A Philosopher's Blog

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Posted in Ethics, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on June 26, 2009
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The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy is an amazing bit of doublethink. One one hand, any homosexual who is honest about his/her orientation cannot serve in the US military. On the other hand, any homosexual who is discrete about his/her orientation and says nothing, can freely serve. So, the policy essentially says that it is okay for homosexuals to serve, provided no one says anything. That is, of course, rather weird.

A friend of mine recently presented his view of the matter. His approach was rather interesting and he looked at it in terms of practicality and human sexuality. He began by noting that the military does permit men and women to serve together, but still keeps the two sexes separate in many ways. Men and women do not share the same barracks areas and they do not shower together. The reasons for this separation is rather obvious: social norms about the mixing of the sexes and also the problems that would arise if young men were showering with and bunking with young women. In other words, it is a sex thing.

Homosexuals thus short circuit the system. Since a homosexual is attracted to his/her own sex, s/he will be bunked with and shower with the sex /she prefers. Allowing this would, of course, be on par with allowing straight men and women to shower and bunk together. As my friend contended, until human beings are able to deal with their sexuality, this will always be a problem. If men and women (well, mostly men) had an adequate handle on their sexuality, then men and women could freely mix. This would also permit homosexuals to be mixed in as well-after all, if men and women can be naked in the showers with each other with no problem, then homosexuals would be fine as well.

Sex is, of course, the problem. As noted above, the military handles the sex thing between men and women by keeping the two sexes separated in various ways. Thus suggests one rather awkward and jury rigged approach to the problem: gay soldiers could be separated out from the straight soldiers in the same sort of way. For example, there would be straight male showers and barracks, straight female showers and barracks, gay male showers and barracks, and gay female barracks and showers.  Of course, there are many problems with this approach. One obvious problem is that while the men who like women will be separated from the women who like men and the men who like men will be with the men (likewise for the women who like women). Naturally, putting the gay women with the straight men and the gay men with the straight women would not work well.

My own view is this. Since the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy went into effect, we know that a significant number of homosexuals have served in the military-mainly because some of them did tell. The main concern that people have expressed about allowing gays in the military is that doing so will create all sorts of dire problems. However, these problems do not seem to have ever manifested themselves. As such, homosexuals do not seem to be any more problematic than heterosexuals (and there have been plenty of problems between heterosexual males and females in the military). Thus, there seems to be little compelling reason to keep up the weird policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.

Of course, some people would argue that if gay soldiers told, then this would cause all sorts of dire problems. Many of these arguments are, of course, virtually identical to the arguments given against racially integrating the armed forces. Integration worked out well and there seems to be no reason why allowing gays to serve openly would be beyond the ability of the military to handle. After all, our soldiers are professionals and citizens of a democracy that endorses equal rights for all.

For the cautious, we could always have some gays agree to come out and serve openly. Then we could watch for any dire consequences. If these do not arise, then more people can gradually come out of the closet. If that continues to be fine, then the process can be stepped up. Folks who are against gays being in the military should be fine with this approach. After all, this would give them the chance to have solid empirical evidence for their views. The only reason to be against such a test would be the fear that their views are actually unfounded and are mere prejudice-rather than being legitimate concerns about how gays would harm the military.

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15 Responses

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  1. T. J. Babson said, on June 26, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    I wonder how observant Muslims view the prospect of showering together with gays. I’ll bet they would claim their religious freedoms are being violated.

  2. kernunos said, on June 26, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    Well, essentially it is that way because the distinction is only what you do in private sexually. If I were to go around and say I am a heterosexual and announce it and be proud of it then it means my male Lego piece fits into a female Lego piece. As soon as we say it we get images of what happens in the bedroom. You think it is weird to not say one is gay but I do not go around saying I am heterosexual. When it comes to serving the country why is there a need?

  3. magus71 said, on June 29, 2009 at 5:33 am

    I’ve often wondered why gays would want to be in the military in the first place. I mean, the military is a harsh environment as it is, why would they need the extra stress of being outed?

    Maybe they’re really patriotic, or maybe the benefits in the military outweigh the hazards for homosexuals. Or may, just maybe, the lopsided man to woman ratio gives some the impression that it’s a Happy Hunting Ground in the Army for gay men.

    Now I’m not easily shocked, but I know right from wrong. I can say that there are tons of problems in the military in the interaction with men and women here. There are something like 6 men for every woman. This causes tons of problems as the man’s hunter instinct kicks in and that act like idiots around woman. every time you turn a corner, seems you may find some dude humping a female Soldiers leg…On a base such as mine, which is a ways away from the city proper, the only women around are the ones on base. Infidelity is epidemic. Sexual harassment–even worse. Divorce rates for female sin the Army are astronomical–even worse than men’s.

    Point being–should we introduce yet another dynamic to this already haphazard mix? The Brits have done it, and I admit that man for man, they’re as good as anyone in the world at what they do.

    I don’t really know the answer. I’d have to study the issue more.

  4. willfuqua said, on July 4, 2009 at 7:46 pm

    It’s a ruff situation. I wish homosexuals could be open about their sexuality if they chose to and still serve, but the as you pointed out, how would they arrange sleeping and shower areas in a manner to make others comfortable. Of course some people will never be comfortable around homosexuals, and I think that’s the problem of the person with the phobia.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on July 5, 2009 at 7:28 pm

      Well, in basic they are probably watched rather closely. After that, they would probably be treated the same way that anyone else would be. After all, just because someone is gay does not mean they will just be randomly humping people in the barracks-at least no more than anyone else.

      • magus71 said, on July 6, 2009 at 8:00 am

        Why do they need parades?

        And actually, Mike, to assume that the sexual activities of homosexuals are exactly the same as heterosexuals, just with the same sex, is wrong.

        “Prior to the AIDS epidemic, a 1978 study found that 75 percent of white, gay males claimed to have had more than 100 lifetime male sex partners: 15 percent claimed 100-249 sex partners; 17 percent claimed 250-499; 15 percent claimed 500- 999; and 28 percent claimed more than 1,000 lifetime male sex partners. Levels of promiscuity subsequently declined, but some observers are concerned that promiscuity is again approaching the levels of the 1970s.”

        http://www.catholiceducation.org/articles/homosexuality/ho0075.html (This article cites the study below:)

        http://www.usafa.edu/isme/JSCOPE93/Gomulka93.pdf (Page 5)

        And also, men are not in the same barracks rooms as women in the military. if they were, there would be severe problems.

        I maintain that homosexuality is a complicated psychological phenomena, not CAUSED by genetics, but allowed by genetics.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on July 6, 2009 at 4:47 pm

          How does heterosexual promiscuity compare? Without a comparison point, those numbers are not as meaningful. Were the claims verified in any objective way or are they just based on what people said? After all, it is not like people are very honest about sex.

          Now, if there are relevant behavioral differences between the typical heterosexual and typical homosexual that would have a negative impact on the military, then that would be reasonable grounds for banning homosexuals or restricting them to roles that would not cause such problems.

          However, the don’t ask, don’t tell policy is absurd. If gays really are a problem for military effectiveness, then they should not be allowed to serve in secret. If they are not a problem, then they should be allowed to serve openly. The only good reason to have such a policy would be if somehow gays would be unproblematic only on the condition that no one asked and no one told.

      • willfuqua said, on July 6, 2009 at 8:51 am


        Here’s a quote from the American Psychological Association.
        “There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles; most people experience little or no sense of choice about their sexual orientation.”

        Like these people, it’s best to just be open-minded about the causes of homosexuality for now and not talk in definites quite yet.

        About the poll, it is 30 years old and the social exceptance then was quite different which can effect the poll. Also, it’s by no means illegal to enjoy having sex with multiply partners, nor is it a legal reason to turn someone down for a job.

  5. magus71 said, on July 6, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    The military is not about having a job. it’s about National defense.

  6. magus71 said, on July 7, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    “How does heterosexual promiscuity compare? Without a comparison point, those numbers are not as meaningful. Were the claims verified in any objective way or are they just based on what people said? After all, it is not like people are very honest about sex.”

    So you’re saying that the homosexuals polled we exaggerating their numbers? There are several studies that show homosexuals are much more promiscuous. And if they’re lying and exaggerating to make their numbers larger then heterosexuals, then that shows they think differently about sex.

    From my observations, they are much more promiscuous. Never be afraid to admit what you see with your own eyes.

    You still can’t make your assessment by assuming that homosexuals act the same as heterosexuals, just with the same sex. It’s well documented that they don’t, and before political correctness, the mental health community documented this.

    Do what you want, but don’t make the argument that the psychology of homosexuals is only different in that they have sex with like sexes.

    • kernunos said, on July 7, 2009 at 2:42 pm

      I have never seen a heterosexual pride parade with naked people.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on July 7, 2009 at 5:11 pm

      I would not be surprised if they padded their numbers. However, if there is objective and properly gathered data that supports your claim, then I would accept it. I’m reasonably sure that many heterosexuals (mostly young men) embellish their body counts.

      I don’t have enough experience with gay men to judge whether or not they are more promiscuous. I’ve known plenty of wicked promiscuous straight people, though. Interestingly, the lesbian couples I’ve known have stuck together a long time. But, of course, my sample is biased (consisting mainly of professional woman who are 30+).

      Aside from the sexual orientation, most gay folks I have known don’t seem to have any differences that struck me as being significantly different from heterosexuals. But, of course, my sample is limited in size and probably suffers from bias (I mostly know academics, runners, gamers, and students).

  7. magus71 said, on July 7, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    Apparently no one read my first comment. Moonbats are so easy to rile. Just be a global warming denier, evolution denier, and state that homosexuality has as much to do with cognitive psychology and Moonbats are rousted from their slumber.

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