Monday, October 26, 2009

"Gay" in the Military

So many gay jokes spin through air in the motor pools on ranges and in the chow halls that I missed a common, but less crude use of the word "gay" in the military. (As far as I can see, the usage varies little from the Army among airmen and sailors stationed here.) Most gay jokes are put downs in which someone accuses someone else of being the passive partner in a homosexual act. So after a thousand or so of these jokes, it occurred to me that a different and also common usage was to ask if something was gay or too gay. In that case, the question was simply: am I making a decision based on emotion when I should be basing my decision on facts?

A senior sergeant asked, "Is that gay?" when he was asking me whether he should be concerned with the feeling of his adversary in a dispute over who should get a job they both wanted. The answer was complicated, but the question was simple: should I let feelings guide my decision or should I take the action that benefits me at his expense?

Of course, the underlying question is, "Am I being feminine when I should be masculine?" usually expressed as "Am I being a bitch?" so the use of gay is consistent with its more coarse uses. And since I am interested in language, my small insight led me to pay more attention to usage around me and I heard the "Is that gay?" question several more times in the days that followed.

So now I could ask myself, "Is it gay to pay attention to that kind of thing?" Except, I am not supposed to ask--or tell. And re-reading this post, the joke I was trying to make did not work either. Oh well.

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