John Lyttle

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Let's get this clear. When the Village People sang "In The Navy", it was meant to be a gag, a giggle, a lark (not a Wren); both a tribute to faggots' infatuation with men in - and out - of uniform and a parody of our traditional fondness for, um, seafood.

I don't imagine the boys in the band ever thought their camp, but coy paean to getting your kit off would ever be taken seriously (though the US fleet nearly adopted the disco ditty as its recruiting anthem ... before someone explained the joke). But these days village idiots outnumber Village People, so for a while now we've been subjected to what I've taken to thinking of as the Drooping of the Other; the sad, unedifying spectacle of some lesbians and gay men fighting - these lesbians and gay men have obviously got a thing about fighting - to either remain in, or openly join, the armed forces.

I won't presume to pontificate on behalf of Tank Girls. I certainly don't understand the sort of homosexuals (March Hares? Army Screamers? Fatigue Queens?) who want to waste away their lives dressed in itchy olive drab - emphasis on the drab - when the good Lord has given us Lycra. So I'll just pay off this nice Guardsman - he's been helping me understand some very basic manoeuvres - and tell you that I always thought the prime advantage of being gay was that you couldn't join the Army, Navy or Air Force. They wouldn't take you in time of peace (unless you passed for straight) and you couldn't be called up when war broke out.

And why would you want to be? To uphold, justify and die on behalf of a society that treats you like a freak, or worse, as one of Satan's little helpers? To serve a country that routinely wraps itself in the threadbare flag of freedom and dribbles on about democracy and all men being the same while holding on to laws that allow it to lock you up for holding hands with your lover in public (Dial 999 now); that won't pass new legislation so that you, a sound citizen, can't be sacked from your job or thrown out of accommodation for being gay; that still refuses you that crazy little thing called equality?

Equality. The dismissed-from-barracks lesbian and gay men taking the MoD to the European Court say their case is about gay rights, and perhaps it is (civil rights more like). It's not as if a gay body couldn't be brought low by a bullet or blown up by a land mine as easily as a straight body: if you cut us, do we not bleed (and demand those cute decorated plasters)? Moreover, the charge that we can't mindlessly follow orders as well as the next brainwashee is plainly nonsense. Look at Stonewall and the editorial pages of the Pink Paper. As for us corrupting the squaddies and sending morale into free fall ... No wonder the plummy officer class are, pardon the pun, up in arms - everyone knows that's their job. As common sense - General, General, the supply lines to HQ have been cut! - will tell you, gay men will be as good, or as bad, as any other soldier, soldier. (They may, in certain circumstances, even have the edge; a gay one-night stand is perfect practice for withstanding the rigours of torture. No matter what you do to your victim - ask, plead, punish, beg - all you ever get is his name, rank and serial number.)

We can square-bash and, for that matter, river-dance, with the best, but, frankly, in both instances, who wants to? Certainly, no gay men I know. And, more to the point, they don't view the "right" to swell the armed forces as a matter of paramount urgency either: too busy getting a life to have spared a thought to the possibility of having to take one.

Which, of course, they should. Because if the case heading to the European Court succeeds, future gay generations will not be free to love their fellow man (which most aren't, anyhow) but automatically conscripted to kill him, and for an institution that despises them, no matter how many medals they receive. And don't say they can always plead pacifism. They'll be punished for that, as they aren't for being gay ....

Spare me, likewise, the once-we're-accepted-in-the-Army-it-will-change argument. No, it won't. It will change us. That's its job: it's called discipline. The damaging, limited masculine mode we once dug escape tunnels from - remember? - will remake us in its image, not vice versa. Does anyone of average intelligence really doubt this? Or is the stampede to assimilate no matter what so overwhelming that even the extravagant time and energy expended on what is obviously a booby trap is applauded? Meanwhile vastly more important gay rights issues (from health care to tax to finding napkins to match that tablecloth) are downgraded before our very sighs?

Of course, I am worrying needlessly. On Wednesday, the Defence Minister Nicholas Soames told the Commons that the ban on homosexuals in the armed forces would stay, ya boo sucks. All being fair in love and war, and the language of the battlefield being appropriate, I'll report I'm on Fatty's side. If some queens in the country can't get over the fact that their Action Man didn't have gripping hands, tough. Someone should tell them if they're that desperate to wear khaki, bell bottoms and pilot jackets, there are clubs that cheerfully cater for what is, after all, just another Boys' Own fetish.

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