DADT Foregone to be Long Gone

Timothy Kincaid

December 15th, 2008

The New York Times has a profile on Admiral Mike Mullen, the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Mullen’s term will not expire until a year into Obama’s administration and the Times thinks the transition will be smooth.

They also reveal that Mullen is pragmatic about the end of Don’t Ask – Don’t Tell and gives a hint that the Washington establishment assumes that President-Elect Obama will keep his commitments to the gay community:

In preparation for his new commander in chief, Admiral Mullen … has also had initial conversations with his top commanders about potential changes in the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law that allows gay men and lesbians to serve in the military as long as they keep their sexual orientation secret.

Mr. Obama has taken a strong stand against the law as a moral issue, although his team has signaled that he will not push for its repeal in the early months of his administration to avoid the kind of blowup that engulfed President Bill Clinton when he sought to lift an outright ban on gay men and lesbians in the military in his first days in office. (In a cautionary tale for Admiral Mullen, that 1993 storm raged in part because Gen. Colin L. Powell, who was the holdover chairman of the Joint Chiefs from the first Bush administration, publicly disagreed with what became a Clinton compromise solution of “don’t ask, don’t tell.”)

Fifteen years later, Mr. Obama is of the view that “don’t ask, don’t tell” is long out of date and that it is time for gay men and lesbians to serve openly.

“The president-elect’s been pretty clear that he wants to address this issue,” Admiral Mullen said in the interview. “And so I am certainly mindful that at some point in time it could come.”

A friend of Admiral Mullen said the admiral had begun to think about practical implications like housing, but Admiral Mullen said there had been no formal planning or task forces on the issue.

Let’s hope this means that the military will not only go along with Obama’s efforts but will be supportive of ending this bastion of institutionalized discrimination.

Bob Leahy

December 16th, 2008

I was an Infantry pointman in Vietnam. I was the first person to walk down the jungle path to find the mines, boobytraps, snipers, machine guns and ambushes. I’ve had napalm splash on me and was wounded six times with schrapnel. I also assaulted three enemy machine gun positions.

I’m also gay.

I’ve been a professional writer for the past 25 years. I’ve been writing about the experience of being a gay in the Army in Vietnam. Below is the section I wrote about gays in the military.


It’s interesting that I never realized that there was a fourth choice. If I had told the Army that I was gay, they would have kicked me out as being obviously unsuitable for Army life. That would have solved both my pain problem and my dislike of the Army.

I’m sure I never considered that option because at the ripe old age of 20, I was terrified that anyone – the Army or my parents – would discover I was gay. I hoped my gay-ness would go away if I ignored it – and then I’d be “normal.” (I know it was a dumb idea. Give me a break – I was 20!)

With my luck, the Army would have required me to serve my entire tour as an Infantry point man in Vietnam – and then kicked me out with a dishonorable discharge.

I now find the military’s anti-gay policy amusing. The current policy is that the military will discharge all the gays it discovers because “homosexuality is incompatible with military service.” That’s a statement – not a reason.

Until 1954, the armed forces used almost those same words to explain why it only allowed blacks to be servants and laborers in the military. Anyone who has served in the military in the past half-century knows that black sergeants form the backbone of today’s military.

I’ve heard that the military really is standing up for enlisted men, who don’t want to be around gays. It’s odd that those same enlisted men don’t have any problems being around gays in civilian life. In any case, I’m touched by the military’s concern for the enlisted men’s feelings. I don’t recall anyone in the Army giving a damn about my feelings, but perhaps things have changed.

A British sergeant came up with an absolutely wonderful comment on the issue of gays in the military; “Men don’t like to take showers with men who like to take showers with men.” I don’t agree with the sentiment, but I do admire his eloquence. (I am suspicious, though. Anyone that eloquent can’t be straight!)

Anyone who believes that “homosexuality is incompatible with military service” has never read about gays in the military in the classical world. Alexander the Great – a Greek military genius by anyone’s definition – was gay. Then there was the Sacred Band of the city/state of Thebes.

The Sacred Band was an elite force of 150 picked soldiers within the Theban army. The Band existed in the fourth century B.C. Originally, only gay couples were allowed to join this force. The idea was that in combat, men fought better when they fought next to their lovers. They would fight harder to protect and impress their lovers. Men might abandon their comrades, but they never would abandon their lovers. (It’s interesting that the same logic doesn’t seem to apply to husbands and wives.)

It was a very successful idea. The Sacred Band was in existence for 40 years. During that time period Thebes rose to be a military and political powerhouse. In 375 B.C., the Sacred Band defeated a Spartan army three times its size.

The Sacred Band finally was defeated by Philip II of Macedon, and his gay son Alexander – who later became known as “Alexander the Great.” (Alexander was given this title because of his outstanding military performance.) When overwhelmed, the straight portion of the Theban army and the Theban allies broke and ran. Although surrounded and defeated, the Sacred Band held their ground and refused to surrender. They were slaughtered by volleys of arrow fire. According to classical accounts, they found 150 bodies when the dust settled. No one in the Sacred Band ran. Everyone died. That’s impressive! There’s a very strong urge to run when people are trying to kill you. Remember that the Sacred Band was only a small portion of the Theban army. The straight portion of the Theban army ran.

I can’t resist emphasizing why Thebes created the Sacred Band. Clearly, Thebes was concerned because the non-gay men in the army were running away in battle. The solution was to set up an elite gays-only army group that could be trusted not to run. Obviously, experience had taught Thebes that gay couples would stand and fight in battles where straights would run. More importantly, the solution of setting up an elite gays-only unit worked. (Maybe if they’d had more gays…)

Until 1981, the U.S. armed forces policy was to discharge all gays they discovered. The armed forces could retain members who were suspected of gay activity – if those members claimed that they had only engaged in gay activity once. The enlisted men dubbed this the “Queen For A Day” rule.

When I started writing this in early-December 2007, a retired brigadier general publicly admitted (confessed?) that he was gay. Whatever his failings (he also confessed to being a Democrat), I don’t see how anyone can argue that a brigadier general – someone who spent about 20 years successfully climbing the military career ladder – is “incompatible with military service.”

Senator Barry Goldwater summed up my thoughts nicely with the comment, “You don’t have to be straight to shoot straight.” (As a teenager, I though Barry Goldwater was a hopeless political Neanderthal. I’ve since come to admire him and to adopt his political beliefs.)

In combat, survival is far more important than irrelevant questions about whether some-one is gay or straight. I was a good point man, a good squad leader, a good fighter, and a good killer. I probably could have worn a pink dress and my men would have followed me. But because that was a bit too flamboyant for me, I settled for wearing a fluorescent-orange T-shirt.

(I’d include a picture of my in my fluorescent-orange T-shirt, but this comment area doesn’t allow pictures.)


December 16th, 2008

Bob: Thank you for your service. My father and you could undoubtedly trade some hair-raising stories as former grunts in Vietnam. I served in the Navy myself many years later. In reading your comments I was reminded a bit of the old saying that no matter much things change they always remain the same. I too was deep in the closet during my service, afraid that family or friends would find out I was gay and of course hoping that my own “gay-ness” would go away. Obviously that didn’t happen. Wanna know the killer irony of this? When I did finally come out much later, family and friends were fine with it. All that angst for nothing. Arrrgh! But thank God nonetheless…

I hope it’s easier for the next generation so they can avoid going through all that crap. Ahhhhh…good times. /sarc

Anyway, thanks for your comments.

Leave A Comment

All comments reflect the opinions of commenters only. They are not necessarily those of anyone associated with Box Turtle Bulletin. Comments are subject to our Comments Policy.

(Required, never shared)

PLEASE NOTE: All comments are subject to our Comments Policy.


Latest Posts

The Things You Learn from the Internet

"The Intel On This Wasn't 100 Percent"

From Fake News To Real Bullets: This Is The New Normal

NC Gov McCrory Throws In The Towel

Colorado Store Manager Verbally Attacks "Faggot That Voted For Hillary" In Front of 4-Year-Old Son

Associated Press Updates "Alt-Right" Usage Guide

A Challenge for Blue Bubble Democrats

Baptist Churches in Dallas, Austin Expelled Over LGBT-Affirming Stance

Featured Reports

What Are Little Boys Made Of?

In this original BTB Investigation, we unveil the tragic story of Kirk Murphy, a four-year-old boy who was treated for “cross-gender disturbance” in 1970 by a young grad student by the name of George Rekers. This story is a stark reminder that there are severe and damaging consequences when therapists try to ensure that boys will be boys.

Slouching Towards Kampala: Uganda’s Deadly Embrace of Hate

When we first reported on three American anti-gay activists traveling to Kampala for a three-day conference, we had no idea that it would be the first report of a long string of events leading to a proposal to institute the death penalty for LGBT people. But that is exactly what happened. In this report, we review our collection of more than 500 posts to tell the story of one nation’s embrace of hatred toward gay people. This report will be updated continuously as events continue to unfold. Check here for the latest updates.

Paul Cameron’s World

In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center wrote that “[Paul] Cameron’s ‘science’ echoes Nazi Germany.” What the SPLC didn”t know was Cameron doesn’t just “echo” Nazi Germany. He quoted extensively from one of the Final Solution’s architects. This puts his fascination with quarantines, mandatory tattoos, and extermination being a “plausible idea” in a whole new and deeply disturbing light.

From the Inside: Focus on the Family’s “Love Won Out”

On February 10, I attended an all-day “Love Won Out” ex-gay conference in Phoenix, put on by Focus on the Family and Exodus International. In this series of reports, I talk about what I learned there: the people who go to these conferences, the things that they hear, and what this all means for them, their families and for the rest of us.

Prologue: Why I Went To “Love Won Out”
Part 1: What’s Love Got To Do With It?
Part 2: Parents Struggle With “No Exceptions”
Part 3: A Whole New Dialect
Part 4: It Depends On How The Meaning of the Word "Change" Changes
Part 5: A Candid Explanation For "Change"

The Heterosexual Agenda: Exposing The Myths

At last, the truth can now be told.

Using the same research methods employed by most anti-gay political pressure groups, we examine the statistics and the case studies that dispel many of the myths about heterosexuality. Download your copy today!

And don‘t miss our companion report, How To Write An Anti-Gay Tract In Fifteen Easy Steps.

Testing The Premise: Are Gays A Threat To Our Children?

Anti-gay activists often charge that gay men and women pose a threat to children. In this report, we explore the supposed connection between homosexuality and child sexual abuse, the conclusions reached by the most knowledgeable professionals in the field, and how anti-gay activists continue to ignore their findings. This has tremendous consequences, not just for gay men and women, but more importantly for the safety of all our children.

Straight From The Source: What the “Dutch Study” Really Says About Gay Couples

Anti-gay activists often cite the “Dutch Study” to claim that gay unions last only about 1½ years and that the these men have an average of eight additional partners per year outside of their steady relationship. In this report, we will take you step by step into the study to see whether the claims are true.

The FRC’s Briefs Are Showing

Tony Perkins’ Family Research Council submitted an Amicus Brief to the Maryland Court of Appeals as that court prepared to consider the issue of gay marriage. We examine just one small section of that brief to reveal the junk science and fraudulent claims of the Family “Research” Council.

Daniel Fetty Doesn’t Count

Daniel FettyThe FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics aren’t as complete as they ought to be, and their report for 2004 was no exception. In fact, their most recent report has quite a few glaring holes. Holes big enough for Daniel Fetty to fall through.