Friday, July 9, 2010

Can You Shower With A Gay Person And Other Questions The Pentagon Is Asking Troops

ABC News (via Jake Tapper) reports that a Pentagon survey for 400,000 non-deployed, active troops regarding Don't Ask, Don't Tell has some very inflammatory questions. For example, the survey asks respondents to say what they would do if they were assigned to a shower with a suspected or known gay or lesbian individual. Another question asks respondents whether they could live on-base if another servicemember lived on-base with his or her same-sex partner. The survey also asks respondents to state how they would respond to the prospect of sharing a room or field tent with a gay or lesbian individual.

These questions are inflammatory and designed in a manner that invites homophobic responses. I am not surprised that the military has designed such a survey. In fact, the whole idea of subjecting an equality issue to a popular vote is extremely problematic. This survey does not represent "change" or "hope" on GLBT issues.


Josh said...

Would you be OK with a questionnaire that phrased questions more objectively? In other words, do you think current military personnel should have any say or input on these policies?

As for the subject matter of the questions, those are real scenarios that need to be considered.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

1. I have serious problems with the notion of "voting" on equal protection.

2. I think the questions are amazingly inflammatory.

3. These "scenarios" represent classic homophobia. People in the military already shower with gays and lesbians. The question simply invites homophobic reactions. In other words, I do not think they need to be considered.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Imagine a military survey asking the following: Do you really want to leave your crying child and spouse behind and go to serve in Iraq?

Or: If you could keep your salary and benefits without serving in Afghanistan, would you still serve?

And then -- base military policy on the answers!

Josh said...

What would you think of making men and women shower together or share a room together?

People in the military already shower with gays and lesbians, but they don't know it and therefore have no reason to feel uncomfortable.

I am of the opinion that the military is no place for open sexuality period, either hetero or homo. Having been through Marine Corps bootcamp where they run 50 guys through an 8 head open shower stall in under 1 minute, I can tell you these inflammatory questions are real world scenarios.

Have you watched anything on cold water survival training in the SEALS? It uses very up close and personal shared body heat.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Did you ever think of sex during these moments? The question assumes that gays and lesbians lack control over their sexuality.

The men and women shower issue is just a scare tactic. Given the track record of women being subjected to sexual assault from heterosexual men (inside and outside of the military), I assume there is a good basis for this separation. How man gay men rape straight guys? This is a bunch of hysteria.

Finally, Josh, the separation of "women" and "men" showers does not imply the inferiority of either group. Separating gay people -- or excluding them altogether because of heterosexual men's irrational fears -- would imply the inferiority of gay people.

Josh said...

No I didn't, but had I been surrounded by 50 young 20something females, I probably would have been.

Separation or exclusion of gay people from such activities does not imply inferiority. It recognizes that you should not force groups of people to shower together when there is a high likelihood of sexual attraction.

But back to your original point and mine, their opinions on this are worthy of consideration if we want a cohesive military with good morale and asking for their input should not be vilified.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Josh: You never answered the question about other policy decisions that do not get subjected to surveys. Does the government poll the troops before going to war? Did they poll the troops before integrating units racially (even thoughthe same "cohesion" and "morale" arguments were used)? Did they poll the troops before they curtailed the number of combat positions to include women in larger roles? The answer is NO.

Why is this policy choice different? Given the disparate treatment and the social prevalence of homophobia, this does imply inferiority (at the least).

Also, I am a more than a bit amused that otherwise "tough" navy seals would actually become discombobulated by the presence of a known gay or lesbian in the shower. The toughest unit in the military unable to work with a gay colleague -- sounds a bit far fetched and irrational.

Finally, I am not villifying anyone's opinions. In fact, I have invited even more opinions. But keep in mind that the military does not operate as a democracy. The gay survey represents a stark exception to that principle. Why?

Josh said...

Good points. The military is not a democracy and racial integration was argued against under morale and cohesion.

I can sum up my position as follows: while being gay may not be a choice, acting so that other people know you are is. There is long standing precedent for discriminating against actions and behavior, certainly in the military. If they can to you where to stand, how to stand, and even where your eyeballs should face, they can tell you to behave in such a way that does not reveal your homosexuality. Drilled to its core, this is not about rather or not someone is gay, it is about behavior that tells others you are gay and rather or not the military has the right and the power to regulate such behavior.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Being gay/lesbian -- like being heterosexual -- is not the same as eyeball position. The behavior that needs regulation is the behavior of people who would freak out in the shower over the presence of a colleague. Being homophobic is a choice too -- one that unlike sexual orientation, is easily changed.

Josh said...

To shift gears....

Suppose for a moment that the military did not have sovereign immunity. Suppose they were just as easy to sue as a private corporation. Would it be prudent or wise for such an employer to allow open homosexuality given what is sometimes involved in the job? In other words, if any kind of shower incident were to occur, could the injured party argue that such an incident was reasonably foreseeable and that the employer was negligent in failing to provide reasonable care to separate those who might be sexually attracted to each other when naked and close to each other?

What would be your advice as a general counsel to such an employer?

Melinda said...

@Josh: Police recruits, firefighters, intelligence agents in training, athletes and others already live with and shower with known and/or suspected gay people all the time. I find it strange that gay soldiers who now serve in silence are expected to and do run into enemy fire, but apparently they can't be expected to look the other way in the shower. The urge to gaze at soldier boy penis must be really powerful if it's more difficult to overcome than the urge to run from flying bullets.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Josh: I would advise my clients to comply with local law. I would also advise them that merely hiring an otherwise qualified gay or lesbian person does not constitute negligent hiring.

To prove negligent hiring, you have to show facts that make the decision to hire the person for the particular job a "negligent" choice. Usually, this means that the employer overlooked obvious signs or did not exercise proper care in choosing the employee.

Being gay or lesbian is not an obvious indicator that the employee will commit a sexual assault. Your question implies that gays and lesbians are prone to sexual misconduct. This is not true. So, I would never advise a client not to hire a gay person for fear of sexual assault.

This standard your question implies would exclude gays and lesbians from a host of employment settings -- without similar exclusionary policies for heterosexuals. This is pure discrimination.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Melinda: I agree. The "shower" argument is an insult to gay and lesbian and heterosexual troops. We can send our troops to their deaths, but cannot trust them to act with maturity. Cool.

Jim said...

I would like to see the results of the Military survey in extreme detail. I would also like to see all the arguments that will follow as a result of this survey. Is it possible that Darren Hutchinson can track this and post the results?

Interpretation of these results will be just as interesting as the survey questions. The resulting arguments might be MORE interesting in fact. After all, inflammatory survey questions probably will lead to inflammatory arguments and policy.

Gay Pornographer
San Francisco, CA

Hippi Chicki Niki said...

As the wife of a member of the military, thy know they shower with gay and lesbian members, they pretty much know who they are, you're just not allowed to ask those people and they are not allowed to confirm it. The military still goes on. Other industrialized countries have made the transition to having gay and lesbian members serve openly with no problems.

I agree with all 3 of your points, the equal protection issue in the policy should not be put to popular vote. This is extremely inflammatory and designed to find evidence and reasons for opposing the overturning DADT in th face of pretty overwhelming evidence that there is no logical reason for continuing a discriminatory policy.

Last year the Human Rights Campaign had some very good articles showing exactly why DADT is silly from a national security perspective (a point that was hit home by a really good interview done by Jon Stewart a few years ago that I'd have to search to find) and showing how easy it would be to transition. The articles just hit home the point that the only thing really standing between us today and us respecting the equal protection right of gay and lesbian members of the military is the homophobia of high ranking military officials and Congresspeople. There has been some suggestion that President Obama "integrate" the military the same way it was done in the last century for minorities that was well-covered on Maddow.

The HRC articles can be found here:

Jon Stewart humorously making the same points we are:

Hippi Chicki Niki said...

And Josh, you seem to have some very troubling views that assume a gay or lesbian person is somehow less moral, less able to control sexual urges, less respectful of others, and more prone to sexual assault. All of these things are false. They are just not true. They in no way reflect reality.

In reality, gay and lesbian people are not any different from you and I. They are just born with a sexual preference for people of the same sex.

The University of California Davis campus has a very good article addressing one of the longest persisting myths about homosexuals, that they are more likely to be child molesters. It does a really good job of looking at actual research and reality when it comes o this myths and showing that the research tends to support the opposite view, that, if a person who has committed child molestation or sexual assault of a minor has an adult sexual orientation they are more likely to be heterosexual.

It is important to base our laws, regulations and policies on realities, not just fears and stereotypes and things that make us uncomfortable. These are not enough justification for denying the rights of other citizens, especially not an entire subgroup of citizens.

Josh said...

I made no such assumptions about proclivity to assault or lower morals or self control. I am only stating that you should not put people who are openly sexually attracted to each other naked into an over-packed, open shower stall.

Would you feel comfortable showering naked with a group of strange men even if you knew they would behave themselves?

To clarify, the scenario I'm referring to is a real, recurring scenario in Marine Corps boot camp. It doesn't happen after boot camp, and I can't speak to whether or not it happens in the other services, but every Marine does this every day for their first 3 months of indoctrination.

This upsets you because it so acutely illustrates a potential problem of open homosexuality in the military that is likely to have huge significantly counterproductive impact in the court of public opinion to your cause. It is real, it is reasonable, and by attempting to force it on those who don't want it you are attempting to regulate reactions as opposed to actions.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Josh - you have to shower with strange men in the military- period. Gay men are used to showering with other men (straight, gay or unknown) without having sex with them. Gay men have to abide by the same nonfraternization rules as all other soldiers. So your fear of "open homosexuality" is peculiar. Unless you think that gay men will suddenly start sexing up the place if the ban is lifted, then your concern is unjustified. Remember -- they are already there!

Josh said...

"Remember -- they are already there!"

Correct, but right now their behavior, actions and expression are being restricted. You wish to lift that restriction and place it on the reactions of those who will be offended and concerned.

That is our fundamental disagreement: whose behavior and actions should be restricted. It is my position that if your job entails being crammed into a shower stall naked, you need to keep the fact that you're attracted to the gender of those you're getting crammed in with to yourself. It is your position that that behavior should be allowed and it is the reactionary behavior that should be disallowed.

Given that this has more to do with action/reaction than who someone is, I really don't think the 14th applies here. You may have a case under the 1st, but given the fact that you can't speak unless spoken to, have to refer to yourself in the 3rd person as "this recruit" and must end everything that comes out of your mouth with "sir," I suspect there's broader precedent indicating that the 1st doesn't apply to those in the military. We used to say "we serve to defend the rights that we don't have ourselves while serving."

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Josh, if the policy is lifted, it still wont permit gays and lesbians -- or anyone else -- to have sex in the military. So I don't know what "actions" you are talking about. If you mean being open and honest, gays and lesbians deserve the same ability to have family lives as heterosexuals. Hets come out all the time. They could never imagine not doing so.

And your effort to make this a nonissue for the 14th Amendment (really the 5th A in this setting) is wrong. See Romer v Evans.

Hippi Chicki Niki said...

Their actions would still be restricted, the difference is that they wouldn't have to deny their partners, who are as much their spouses as I am my husband's spouse. They wouldn't have to work to hide details about their life for fear that they will be discharged because of who they love. Since you put me in the shower, I'll use myself as an example too. My husband is White and I am Black. This is the equivalent of my husband having to hide that he is married to a Black person for fear that he will be discharged if anyone finds out.

I do not care about the court of public opinion. I care about the Constitution and the court of law. This is unconstitutional and discriminatory. Even if everyone else disagreed, I know it is wrong and I think it is long past time that it end.

Anyway, regardless of that, your example is a little off. This situation is closer to me showering with both females & males every day, me knowing that some of them are probably males, them knowing they're males, but none of us can acknowledge that they are males. The repeal of DADT is just changing things to where they don't get fired for saying, "um... I'm a guy" or for me outing them as guys. It doesn't change the shower scenario one bit.

Basically, DADT is just like the Emperor's new clothes. Repealing it just gets rid of the ridiculousness of everyone pretending the Emperor has on new clothes and firing anyone that says to the Emperor "Dude, you're naked."

Josh said...

Darren, to clarify my position, yes, that is precisely the behavior I'm referring to, or any other behavior or speech that would be telling.

HCN, you never answered rather or not you would feel uncomfortable showering with a group of strange men even if you knew you were safe. I'd love to hear the thoughts of more black people on your idea of conflating homosexuality with race. It strikes me as an apples to rocks comparison.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Josh - you are trying to distinguish being openly gay from being gay. That's a pretty artificial distinction -- one that accommodates people's discomfort with gay/lesbian status, not any real fear of sexual assault, etc.

Also, I still do not see the relevance of the women/men bathrooms. Public bathrooms have been segregated by gender for a long time -- although some are integrated. To the extent that this separation is due to fear of sexual assault, it is precisely women who should fear assault from heterosexual men. The reverse is statistically irrelevant.

I imagine that a the separation results primarily because of discomfort with different body parts and nothing else. Sisters who change in front of each other at home, but not in front of their brothers probably do not fear that their brothers will rape them.

This reason, however, just does not exist in the sexual orientation setting (gay men/lesbians and het men/women have the same parts). And gay men/lesbians are accustomed to using bathrooms with heterosexuals and paying attention to the task at hand. Rather than continuing to discriminate, perhaps heterosexual men should learn to do the same thing -- focus on showering and go on about their business! It's really not that serious.

Hippi Chicki Niki said...

Josh, I actually did, at first and then edited it out. I have two responses to that part.

1. Whether I'm comfortable or not has no legal weight, especially when it comes to someone else's equal protection rights. Out here in the Southwest we run in to people clearly uncomfortable with an interracial couple, especially one that is the opposite of everyone's stereotype of black man & white woman. Does that mean that the courts and the mil and the law get to ignore our constitutional right because of their discomfort?

2. You picked the wrong gal to talk comfort around men. I was raised by a single widowed father and his brothers in a family full of male cousins. Chicks make me uncomfortable because (other than their love of shoes, which I totally get) I find them confusing and their femininity something that makes me feel inadequate. Having to shower with guys... enh... especially when will all need to get our butts in gear and get a move on. Anyway, the first women in combat had to endure just that situation.

3. I believe a lot of the extreme reaction of some males to this issue and to homosexual men in general has to do with, for the first time in their lives, being in the position that women endure daily from puberty until death. For the first time they have to consider the possibility of being attractive to someone that is big enough to be able to physically overpower them and sexually assault them.

Instead of using this experience to empathize with women, especially those have been victims of rape and other sexual assault and channel it into something good, they channel it into homophobia and attempts to do all they can to disenfranchise homosexuals. The idiocy of that whole approach is that it does nothing to change the fact that there are some out there who may be sexually attracted to them who can physically overpower them and, even if you bought their logic, it just pisses the homosexual people off.

Let's be sure that we do not do things to harm others for reasons that have nothing to do with fairness, legality and constitutionality.

That last bit is making no judgments about you personally, Josh, as I unfairly did before. It is just something that I have noticed is the heart of more than a few guys' objections after you speak to them awhile and counter their illogical ones.

Hippi Chicki Niki said...

As for allegedly conflating race and sexual orientation, they are very similar when it comes to the issues of marriage, DOMA and DADT. They are things which the people cannot help, did not choose and cannot change about themselves and for which those in the minority group are discriminated against and disenfranchised. Perhaps admitting the similarity would lead to more people examining the wrongness of their attempts to deny homosexuals their legal rights.

In many ways, GLBT people are going through their own civil rights struggle. Though they are not as badly off as Blacks prior to and for awhile after civil rights, they are probably the second most disenfranchised group in US history (though, lately, people seem to be making an effort to be sure Latino/as that they automatically assume to be illegal tie with LGBTs [shaking my head as I am reminded of the idiots in Utah that released a list of the people most likely to be legal citizens - those who apply for state bennies]).

Hippi Chicki Niki said...

Thought those that read and commented on this post might be interested in this. It is unbelievable how much the actual discharge, when it came, sounds like the parody done by John Oliver a year ago.

Jon Olivers parody:

Hippi Chicki Niki said...

Came across this while trying to catch up on 6 months of not watching television:

Hippi Chicki Niki said...

So, I know it has been months since we had this discussion, but then I came across this:

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