Take a Cue from Sissy, not Petraeus
These days, reading the Early Bird, DoD’s news clip site, is like reading a gossip rag at the grocery store checkout counter or watching Tampa(ssion), the soap opera. Today, The Wall Street Journal outlined Gen. David Petraeus’s last days at the helm of the Central Intelligence Agency, delving into how his relationship with his boss took a contentious turn after the Libya clash and his revealing extramarital affair. The Baltimore Sun localized Gen. John Allen’s flirtatious emails with the other woman in the Petraeus scandal by talking about his time at the Naval Academy there. And it goes on and on. I, personally, am not soaking it up like bread to gravy, although I don’t mind the shirtless photo of FBI agent Fredrick Humphries that has somehow entered the fray.
Thinking on the issue, it struck me funny today that these headlines are impossible for the LGBT community, given we technically can’t have extramarital affairs. When the Defense of Marriage Act falls, and we are afforded to act the fool in such a manner, what exactly will the headlines be?
Speaking in support of repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Army Brig. Gen. Michael Silva, president-elect of the Reserve Officers Association at the time, told a room full of reserve officers in 2011 that as a commander in Iraq, he had more problems with heterosexuals than he did with homosexuals. I laughed in resignation at the obvious irony. His statement has stuck with me since. Given today’s headlines, it makes me wonder when our community will show its backside in such a way.
As a public affairs officer, I’ve seen too many incidents to be so naïve as to think there won’t be some idiot gay do something stupid and make headlines to the likes of what Gen. Petraeus is enduring today. It’s not a giant leap. In the midst of the Petraeus scandal stealing headlines, the Air Force quietly released its report in the wake of the Lackland sex scandal. It’s not hard to believe an alternate reality where the Lackland scandal could have been charged by same-sex trainees against their military training instructors.
The military is a microcosm of society, so buffoonery is coming. It is inevitable. Somebody in the LGBT community will do something stupid, leaving a black mark for all of us. It will be public, and right-wingers will blow it far higher out of proportion than is remotely necessary.
Our first major chance to do something stupid was in Orlando at OutServe’s International Leadership Conference last month. I was bracing myself, honestly. What better place to screw up monumentally (and very publicly) than at a military facility—Shades of Green resort—at a conference that some were even able to get to on military orders. But we didn’t. The public orgies didn’t occur. There were no rampant displays of sexual hedonism between officers and enlisted. There was nothing but professionalism, save one ill-advised, albeit trendy, evening reception outfit.
A good thing, too, because I was still working on the right tailhook/catchphrasegate name to dub it. We need to be ready, so I’m taking suggestions on the name.
To mitigate the reach and effect when it does happen, though, the LGBT military community ought to hold itself to the strictest standards. Freddie’s Beach Bar, the only gay bar in Northern Virginia, won’t give out a free sip of liquor for winning drag bingo because giving out free liquor violates Virginia law—despite the fact the mainstream bar next door gives away whole bar tabs if you win their trivia night. Freddie’s holds itself to the letter of the law because, as a gay establishment, the owner feels it is still open to the bias and subjectivity of potential bigoted enforcement authorities seeking to make an example of them.
Likewise, we should also abide by the letter of the law. We must stay vigilant. We must police ourselves. We must remain the model of military decorum. I would even argue we must attempt to exceed standards. But I’m not going to preach. Instead, I’ll just reference the book of one of my favorite plays, Sordid Lives.
LA VONDA. They say she never suffered.
(Sissy crosses and joins La Vonda on the Couch.)
SISSY. Well, I just think that Sister just felt so cooped up all those years with your Daddy. You know how he was. She just, you know, had needs.
LA VONDA. Yes, needs, Latrelle. Some of us have needs. It runs in this family. Although, I’m quite convinced it musta skipped a gene or something when you was born.
LATRELLE. I have needs too, I’ll have you know. I just don’t make them public. My needs are kept in the privacy of my own bedroom!
SISSY. Well, I don’t recall any of mine being made in a public place, Latrelle.
LA VONDA. (Suggestively.) Unfortunately, I can’t say the same.
SISSY. (Laughing.) Oh, you are awful.
(SISSY’s cigarette cough returns as they share a laugh.)
LATRELLE. Our one and only Mama has died by tripping over two wooden legs and hitting her head on the sink of a seedy motel room where she was committing adultery! And you all are laughing! Well, I don’t think it’s funny!
So with that, I suggest you take a cue from Sissy and keep your needs private and by the book. And by the book, I mean UCMJ…lest you be the LGBT Patraeus, hung out with the wash to dry in the public’s limelight, ruining it for the rest of us.