วันพุธที่ 8 กันยายน พ.ศ. 2553
But for those on active duty who must remain in the closet until the repeal of "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell"--the military’s controversial ruling adopted by Bill Clinton that allows gay men to serve as long as they don’t tell anyone--something as simple as reaching out online (or elsewhere) for a friend, date or sexual connection can put their careers at risk. And, in some cases, their lives.
That’s what happened in 2000, when 21-year-old Army Private First Class Barry Winchell. He was beaten to death with a baseball bat when his dating of trans woman Calpernia Sarah Addams escalated beyond the tolerance level of his roommate.
Like everything else on the Internet, a cursory Google search for variations on the phrase "Gay Military Dating" yields a good number of websites. Sites such as Militarylovelinks.com (which caters to all sexual persuasions), GayMilitaryDating.com, and GayMilitaryCentral.com, cater to the thriving niche market of active and ex-military members and those who admire them.
These sites do more than titillate gay men, however. They also have the potential to put active servicemembers’ status at risk. At the same time, they rely on the military not being super-vigilant about monitoring such sites. And under the new administration, with its commitment to ending DADT, such vigilance as has existed will probably decrease.)
Buoyed by the overconfidence and ultimately compromised by lack of discretion, the online profiles created by many of the Armed Forces’ youngest members can be reason enough for the military to launch an investigation into their sexuality. Along with a photo of them in full military dress, the online profiles of gays in the military often contain enough information about their service branch and location to quickly locate them--and enough details about their sexuality to damn them under DADT.
"A lot of the younger ones active military seem to be a lot more daring in terms of putting personal stuff up," says Anthony, owner of the site Gaymilitarycentral.com (who asked we not use his last name). "You see a lot of the newbies in the Army mention what base they are on. They’re comfortable with the Internet and know the military isn’t going to pay for membership on my site to go and look through the photos."
As with many sites, accessing anything beyond a written description on GMC requires paid membership. But is the military looking at these sites to filter out more homosexuals from their ranks? Or are watchdogs not bothering, as Anthony maintains?
Military Monitoring a Mixed Bag
"We’ve seen no recent evidence that the military is actively engaged in the search for homosexual behavior, whether it’s going into gay bars or gaining access to various LGBT dating sites and chat rooms." says Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of Servicemembers Legal Defense Network. "However, we always advise serviced members that the safest course of action is not to make statements that go to their sexual orientation - online or elsewhere."
Although they may not be spending our tax dollars and their time actively searching gay dating sites, Sarvis notes that "servicemembers have to keep in mind that if they choose to identify their sexual orientation in an online profile or in a chatroom, they face risk under DADT." That being said, SLDN advises active military LGBTs to be extremely careful about revealing their sexuality to "anyone, any time--regardless of whether that person is in the military, a friend from the civilian world or a friend from the online world."
Sarvis says his organization has represented or advised dozens of clients who have been outed to the military because of their online profiles and activities. Their ultimate dismissal from the military happened, he notes, because they "outed themselves, either in chatrooms or in their online profiles."
Anthony notes that of the over one hundred niche sites he operates, GayMilitaryCentral is in the top ten. Responding to recent trends, Anthony has adapted his GMC to resemble a social networking site such as Facebook.
"I picked up on that because in the gay community, people like to network with those they either fantasize about or can relate to; leather, cowboy," he says. His site, which also allows you to add friends and send "winks" to prospective sexual partners, is populated by "about twenty percent who are active military, and about thirty percent retired military." The other fifty percent, he says, are this niche market’s bread and butter, what he calls the "chasers."
Some Looking for Revenge But not everyone who pursues online LGBT military members is there for a sexual connection. More often, Anthony notes, some are there for everything from character assassination to revenge.
"It’s happened in a malicious way" Anthony says, referring to incidents in which people have created online profiles for his site that featured "someone in the military who wasn’t gay. Somebody uploaded photos of them, and used their real name."
Once contacted by the victim, he took down the fake profile. Soon after, another person added them again. Anthony says he immediately takes a profile down if someone requests it.
But not all sites are so vigilant or quick to respond. Based on such cases, Anthony says that the potential for fraud and misrepresentation on such sites poses a great risk those currently serving--and is all the more reason that DADT should be repealed. "That would allow those using my site to express themselves and not have to go underground or put their photo in a section where only members can see it."
Whether it involves creating a false profile or just tipping off the military to the presence of an active service member, Sarvis says that the military must react to the submission of such information. They’re not compelled to investigate based on that sort of tip alone.
Still, he adds, "They make an assessment based on who made the allegations and the credibility of the source. If the source brings them credible evidence, they may well proceed to an investigation."
Once an investigation is conducted "that might have begun with a gay dating site, other evidence may surface during the course of the investigation," which points to homosexuality in violation of DADT.
To minimize one’s chances of being compromised under DADT, Sarvis recommends avoiding gay military dating sites altogether. But those who do should never use a military address for your profile, and do not mention the fact that they’re in the military."
Also to be avoided are photographs of the person in uniform or any decryption of tattoos or identifying features. "Do not tell friends in the military that you have an online profile," Sarvis warns. "And don’t use video chat features or submit your profile to be a featured member."
Caution, says Sarvis, is the key component of any online dating strategy, whether you’re in the Armed Forces or are a civilian living in a major metropolis. "At the end of the day," he cautions, "they have to keep in mind that these sires are very risky for gay servicemembers."
Scott Stiffler is a New York City based writer and comedian who has performed stand-up, improv, and sketch comedy. His show, "Sammy’s at The Palace. . .at Don’t Tell Mama"---a spoof of Liza Minnelli’s 2008 NYC performance at The Palace Theatre, recently had a NYC run. He must eat twice his weight in fish every day, or he becomes radioactive.