Monday, October 11, 2010

Happy Coming Out Day 2010

I'm not your typical Conservative, or typical Army veteran. It seems many of my compatriots in the ranks of Conservatism and of the military services are staunchly anti-gay and see homosexuals as deviants and doomed to the fiery pits of Hell.

What utter crap.

I've had gay friends since high school. Thankfully, some of them are still friends with me more than 20 years later. It's always been something I accepted and it never bothered me. I mean, hell, why should it bother me? I'm quite secure in my own sexuality and orientation. I don't view homosexuals as a threat to my heterosexuality, my masculinity, or a threat to any aspect of my life that I can think of.

The first guy that ever hit on me was a Navy guy who was a crewman on a submarine at the base I lived on. He was from New Orleans, a hairdresser by profession, and joined the Navy for college money. I used to run into him at the barracks where he lived because their payphones gave you unlimited phone time for a dime, and I could sit there and talk to my girlfriend for an hour or two without a ration of crap from my parents for tying up the phone. I told him I was flattered but not only was I straight with a girlfriend but that I was jailbait to boot. Poor guy was mortified. He thought I was a sailor since I had short hair, was always on the phone at the barracks, and carried my school books in a duffel with the logo of one of the subs at the base. I jokingly said that I'd keep his secret as long as I got dibs on a phone after school.

One of my high school classmates had a terrible crush on me. I told him he had no chance but I never shunned him. He was a really nice guy and friends could sometimes be hard to come by even in a small school of 400 or so kids. He gave me a Mickey Mouse watch for my graduation and I held on to it for at least ten years before I finally parted with it. The face was cracked & scratched to hell & gone, the battery long dead, and the leather strap had disintegrated, but it was such a kind gesture that I hated to let it go.

I knew several gay soldiers when I was in the Army. As long as they did their jobs and didn't publicly dishonor the uniform or the flag I was cool with whatever they did privately. Being gay doesn't make you a bad soldier. In fact pretty much every gay soldier I knew was an exemplary troop. We had a couple units on my base in Germany that were anywhere from 25 to 50 per cent gay. Of course I have no solid proof, but I only knew one or two of the truck drivers in this one transport company who dated guys and many of the intel people up the road with the intelligence-gathering unit were barely keeping it quiet. But it didn't affect their job performances one iota and we all had a blast off duty. One of my closest buddies from that unit is now a woman, actually, living in a major European city and finally living the life she was supposed to be living. And really, all any of us wants is for our friends to be happy, right?

One night while helping out the DJ's at a club near Fort Riley I met a guy who liked the band Erasure just as much as I did and we became instant friends. He was a fuel handler in a support battalion and had just gotten back from Desert Storm. We club hopped together often and raided each other's CD collections regularly. He was originally from Kansas City, a couple hours away, and one weekend we drove up together and partied and I even met his mom. We shared a hotel room just like normal friends. I always knew he was gay even though he never said as much, but I was secure enough in our friendship that I knew he'd never even so much as bat an eyelash my way. He knew I was straight but he didn't know that I knew his secret. I never said anything to him because I didn't thing anything needed to be said. I mean, really, what was there to say? Wouldn't have changed a thing in my mind. A few months after we'd both left the Army he finally admitted to me that he was gay and I told him that I always knew. Turns out he was scared to actually admit it to me while we were both active duty because even though we were friends he was still scared that as a Military Policeman I might feel an obligation to turn him in. I told him that I was a bit hurt that he didn't feel he could trust me but that I understood why he felt that way. Here he was, a decorated war veteran, and had to hide his true self from his friends and comrades.

A couple years later I heard a story about a Naval Aviator who was being drummed out of the Navy for being gay and might have to pay back the government in partial for the expense of his education and training. I was appalled. I mean, four years of college, a year of flight school at a million bucks' worth of training, and after barely a year in the fleet they wanted to kick him out for something he did in his private life off duty. What a crock. The American taxpayers should feel cheated for not getting their money's worth from their investment, and we should all also feel cheated for losing the services of a fine young officer who wanted to serve when so many would rather not serve.

Do I feel that gays should serve openly? Sure, why not? The military needs good people, dedicated people, troops willing to go in harm's way to defend this nation. Nowhere in there does it say we only want straight people. Will it take some adjustments? Sure. Sixty years ago the military was segregated and black troops were relegated to being cooks, stewards, or manual labor functions. Did it take some adjustments? Ask the brave heroes of the Tuskeegee Airmen about adjustments and getting harassed for being different.

Bottom line, if someone wants to serve, gay or straight, then we have an obligation to support them 100%. It's our asses their defending.

So here it is National Coming Out Day. I can't even begin to imagine how hard it is to come out; I never had that issue. But today I salute my brave friends in the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender community. If you want to read the story of one gay soldier's experience with coming out, I invite you to read my friend Wil's article here. It's really a great article. Also, his article here is a letter from his current present-day self to his younger self encouraging him upon coming out. Another great read.

And in closing I wanna extend a middle finger to Fred Phelps and his Little Hatehouse on the Prairie at the Wetsboro Baptist Church. Not only is it disgusting for you to be protesting military funerals, but to use it as an excuse to hurl homophobic hate speech is beyond the pale. You claim that your Christian God hates gays? The way I see it, gays are human beings and as such are God's creatures, His creations, right? So then why would your all-powerful, all-knowing, loving Christian God create something He hates? If your God is all full of love & understanding, why would He hate anything, especially something he created, and furthermore created as gay in the first place. Judge not, lest ye be judged.

Besides, if homosexuality is such an affront to God, then why aren't they just smited to the Earth instantly? And really, isn't it something between them and God? If it's really a sin then it's THEY who have to answer for it on Judgement Day, not you. Worry about the skeletons in your own closets, because an awful lot of so-called Christians have a closet that would scare the shit out of Stephen King.


Brooke said...

My views on it have changed, mellowed over the years. Why do I care if a gay person wants to serve in the military? They have just as much right to defend this country, and they die the same as a hetero.

Same thing with adoption. Although probably not optimal, a loving and secure gay home has got to be better than an abusive or broken straight home.

As for marriage? That I don't know about. Then again, I don't know about having to get a license from the government... Whatever happened to "separation of church and state" that lefties like to cry about?

micah said...

Ahh, see, Steve, these are the reasons why I'm glad you're in the vast right wing conspiracy. ;)