Magazine article The Christian Century

Gays in the Military: Homosexual Stereotypes

Magazine article The Christian Century

Gays in the Military: Homosexual Stereotypes

Article excerpt

ARGUMENTS against gays in the military service, or gays as teachers or office workers, are frequently contradictory. On the one hand, gays are despised as wimps, as limp-wristed, frail, feminine, lisping imitations of real men who lack the courage, strength or manliness to be soldiers (or role models for boys, or competitive businessmen). On the other hand, gays are feared as predators, always on the prowl for new sexual prey, able to overpower and rape the strongest marine by catching him unawares. Discussions about homosexuality frequently reflect more of the projected fears and anxieties of heterosexuals than they do any elements of homosexual reality. Social scientists have reported that high homophobia levels correlate directly with insecurity about sexual identity and rigid male-female sex role stereotypes.

If all gays are to be dismissed as unworthy of the right and duty of citizens to serve their nation, the reasons for their dismissal need at least to be consistent. If gays are depicted as both weak and strong, as sexually passive and sexually predatory, as feminine and as hypermasculine, then perhaps we should investigate the full range of characteristics of gays before we dismiss them and their inalienable rights on the basis of an inconsistent stereotype. When we do, we find that, like heterosexuals, gays and lesbians range across a broad spectrum from weak to strong, from sexually passive to sexually predatory, from very feminine to very masculine.

Most of the voices in the military and in government who are publicly giving credence to the hysterical stereotypes of gays know better. The military and government are both full of gays and always have been. Every type of occupation has its share of gays and lesbians. Even if all homosexual males wanted to be dancers, actors, hairdressers and interior decorators, many of them have had to become football players, hockey players, weightlifters, stockbrokers, politicians, newscasters, bishops, generals and FBI agents, just as some lesbians became librarians and others police officers. Gays and lesbians are distributed throughout all walks of life--most of them still in the closet in order to protect their jobs and relationships.

Many if not most would not have chosen to be homosexual if they had had a choice; there is simply too much discrimination against homosexuals. A predominant attraction to one sex or the other is simply a given for virtually aH of us. That which is not chosen cannot be morally evil; to punish persons for homosexual orientation is contrary to the gospel command to love one's neighbor.

The military debate is not about legitimating homosexual activity, however. The military denies that it legitimates any sexual activity, including prostitution, adultery, fornication or marital sex. The admission of gays, some of whom would certainly be sexually active, would not legitimate that behavior any more than the admission of heterosexuals legitimates prostitution or adultery. Justice demands that the churches support the rights of homosexuals to military service even if those churches continue to demand celibacy of homosexuals as they do of unmarried heterosexuals.

Surely enough denominations have been debating homosexuality and ministry in the past few years to enable many Christians to see through the stereotypes. Most homosexuals are not, contrary to the stereotype, obviously identifiable. As a group, compared to heterosexuals, homosexuals are slightly above average in intelligence and in terms of their contributions to community work and volunteer service. More important and contrary to the stereotype, homosexuals are less likely than heterosexuals to either seduce the young into sex or to coerce sex. For some people, however, that doesn't matter. Gays are still more dangerous than heterosexuals because when they are coercive or seductive, they attempt to seduce boys and coerce men. It is as if women and girls do not count; it is "natural" for them to be raped, harassed, seduced as children and battered as adolescents and wives. …

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