Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Don't Ask, Don't Tell on 60 Minutes

Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes did a new report this past Sunday (December 16th, 2007) on the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy concerning gays. The gay soldiers (including mechanics, technicians and linguists) interviewed ran the gamut from cute, somewhat "sweet" young guys to very butch marines, all of whom seemed highly competent at their jobs, the point of which was made by Stahl and others. [The segment was produced by Karen M. Sughrue.] Cholene Espinoza, a lesbian combat pilot who now flies for commercial airlines and works to repeal the DADT policy, was interviewed, along with the usual homophobic suspects, such as General
Daniel Davis, who argued that military units are generally conservative and that "morally repugnant" gays who were open about their sexuality would, in essence, negatively affect morale.

Another idiot, Presidential candidate Duncan Hunter of the Armed Forces committee, claimed that gays just weren't tough enough to be in combat, more dumb all-gay-men-are-big-sissies stereotyping. He felt that the American military needed "hardened soldiers" more than the countries that permitted gays to serve! [No doubt Hunter thought it hilarious that the combat pilot was a lesbian. I have known gay men who were combat pilots and I have no doubt there are many in Iraq and elsewhere today, although they may not have been interviewed by Stahl.] I know Stahl was going for balance, but I feel she gave far too much air time to Hunter. The trouble was that it was undoubtedly difficult for her to find gay servicemen and women willing to talk on camera, for obvious reasons.

One of the gay soldiers said that about 100 people knew he was gay (he was not stereotypically gay) and felt that no one had reported him because they were his peers, "the Will and Grace generation," and didn't see homosexuality as a sickness. Even Stahl mentioned that perhaps he and the other soldiers were being a little naive. One of them mentioned how his petty officer told him that he found homosexuals to be disgusting on every level but "we still love ya," he assured him. Another man had faced much more discrimination and was discharged when it was discovered he was gay. The gay soldiers felt that the pentagon was out of touch with most Americans when it came to the DADT policy and Stahl said that indeed a survey indicated that 75% of the country felt it was okay for gays to serve in the military (that seems a little high to me).

In England gays are allowed to serve openly, and even allowed to march for Gay Pride. Admiral Sir Alan West (who I thought was terrific) made the point that the Spartans were plenty macho and, according to him, most of them were gay. He ridiculed Hunter's comments, saying one doesn't have to be all stereotypically gung ho to get the job done. Oddly, none of the group of military men who recently came out against the DADT policy were interviewed (maybe because their superiors wouldn't allow it).

This whole business of all gay men being weak sisters persists generation after generation. On The Late, Late Show a young comedian named Gabriel Iglesias recently told one of the most vile homophobic jokes I've heard in a long time. Telling about how he was on a plane when it suddenly dropped a great distance, he said "Now I'm a pretty tough guy but I went gay for three seconds," then proceeded to screech and squeal and wiggle in an effeminate manner -- acting like a gay guy, ha ha -- that many drag queens would have thought over the top. The host and the audience roared with laughter as if they thought it was the funniest thing they'd ever heard.

Now anyone would probably be terrified if they thought their plane were about to crash (not exactly a great topic for humor to begin with) but surely Iglesias could have made that point without doing the usual "faggot" routine. He never used the "fag" word, but he might as well have. Gay men -- along with lesbians -- remain easy targets, the last acceptable group to bash and make fun of. (In contrast, bisexuals don't even have their own slur word, and while drag queens get bashed -- as gay men -- transsexuals seem to be under the radar for comics, although that may change in the future as their visibility increases.)

I'd like to think that there were some straight people in the audience of The Late, Late Show who were also appalled by the "joke."

I can only imagine how any gay people sitting in the audience must have felt.


Anonymous said...

I saw Iglesias on the Late, Late Show and was shocked by his "joke" and the reaction to it. I thought comments like that went out with the dark ages. It only goes to show what a long way we have to go. Anyone who thinks there is no prejudice or stereotyping is living in a fool's paradise.

Bill Samuels said...

Sadly, there are gays who never bother to pick up a gay paper or check out a gay blog and really have no idea of all the shit that goes on. They live in blissful ignorance. I, too, thought that Iglesias' routine was like something out of 1970 or earlier. Really bad.

Thanks for your comment!