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Major Conflict: One Gay Man's Life in the Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell Military

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2012

    After slowly coming to terms with his homosexuality, and with th

    After slowly coming to terms with his homosexuality, and with the prohibition of gays serving in the military still in effect, Major McGowan finally had to confront the issue and ask himself, "How was I a threat to my unit? . . . How was I a threat to the very institution I'd devoted my whole life to preserving and protecting? . . . What threat did I . . . Jeffrey McGowan, pose to the integrity of the U.S. military?" And he came to the conclusion that he posed no threat - a conclusion that is just flat out wrong. In fact, gays in the military represent a clear and present danger.

    In 2005, when taking part in an oral history study of gays who had or were serving in the armed forces, Assistant History Professor Steve Estes at Sonoma State University said, "In 1993, the `don't ask, don't tell' policy legislated the silence of gay and lesbian soldiers on active duty and in the reserves. This silence about gays in the military has led to a collective amnesia about the patriotic service and courageous sacrifices of homosexual troops. If we forget that gay and lesbian Americans have served their country, then we as a nation are much less likely to view them as full citizens, deserving of civil rights and equal protection of the law."

    Civil rights and equal protection of the law? The only way to evaluate that claim, I suggest, would be to first examine what homosexuality actually is. In the 1990s, Dr. Dean H. Hamer, the chief of the Gene Structure and Regulation Section at the National Cancer Institute's Laboratory of Biochemistry, conducted extensive studies examining the possible deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) similarities between homosexuals as compared to the rest of the male population. What he discovered was that homosexuals had a specific genetic code, probably associated with the X chromosome, and probably maternally inherited.

    Just as compelling, in 1996, neuroscientist Simon LeVay, a researcher and lecturer in human sexuality at Stanford University, published his seminal neuroendocrinological study of male and female sexual orientations. Distinguishing the biological differences between the brains of men and women attributable to hormone production, Dr. LeVay concluded that sexual orientation must be determined by the hypothalamus as that organ governed sexuality. Dr. LeVay identified an area in the hypothalamus that was smaller in women than in men. He also discovered that the same area was smaller in homosexual men, in other words more similar to women, as compared to heterosexual men. It followed, therefore, that women and homosexual men experienced the same sexual attractions probably caused by the biological similarities of their brains.

    And if that was the case, the reasoning goes, homosexuality was immutable and any discrimination a violation of one's civil rights. There is one problem with that logic though: no one has a civil right to serve in the military. One of my best friends was a commander at a Military Entrance Processing Center (MEPS) and on one occasion, we had an opportunity to discuss rejection statistics. The armed forces have very high standards and many applicants are turned away for a variety of reasons including biological reasons. A person suffering from, for example, depression or anxiety will be disqualified even though such maladies are organic in nature and may even respond to medication. While depression may have a biological cause, it is nevertheless an aberration. It is outside the norm. Similarly, I would argue, homosexuality may be biological, but it is also outside the norm. The military, out of necessity, is looking for the "norm." It must move as one. Anything that interferes with organizational cohesion must be eliminated to ensure that the armed forces can accomplish its mission.

    When Major McGowan asked if he was a threat, he posed the question from the micro-level in the same sense that Air Force Staff Sergeant Leonard Matlovich did in the 1980s. Matlovich, a highly remarkable person in his own right, was decorated with the Bronze Star and Purple Heart during his service in Vietnam. On one occasion, at the risk of his own life, he had engaged elements of the North Vietnamese Army on his own initiative in order to save the lives of other service members. Throughout his life, he struggled with his homosexuality. The military only exacerbated his frustration as he constantly formed "crushes" on his fellow servicemen. Eventually, concealing his sexual orientation was too stressful and he reported his homosexuality to his commanding officer.

    At the time, the Air Force had a particularized policy, which was later repealed, allowing known homosexuals with exceptional records to remain in the service as long as they did not participate in homosexual conduct. Matlovich refused and was administratively separated. His discharge sparked one of the most celebrated and significant cases concerning gays serving in the military. Eventually, the federal courts ruled in his favor; however, he settled and did not return to the service. For those of us who were in the Air Force, Matlovich's case was extremely interesting. When he died in 1988, his marker provided the epitaph that he had been given a medal for killing men and a discharge for loving one. It was explosively thought provoking.

    But it was also beside the point. The armed forces are extremely large complex organizations and policies can only be viewed from the macro-level. While Major McGowan and Sergeant Matlovich may be exceptional people - and I believe that they are and were - neither was qualified for military service as both suffered from a biological abnormality. And if homosexuality is biologically rooted as the evidence certainly suggests, then it is a biological anomaly. There is no escaping that regardless of any political agenda to the contrary. Homosexuality is abnormal. Evolution did not fashion the human anus for penile penetration, an act that can result in injury. As a matter of fundamental evolution, men and women were designed to accommodate one another psychologically and physiologically and that inalterable truth is in opposition to homosexuality. Nothing is ever going to change that and it has nothing to do with one's religion or theology.

    In Major McGowan's autobiography, he observed that the U.S. Army was composed of a wide spectrum of people, including kids who had come from dysfunctional backgrounds and were trying to find themselves. That is absolutely true. And while I have no doubt that Major McGowan was a fine officer and is a good man, the fact remains that older gays attempt to cultivate younger people for the purpose of sexually exploiting them. I was in law enforcement for thirty years and can attest to that. Part of my career was spent with the Office of Federal Investigations conducting background investigations for top secret security clearances. I have interviewed many, many gay men who did just that. The last thing the military needs is officers and noncommissioned officers who are engaged in such conduct.

    Aside from predators - and I want to emphasize that I am in no way equating people like Major McGowan or Sergeant Matlovich, for that matter, with predators - homosexuality is deleterious to the military. In his book, the Major recalled being in Europe and seeing another officer, a man, who had completely blown him away: "I'd seen good-looking men before . . . but this was completely different . . . It was as if the room had narrowed to just this one person, this one face, this one body, as if the (room) had suddenly gone black and a spotlight had been turned on this one stunning individual . . . He was about my height (six feet three inches (parenthesis in the original)), with thick blond hair parted on the left and fairly short, two inches long, tops. He had a high, high forehead, and a very straight nose with a small indentation at the

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 10, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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