Homosexuals On The High Seas

burke1This is a picture of  one of the most powerful warships ever to cruise the high seas. It is a United States Navy Arleigh  Burke Class Destroyer.  The ship is powered by four GE LM 2500 gas turbines, each packing a whopping  33,600hp.  Its top speed is well above 30 knots, it incorporates cutting edge stealth technology, and comes complete with the most sophisticated Aegis tracking system ever built.  It also packs one hell of a punch.  Its standard weapons load includes Harpoon cruise missiles, Standard Navy air to air missiles, Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles, torpedoes, 2-20mm Close In Weapons Systems, and a 5 inch deck mounted artillery gun. It is an impressive achievement in naval warfare and has been one of the cornerstones in our nation’s naval strategy for the past 17 years. It strikes fear in the hearts of our adversaries, and promotes our national interests around the world.  The designers of this world class naval vessel left nothing to chance. They optimized every square inch of the ship’s interior and exterior for the accomplishment of its vital mission – taking the fight to the enemy.   They considered factors such as weather, weight, battle damage, system redundancy, reliability, and endurance.  When the first Arleigh Burke slid into the water in 1991 it was clear that they had thought of everything…well almost. There seems to have been one minor oversight- they forgot the gay berthing.

Today,  most US Navy ships have fully integrated male and female crews (submarines are still the exception).  This was no small undertaking however.  The integration of women on board Navy ships started in 1979 when about 62 female enlisted and 3 officers were assigned to the USS Vulcan a WWII vintage repair ship.  For more than 20 years the Navy studied every aspect of integrating both sexes.  Things like readiness, crew morale, good order and discipline, berthing facilities, head facilities, and general personal privacy had to be taken into account.  Put simply the entire  “male warrior” culture had to change.

There is very little privacy on board an naval vessel and, by necessity, almost all shipboard facilities are shared.  Sleeping compartments are stacked 3 high and usually accommodate between 20 and 60 crew members.  Showers and sinks are usually designed for multiple simultaneous users, and dressing facilities are open and in full view.  This works for a normally integrated male/female crew because the ship is  divided into different berthing areas designated solely for either men or women.  This obvious separation of the sexes has been tried and tested throughout human civilization. The philosophy is simple, keep the boys away from the girls and no one gets in trouble.  So, great effort was made over the years by the Navy to ensure that both sexes had adequate privacy and personal space. The Navy also established harsh discipline for those caught “cheating.”  Unfortunately despite the physical separation, stringent rules, and tough penalties the Navy soon discovered that, when you put a bunch of young men and women inside a small steel box and send them out on the high seas for months at a time, they are going to make babies.  In one famous case study, the USS ACADIA (AD-42) returned from a six month deployment with the nickname “Love Boat”.  Wikipedia summarizes the scandal accurately on their USS ACADIA page.  An excerpt reads:

“…In 1991, when the ship returned to San Diego from the deployment, thirty-six women were missing from the ship, the result of medical transfers for pregnancy. It was a particular embarrassment for the Navy, who had to look at the success on the battlefield of the other military branches during the Gulf War while hearing one of its vessels was derisively called ‘The Love Boat.’…”

So even with only two groups, male and female, to deal with the Navy has had no shortage of challenges, readiness impacts, and embarrassments.  Now let’s add openly gay and lesbian crew members to the mix.  By doing this you now have, in essence, four groups you have to keep separate on a relatively small ship.  This task, though trivial sounding to the uninformed, is nothing short of overwhelming. In an effort to keep this post relatively short, I am only going to discuss four of the many issues that the Navy, and other Services, will have to address:

PROBLEM 1: Where would they sleep? Let’s see, would you put the gay men  with straight men in tightly cramped 60 man bunk rooms?  This would be a disaster.  I can only imagine what would happen in a berthing space with 55 straight guys and five openly gay Sailors.  It would be a nightmare for both groups. Perhaps you would opt to put the gay guys in with the females.  I mean, technically speaking, that would be the right match, but I cannot help but think that the women would have something to say about it.  Imagine being a straight woman having to dress in plain view of the opposite sex, regardless of their sexual preferences.  Besides, knowing Sailors as I do, I could almost guarantee that creative straight guys would claim to be gay just to get into female berthing. So, the only remaining option would be to put the all the gay Sailors in their own berthing compartment. This would be dangerous as well however, because you now have a “gay section” of the ship. You are basically putting people that, by definition, are sexually attracted to each other in the same confined space  and letting them sleep together. It may make for a great party, but the good order and discipline would be severely damaged.  This is not meant to besmirch gay patriotic Americans in the least, it is rather a commentary on the reality of our hormonally driven human  condition (reference the USS ACADIA).


Tightly Packed Crew Berthing Space

PROBLEM 2: Where would they shower? Like berthing, showers are crowded places on a Navy ship with lots of Sailors rushing around and getting ready for their day.  They are cramped spaces and open nudity is pretty much a necessity.  So, do you put the gay male Sailors in the same bathrooms as the straight Sailors? Again, this would create unnecessary stress and sexual tension for both groups. You don’t put them in with the women either for the very same reason.  So, again, you are limited to a “gay shower” area where people who have a sexual proclivity for each other will be isolated.  This is simply not a good formula for anyone.

PROBLEM 3: How many gay Sailors would be allowed on a ship? So let’s say that we settled on a way to divide the gay crew members appropriately. Perhaps you elect to put gay men and lesbian women in their own spaces. Now you have a facility issue. There are only so many racks and heads on a ship and they are located where they are not to accommodate sexual preference, as much as to optimize space for weapons systems. So it becomes somewhat of an engineering trade-off.  You will either have to limit the number of gays you allow on a ship to the size of an existing “gay” berthing compartment, or you will have to redesign the interior of the ship with new facilities. This could not only compromise weapon systems layout, but could also compromise ship stability and seaworthiness as well.  This would cost taxpayers billions of dollars that could be better spent arming and protecting our Warfighters overseas.  So, it is conceivable that you may actually find yourself in the position of  putting limits on how many Sailors of each sexual orientation you billet to a ship. This will most certainly become unthinkably complex and will almost immediately impact the readiness of the Fleet.

PROBLEM4: Promotability vs. Shore Rotation. Some may say that, given shipboard limitations, it would be best to just keep gay and lesbian Sailors ashore. This is a problem from two perspectives. First, it will almost immediately make gay and lesbian Sailors un-promotable.  Most Navy ratings require sea service to refine the Sailor’s skills and make them competitive for advancement. Keeping gay and lesbian Sailors ashore would be patently unfair to them, and would most certainly cut their careers short.  Second, it would create a real problem for straight Sailors who, having been to sea for several years, could not find a suitable shore job to rotate to because they were all taken up by gays. This would ultimately force straight Sailors to stay at sea and gay Sailors to stay ashore. Retention would suffer in both demographics and Navy readiness would be impacted. This was, in fact, one of the reasons the Navy had to put women on board ships.

At the end of the analysis, introducing gays to an Arleigh Burke Class Destroyer or any other naval ship would be an insurmountable problem.  It would cost tax payers billions of dollars, reduce ship readiness, and create huge quality of life issues for both gay and straight Sailors forced to live daily in very close proximity with each other. It is also concerning from another perspective. The Navy like the other Armed Services IS NOT a job.  Having served on board Navy ships myself for over 21 years I understand this fact first hand.  Duty in an Armed Service is a way of life.  Unlike a 9 to 5 bank job where you can work with openly gay or straight people and then have the privilege of going home and living your personal life in private, you are with your Shipmates, 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  Service Members not only have to reflexively support each other in highly stressful situations, but must also be ready to make the “ultimate sacrifice” at any moment.  This is why it is absolutely essential that our Service Members eat, live, work, and even play as a single team.  A bank manager or plumber would never understand this.  This is why gay rights ideologues, though well meaning, are simply ignorant of what they are asking their Armed Forces to do.  An Arleigh Burke Destroyer does one thing well – make war. It is not a vehicle for social change or sexual awareness. Those systems simply were not installed at the shipyard.

The flaw lies in the fallacious thinking, by some, that our Armed Force have to accommodate all societal demographics. This notion is completely false.  We do not let blind people fly jets, we do not let uneducated people become officers, and we do not let people with low intelligence operate a submarine’s nuclear reactors.  The fact is we discriminate across the board when selecting qualified people for our military, because we must protect its ability to fight and win wars. That is truly the only objective that we should be worried about.  By turning our military into a equal opportunity venue for every demographic that thinks that it is their “right” to serve, we inadvertently weaken the very thing we are trying to build up. Admittedly it may be unfair,  but fairness has never won a war.

So, it is easy for our President to appease his gay/lesbian constituency and demand immediate change in this area. By doing so however, he is showing his own ignorance of the  Services he commands. My strong belief is that putting homosexuals on the high seas in our Navy ships, though arguably noble in intent, could well sink our Navy faster than a fleet of Chinese fast attack submarines.

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24 thoughts on “Homosexuals On The High Seas

  1. What a great post. Your extended military experience provides an excellent background to enable you to present a factual argument outlining the massive problems that arise whenever attempts by those who are ignorant of the military and its goals are made in the name of “equal opportunity”.

    My perspective comes from 20 years in the Army, a service that has also had its problems in dealing with sexual issues both hetrosexual and homosexual.

    The opportunities for favoritism, abuse and ineffectiveness resulting from sexual liaisons are boundless; thereby the stringent attempts by the command structure to put a damper on romance throughout the fighting arms and the military in general.

    Openly homosexual military personnel are a problem that would be destructive to any military organization that holds victory as a goal.

    Politicians, of course (unless they are seasoned military professionals) look for voting blocks, not successful military policies.

    • Maine,
      You are correct. This is why DADT is such a good compromise. It truly has kept most of the problems in check. Obama is about to ruin a good thing for political purposes.

  2. Actually, while I do commend your analysis, I am puzzled. Don’t ask. don’t tell, doesn’t keep gay men off ships, it just keeps them secret. So right this minute, gay men are showering and sharing sleeping quarters with straight ones.

    Haven’t you overblown the problem a wee bit?

    P.S. I also strongly suspect that at least 50% of gay men are known to be gay by their brothers and everybody just looks the other way. I can’t prove it but that’s my hunch.

    • Rutherford,

      You have an excellent question. I had debated on whether or not to address DADT in my article, but decided wait and hope it came up in comments. Thanks for giving me an opportunity to elaborate on it.

      First, you are exactly correct. There are, and always have been, gays in the military. DADT does not prohibit it. The gist of DADT is, “go ahead be gay and serve, just do not make it public.” By not making it public the Services do not have to officially recognize the gay population or make costly and ineffective accommodations for them. In return, gay Sailors agree to keep their personal lives private and not force the issue. It really has been a win-win.

      What Obama will do by repealing DADT is create an environment where the Services will not only have to accept openly gay people, but will subsequently have to accommodate them as well as the straight Service Members who will want separation from openly gay Sailors.

      Gays will be “out” in the crew, and by being “out” they will dramatically increase tensions between themselves and the straight Sailors. Their openness will ultimately result in all the necessities that I mention in my post. DADT was a fantastic compromise, and if it is repealed the ideologues will ultimately make life worse for gay sailors who are currently doing well.

      BLUF: We are taking a winning compromise and for political purposes making it a problem again.

      With regard to your other comment – yes- there are people in the Navy on ships that are gay and are suspected by other crew members as being gay. The truth is however under DADT, the numbers of indiscreet gays are low enough that crews usually figure out how to “work around” them. When to take a shower etc. DADT also prohibits them from acting out their gay lifestyle in the presence of other crew members. So overall, it is a manageable situation under the current policy. By removing DADT, the number of openly gay Service men and women will increase and their numbers will become much more overt. This will create a much greater problem than we currently have.

      And finally, yes there are problems when gays act out overtly. Let me illustrate my point with a personal story. One evening as I was making my OOD rounds at about 1am on my first ship, USS ACADIA, I found a young enlisted female sleeping on a wooden bench in the ship’s repair shop. I woke her up and explained to her that she could not sleep in the workspace and that she needed head down to her rack in female berthing.

      She immediately broke out in tears and begged me not to make her go to her rack. She explained to me that there was a group of dominant lesbians who were threatening the straight girls if they did not have sex with them.

      The lesbians has been able to keep things quiet through intimidation, but after repeated threats and harassment this young petty officer could no longer take it and had a breakdown.

      I called the Master at Arms so the girl could make a full statement, which she did. In the following weeks the CO launched an investigation and dozens of other female Sailors confirmed the allegations and named names. They all noted that they had been threatened and sometimes even beaten by the lesbian Sailors. Some had even noted that they were leaving the Navy because of it. Several months later, almost 21 lesbians were found guilty of the accusations and received administrative discharges from the Navy.

      This is just one account of incidents that happen across the Services. DADT keeps a lid on it and makes the problem manageable. The politicians are about to ruin it for everyone.

  3. I don’t really have any strong feelings about DADT or gays in the military, but one thing is clear for me — aren’t all the problems you raise ones of discipline, not sexual preference?

    The “Love Boat” situation wasn’t one where the Navy failed to do its job – sailors failed to do theirs. If straight sailors get ogled by their gay counterparts, enforce it through discipline, just as you would if a male soldier was stalking a female one. If lesbian officers start demanding sex from their subordinates, that’s a UCMJ problem, not a structural Navy problem.

    Just as the solution to Tailhook wasn’t to remove women from the Navy, so shouldn’t the wrongful acts of individual sailors prevent other sailors — who may be among the most valuable fighting men in the force — from serving.

    There may be perfectly good reasons for not ending DADT, but the possibility that soldiers and sailors might violate the discipline and honor they’ve all been trained to uphold isn’t one of them. Those folks shouldn’t have a home in any military, gay, straight, or otherwise.

    Interesting and well thought-out post as always, Chuck.

    • Bravo to Marque! I think you’ve hit it right on the head. I remain concerned that there is some perception that homosexuals are any more “predatory” than anyone else. I agree that it is a discipline issue. My guess is that homosexuals are interested in other homosexuals for intimacy, they are not interested in pursuing straight folks.

    • Marque, Rutherford,
      The topic of military discipline is quite interesting and I could devote a couple of posts to its virtues as well as its shortfalls. You are correct that military members are thoroughly trained to honor the UCMJ, its derived regulations, and lawful orders from their seniors. This post, however, is not about discipline or its breakdown. It is about the notion of “how” the services will be forced to accommodate “openly gay” personnel. We most certainly have regulations and disciplinary codes in the military that deal quite rigorously with male/female fraternization, and the majority of Sailors abide by them, but we still do not let them sleep and shower together. The reason we do not is that it would create tension between the sexes, create a lack of sexual privacy, and promote an environment were regulations would ultimately be broken by Sailors who normally would not have the temptation to do so. The Navy realizes that the libido in young men and women is ultimately stronger than any regulation – this is why they are separated. If this is the case for heterosexuals why would it not be the case for gays? I would like to read the study that proves gays are less sexually driven or capable of greater restraint than heterosexuals.

      The problem that I attempt to focus on in my post is the gap between the ideology and the pragmatics of repealing DADT.

      This is a fantastic discussion by the way! This is the reason I love blogging so much. Thanks for your views on this. I appreciate and respect them.

      • Chuck, I agree that the pragmatics of creating separate facilities for gay servicemen would be challenging, but I guess I don’t understand why this is necessary.

        Gay and straight men and women are exposed to each other in intimate surroundings on a constant basis in the real world — at health clubs, in restrooms, on sports teams, etc. To my knowledge, no one has ever asked for separate gay dressing rooms at a country club, or separate lesbian restrooms at a restaurant. If they did, they’d be laughed at.

        To suggest, then, that the military has a higher duty to segregate the living quarters of gay and straight servicemembers strikes me as odd. Yes, they’re in close quarters with little privacy, but if anything that would seem to dissuade one from acting, not encourage it, because the consequences of unwelcome (or even welcome) relations would be swift and harsh. Does it mean that gay folks have a greater opportunity to see the private parts of the gender they desire? Sure. Does that mean that those living arrangements are per se invalid? Absolutely not.

        The only difference I can see is that while I have a choice to take a shower at my local gym, sailors have no choice but to take a shower with their fellow sailors. First of all, my understanding of the military life is that it is one enormous limitation on one’s personal freedoms, so this isn’t some big departure from the norm. Second, since there are certainly gay members of the military now, soldiers are already doing this, and no riots have ensued.

        Finally, I really don’t think you can divorce discipline from pragmatics here. The military is expected to uphold higher standards of personal behavior than the civilian world. Those rules don’t exist for no reason – they exist to keep the servicemembers and the public safe. On a cultural level, Americans throughout the country are beginning to be asked to coexist on a civil basis with their gay and lesbian neighbors, even if they disagree with their behavior. For the most part, they are succeeding. Why shouldn’t we expect our military to do the same thing?

  4. Wow, another great comment from Marque. I never gave a second’s thought to the fact that gay and straight people currently share public restrooms and health club locker rooms. And if we take it to the next level, what about pro-sports where similar lack of privacy exists in locker rooms.

    I think that part of what is going on at least at some level, is that there is more at stake in military life than in civilian life. The notion of troop cohesion/trust is fundamental to a proper military defense and I think the base fear here is that openly identified gays will subvert this cohesion.

    Chuck, great post … and thanks for encouraging the open discussion.

  5. A couple of parting shots here. I will defer to you both for the last word…

    Unfortunately: I cannot accept the premise that since gay and straight men share locker rooms at health clubs without conflict then it must translate to a naval vessel at sea. It is simply not a fair comparison.

    First, as Marque correctly stated, gym goers have a choice. If they find other offensive or intimidating people at the gym they attend, then they can choose to not go, alter their workout times, or change gyms altogether.

    Second: Most folks (myself included) only spend a small amount of time in a gym on any given day. I would contend that most folks only spend a maximum 21/2 hours in a locker/dressing room a week – if that. They can then go home to the security and privacy of their personal lives.

    Third: People are not trying to kill you in a gym.
    It is not a dangerous industrial facility, nor does it take 35 degree rolls in heavy seas as a third of the crew pukes their guts out. They gym relieves stress vice creating it.

    Fourth: You typically do not have to have a highly trained team of 10 to 20 people working together to do sit ups, and if there is a sit up accident two or three of you are not killed. Working out in a gym is an individual activity, not one where you have to build strong bonds of trust with your gym-mates.

    To make the comparison valid you would have to take 60 guys (gay and straight) lock them in the locker room 24 hours a day for six months, allow them only about 4 hours of sleep a night, work them every day until they were dog tired, and then, at some point, come into the room and seriously injure or kill one or two of them at random.

    Do this, and I will accept the locker room analogy.

    Finally, my heartburn is not with gay military members or with gays in general. You are both correct when you point out that they already serve – and most do so honorably. I object to dismantling DADT.

    It is not perfect, but with it we have been able to establish a delicate balance between genders and sexual orientations. Crew keep things to themselves and everyone has a certain amount of plausible denial. In short, it has worked pretty well. The folks that want it changed are not the gays trying to serve their country honorably, but rather those that have a social agenda and want to use the military as their proving ground. These folks will ultimately ruin it for everyone gays and straights alike if we let them.

    Thanks to you both for a fantastic debate and discussion. You are both good friends of HM and welcome anytime! The last word is yours!


    • Yes, Chuck, I think I may have captured your main point by saying in my previous comment that more is at stake in a military environment than in a civilian one and that cohesion and trust are paramount.

      I will be adding Head Muscle to my blog roll so that my readers will have an alternative place to go to exercise theirs. 🙂

    • For me, there are two things going on. First, Chuck, you seem to think that for the good of the fighting force, we need to separate people who would want to have sex with one another if they had their way, because sex has no place in a fighting force. Second, you seem to think that we need to separate people who wouldn’t want to have sex from the ones who would, because the disinterested parties might feel uncomfortable around the interested parties.

      It’s impossible to satisfy both of these objectives, though. If you create gay and straight living spaces, but separate men from women, then you’ve created (according to your view of our fighting men and women’s libidos) two sex-crazed bunkhouses (the gays) and two celibate sleeping cars (the straights). If you don’t separate men and women, but you separate gay from straight, you create all kinds of discomfort among everyone (seeing their desired partners naked constantly but being ordered not to do anything about it); feeling ogled by people they might not want to be ogled by). If you don’t separate gay and straight, but you do separate men and women, you would say that the straight men and women will be uncomfortable.

      Your solution — to maintain DADT — is to accommodate straight anxieties (by hiding the fact that gays are afoot) by heightening gay anxieties (by making their sexuality a state secret, and its revelation a way to lose their job).

      The more I talk about this (because I rarely thought about it before), the more I think this sounds like a case of fear of change and overblown predictions of unrest than a true threat to the morale of our military. Many of the same concerns were raised by folks during the racial integration of military barracks, and they never materialized. One of the reasons they never did was because our soldiers knew they had fought alongside black and brown Americans in previous wars, and they saved their a$$es just like their white counterparts did. I can’t see why the same recognition wouldn’t hold true for our gay and lesbian soldiers, as well.

      As many have said, great debate. Rutherford, you are wise to add HeadMuscle to your list of worthy sites.

      • “If you create gay and straight living spaces, but separate men from women, then you’ve created (according to your view of our fighting men and women’s libidos) two sex-crazed bunkhouses (the gays) and two celibate sleeping cars (the straights).” LOL … sorry but that scenario, although right on the money, struck me as very funny.

        It’s kinda like saying to gays … ok guys, we know you all want to screw each other so here you go, your own segregated playground. Have at it!

        LOL In a manner of speaking, segregating gays is the same as integrating hetero’s.

        And of course, the backdrop to the entire discussion is that you don’t join the military to have sex with your fellow troops, regardless of gender-preference, and if you do, you won’t last long in the service. 🙂

  6. At least the gay sailors are not making babies and causing transfers during the cruise.

    I doubt the straight sailors, male or female, care if gay sailors are in their sleeping/showering/etc spaces. I’m a woman and I would not care if a lesbian was in my quarters. But I would care if a man, gay or straight, was there. I think two quarters (male and female) are still enough to keep everyone comfortable and prevent pregnancy – four are not needed.

      • No. Same standard for both sexes. Stay in a bunkroom with your same sex. Don’t pay any attention to sexual orientation. Everyone works with the opposite sex anyway. In the military you trust your life to, and risk your life with, the opposite sex. Surely sex is not more intimate than that.

        Isn’t everyone just a little bit gay anyway?

  7. Rutherford,

    Head Muscle is most honored that you would include us on your blog roll. I will also make sure to add your blog here. You are our first official “resident liberal” and I am looking forward to many more discussions like the one above. Your comments and insights are much appreciated and always welcome.

    I also plan to peruse your site and toss in as well.


    • I must warn you when you visit my site, the comments section is not for the faint hearted. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit you won’t find the polite discourse in there that you maintain here. You’re welcome to visit and contribute just the same. I suspect most of my commenters share your political outlook so maybe the going won’t be that rough. 🙂

      • Happy to jump into the viper pit. In fact, I just did.
        Also appreciate the warning. After 21 years in the Navy, 2 wars, 5 deployments, and 12 years as a defense contractor – I hope they’re ready for me… 🙂

      • I actually believe that if both ideologies would spend more time in reasoned debate and less time tinkling on each other’s shoes, we would find that common ground and compromise were not that difficult.

  8. PS and off topic – those shipboard bunkrooms are much closer quarters than a typical one or two man prison cell. Our incarcerated scumbags are treated way too good.

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