wars of aggression or otherwise facilitate American foreign policy through the threatened and actual use of weapons of mass destruction. I wish the alternative to "don't ask, don't tell" was "come out and come home." Earning the equal right to kill doesn't strike me as an achievement to be proud of.
posted by layceepee at 11:01 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


God, this is a beautiful article.
posted by schroedinger at 11:09 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


The article does a good job in avoiding any mention of what it is the U.S. military does, so the reader doesn't get distracted by the thought of what it is these gays and lesbians are actually demanding the right to do

No one is going to forget for a second that the military prosecutes wars, but this isn't just about "a right to kill." A lot of people from economically-depressed areas flock to the military because it provides jobs, housing, and education opportunities. It's not as splashy as an out-and-out stimulus plan, but I wouldn't be surprised if the unemployment rate drops a bit after the repeal is completed.
posted by psoas at 11:10 AM on August 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


A lot of people from economically-depressed areas flock to the military because it provides jobs, housing, and education opportunities.

Not to mention that, as the article points out, many, many people who put their lives on the line and served dutifully just as their peers and coworkers had done, were stripped of title, job, pensions earned, etc.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 11:26 AM on August 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm too young to remember blatant racism in the military. During my life people of any color or religion could all serve equally and all had the same opportunities for promotion etc.

In the last 20 years I've seen female service members rise from being restricted to being nurses and clerks to being ships company, combat fighters and fighter pilots.

With the end of DADT, gays and lesbians are up next. If what I believe about the military is true, the families of gay service members will be given the same rights as other military families. (I know of a couple of instances in which children and spouses of gay service members have access to military housing.) If that happens, it will set a HUGE precedent for gay marriage in general throughout the U.S.
posted by snsranch at 3:30 PM on August 26, 2011


A lot of people from economically-depressed areas flock to the military because it provides jobs, housing, and education opportunities.

Some people from economically-depressed areas alto turn to organized crime for jobs, and if I remember my Sopranos season six correctly, the Mafia has a don't ask, don't tell policy of its own. It takes more than that to get me fighting the good fight to make sure there's an equal-opportunity mob.
posted by layceepee at 3:33 PM on August 26, 2011


DADT was never anything more than institutionalized hypocrisy, sold as some sort of worthwhile compromise. It was and remains an utterly shameful, cowardly and dishonest policy.

While I don't disagree with your basic point, I think you're overlooking the atmosphere before DADT.

The witch-hunting which took place on a regular basis was horrific, and the complete fog of fear which hung over any homosexual who was in the military before DADT was PTSD inducing all on its own.

DADT was a great and noble step forward. It allowed men and women to volunteer to serve their country, and if they could manage to keep some bit of a mask up in their professional lives, it allowed them to have a personal life which didn't involve constant fear.

I'm not saying it was a great policy, but compared to what was happening before it, it was a HUGE thing, and was celebrated widely in the gay community at the time. I'm glad it's over now, but I think it couldn't possibly be over if it hadn't happened in the first place.
posted by hippybear at 3:44 PM on August 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


layceepee: The article does a good job in avoiding any mention of what it is the U.S. military does, so the reader doesn't get distracted by the thought of what it is these gays and lesbians are actually demanding the right to do... Earning the equal right to kill doesn't strike me as an achievement to be proud of.

Being denied equal rights is still being treated like a second class citizen, even if it is a right you think people shouldn't want. During the first world war, "[m]ost African-American units were largely relegated to support roles and did not see combat." Still, I wouldn't say that this segregation and discrimination was a good thing. It is still people being treated as an unworthy "other", and feeds into/is caused by broader prejudice and discrimination.
posted by JiBB at 9:27 PM on August 26, 2011


The article does a good job in avoiding any mention of what it is the U.S. military does,


"When I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one."

Work on the reading comprehension there, champ.
posted by rodgerd at 1:23 AM on August 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wonder if the policy ending will help anyone discharged because of it get their pension (or rejoin).
posted by Margalo Epps at 10:21 AM on August 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Layceepee, take time out from retyping a tired leftist screed to think for a moment what you are really saying if taken to the logical extreme: You want out gays and lesbians to be prevented from exercising their own free will and joining the military.

Essentially, because you don’t agree with armies and militaries, you want to squelch the freedom of choice of out gays and lesbians to join and support those. You’re willing to support gay rights, I presume, up to but not including the point where gays do something you disagree with, at which point you want your beliefs to prevail over theirs. You want a veto over gay lives when gays’ choices clash with your own.
posted by joeclark at 10:44 AM on August 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


If what I believe about the military is true, the families of gay service members will be given the same rights as other military families.

Not as long as the Defense of Marriage Act is in force.

"The Pentagon says the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act — which defines marriage for federal program purposes as a legal union between a man and woman — prohibits the Defense Department from extending those benefits to gay couples, even if they are married legally in certain states." The Army Times lays out some of the consequences for gay married military personnel.

While the Obama administration has declared DOMA unconstitutional and instructed the justice dept. to stop defending it in court, the current slate of Republican candidates are lining up to promise not just to defend it but to make it a constitutional amendment.

Hard to believe.
posted by evilmomlady at 11:24 AM on August 28, 2011


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