MILITARY OUTREACH COMMITTEE Policy and Legal Team 2 August 2010

Subj: DADT and Privacy: Gays in the Showers BACKGROUND The Military Outreach Committee (MOC) formed the Policy and Legal Team to assist the Department of Defense’s Comprehensive Review Working Group (CRWG) in addressing potential issues previously identified regarding the implementation of repeal of the law commonly known as “ Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). DISCUSSION The basic underlying assumption supporting DADT is that there is sufficient discomfort, antipathy or outright hatred of homosexuals by some heterosexual service members that unit morale, cohesion and combat readiness would be undermined by gays serving openly. Discussions with troops demonstrate that maintaining one's privacy is a most important element for heterosexuals when they think about homosexuals serving alongside them. Indeed, the privacy argument was one of the strong arguments used by Professor Charles Moskos, who is credited with the original concept of DADT in 1993. Here's what he said in a 2003 interview at Northwestern University: "To me, the issue comes down to privacy. Prudes have rights, too." Even more frankly, Prof. Moskos declared in a 2000 interview with a journalist from Lingua Franca magazine, "Fuck unit cohesion. I don't care about that ... I should not be forced to shower with a woman. I should not be forced to shower with a gay [man]." Thus the “shower argument,” as a proxy for all issues of troop privacy, is an essential element to any discussion on DADT. To gay, lesbian and bisexual (GLB) men and women who serve their country in the military, the idea that they will misbehave, ogle or harass their peers in a shower might seem far-fetched, strange and completely at odds with reality. But to heterosexual

  servicemen (and it seems mainly a problem for males; females seem far less bothered by the concept of possibly showering with a lesbian), the shower issue is a powerful, gut level and very real concern. This concern is expressed in various ways, from the polite (e.g., "I would be uncomfortable thinking there's a gay man in the same shower as me") to the overtly hostile (e.g., "I don't want some fag looking at me, or worse, when I'm in the shower"). The concern is also expressed more intellectually (e.g., “our culture separates men and women in situations where privacy is a concern, as in bathrooms, locker rooms, showers and sleeping quarters”). But it is also sometimes expressed in a more sexual way (e.g., "I'd love to be able to shower with women, but I can't; so why should a gay man get to shower with the object of his desire?"). A rational consideration of the issue begins with the societal / cultural environment in which U.S. troops exist. The cultural norm in this country has always been: men shower with men, and women shower with women. It is unusual, even for heterosexual couples, married or otherwise, to shower together as a part of normal, daily life (excepting when it's part of sexual play). Consequently it is quite rare for men to shower with women, but extremely common for men to shower with other men, and women to shower with other women. Thus gay men have been showering with straight men all along; and lesbians have been showering with straight women. To a gay man or woman, it is not a unique situation to shower with someone of the same gender. As a result, instances of ogling, misbehavior and harassment are relatively rare. For GLB


troops, the attitude is simply, "been there, done that, no big deal." But for a heterosexual man, showering with a woman would be considered a rare treat, indeed. Straight men can readily identify their own sexual interest in that situation and thus project that interest onto gay men. After all, the thinking goes, men are men. Thus the heterosexual serviceman assumes that the gay serviceman will have the same interest in him as he would in a woman in the shower. He doesn't consider the reality of the situation that gay men have been in showers with him all along, both in the military and before. If he understands DADT he would know that both the law and Department of Defense regulations allow the gay man to be in the shower with him -- and so he has been.

  Under DADT, gays have been in the showers with their heterosexual counterparts; they've shared the same barracks, berthing spaces, workspaces, foxholes, humvees, Stryker vehicles, tanks, tents, and every other situation where privacy is compromised and the enforced togetherness of the military prevails. And instances of same-sex harassment are extremely rare. Some might argue that the "don't tell" part of


DADT prevents any problems. Although there is a general knowledge that there might be a gay man in the shower with you, you don't know exactly who that it is, so it's okay. If one accepts that argument, however, it would seem necessary to reject the previous arguments that "discomfort" in the presence of gays justifies DADT. After all, if you know or suspect that there's a gay man in the shower with you, you would likely be uncomfortable, even if you didn't know precisely who it is. On a more practical level, open showers in the military are fairly uncommon, unlike the situation with open bay or so called "gang showers" that existed in 1993 when DADT became law. According to information obtained through FOIA from each of the branches of the military, all showers on board Naval and Coast Guard vessels are private. In the Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps and at shore installations of the Navy and Coast Guard, nearly all showers are now private. The exceptions are in recruit training barracks, a few older barracks predating the Vietnam War and base gymnasiums. These older barracks are in the process of being replaced with single enlisted housing containing private showers. These data are confirmed by a 2006 Zobgy International poll of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. The poll found that 71% of the troops always or usually showered privately, whereas only 8% always or usually showered in groups. Additionally, the timing of a shower is often discretionary. So if a heterosexual service member is concerned about taking a shower with a gay peer, he/she can take the shower when the known or suspected gay member is not there. Taking this latter tact even further, one might facetiously argue that someone who is "uncomfortable" in the presence of gays would want gays to be able to serve openly so that they'd know exactly whom to avoid in the shower.

  Philosophically, the privacy issue comes down to professionalism. The issue centers around the assumption that because some straight troops are uncomfortable with the potential for having to share a shower with a GLB peer, that tens of thousands of capable, qualified, GLB troops cannot serve their country openly and honestly. It assumes that all GLB troops want to sexually harass or engage in misconduct with their peers. And it assumes all straight troops think of GLB troops in that way. This assumption thus insults the professionalism of both the GLB troops and their heterosexual counterparts. Finally, all of the above discussion and arguments are rendered moot by the


reality of the current military environment in which many GLB troops are already serving with the knowledge of their peers and sometimes even of their commands. The same Zogby poll of combat veterans contained some strikingly shocking findings regarding the number of GLB troops who are known by their battle buddies, peers and shipmates. 23% of them knew for certain there was a GLB person in their own unit (for enlisted personnel, the percentage was 27%). Furthermore, of those who were certain, 62% said there were two or more GLB troops in their unit. In addition, another 45% of combat troops suspected there were gays or lesbians in their unit, and of these, 63% suspected there were three or more gays or lesbians in their unit. Bottom line: 68% of the veteran respondents in the Zogby poll either knew or suspected there were GLB peers in their own unit. Yet combat readiness and unit cohesion are not suffering as a consequence. Obviously, the "shower issue" is not of consequence to the majority of these troops. In fact, 73% of the troops replied that they are either very or somewhat comfortable in the presence of gays and lesbians. In conclusion, although the privacy issue is of theoretical concern to some heterosexual troops, the reality is that many of those same troops are already serving with known GLB troops, yet operational readiness is unaffected. There is a distinct difference between the theoretical concept of a GLB man or woman serving alongside a heterosexual peer and the hard reality of a known identifiable battle buddy in one’s unit who happens to be gay. The latter is evidently not proving to be a problem.

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