Panic in the Pentagon

By Tucker, Scott | The Humanist, May-June 1993 | Go to article overview

Panic in the Pentagon

Tucker, Scott, The Humanist

Once upon a time, I was a pacifist, but during the past dozen years of the royalist regime I served in the queer terrorist underground, ever ready to publish those ancient secret photos of the Scarlet Starlet (a.k.a. Nancy Reagan),, or to sodomize that dreary mutt Millie and thus introduce AIDS into the House of Whiteness, or to air-drop 16 tons of used condoms on King George's ancestral home" in Kennebunkport, Maine. Ever ready--but we exercised restraint. My comrades in ACT UP, however, did succeed in wrapping just one enormous prophylactic around the abode of Lord Jesse Helms, situated in a lovely tobacco plantation.

A dozen years from hell. And now, for a change, we can have a free and open public debate about whether sodomites are a corrupting influence in the ranks of those trained to kill on command. I call that progress.

Certain stereotypes do seem unfair. For example, why are marines so famous for rolling over? True, the only one I ever got that close to preferred the so-called passive role, but only if he was riding on top and swearing up a storm. One of Camp Lejeune's finest. Deep, mature, committed relationships are well and good, but sometimes we want a carnivorous experience. Are you my love slave? YESSIR!

Military props and uniforms are sexy, powerful, and ridiculous--much like the costumes and hardware of sadomasochism and bondage. A good uniform form advertises a good body, as well as the depersonalized entity who gives or obeys orders. During the Vietnam era, a drill sergeant at the receiving end of a hippie's dick was one way to turn the world upside down, or set it right again. Reverse the roles, and turnabout is still fair play.

Nowadays, queers often sport hair, cuts straight out of the 1950s and foot, wear recycled from the Marine Corps, though the pierced ears and nipples, the Melanesian tattoos, and the anarchic garb signal other tribal loyalties. Queers agree with the Pentagon top brass that fashion is good for morale. At a recent ACT UP Uniform Drag Ball, a benefit party for the queer March on Washington in April, we paraded in army/navy surplus before a benign dominatrix in stiletto heels: The Few, the Proud, The Queens. Are these the sort of folks you would trust to fight for democracy? We already do, and by our own permission.

It's notable that gay culture often plays havoc with the "natural order" of masculine and feminine, heterosexual and homosexual, active and passive, top and bottom. Not always nor inevitably, but often enough to make militarists and fundamentalists nervous. Civil libertarians argue that queers have proven equal to all challenges in barracks and in battles and should have the right to serve. But such arguments are precisely civilian and secular and remain distinct and distant from that holy of holies: military morale. You may approach that inner sanctum by way of some facts and history, but you must do so on your knees.

In 1943, the Pentagon initiated its ban on gay and lesbian personnel. As documented by gay historian Allan Berube in his book Coming Out Under Fire, the lesbian and gay veterans of World War II were often "forced to fight two wars" and "perceived the military as acting in ways that resembled the fascism they were supposed to be fighting." The military's "extreme and some, times violent measures" destroyed some men and women, while others forged bonds of solidarity which lasted into civilian life.

In 1950, Congress created the Uniform form Code of Military Justice, whose regulations prohibited both homosexual and heterosexual oral and anal sex. "Perverts Called Government Peril" ran a headline in the New York Times on April 19 of that year--a sign of incipient McCarthyism. In 1957, federal courts ruled that military personnel could appeal military-court decisions to civil courts, and for the first time those dis, charged under the gay ban had a chance for justice. In the same year, a suppressed navy report concluded that there was no evidence for the contention that gays could not serve equally in the military. …

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