‘Out’ and Kosher

By David Small

In high school Latin class, Mrs. Gray caught me giving photocopies of my homework translations to my friend. She said it wasn’t “kosher.” We were allowed to help each other with homework, but apparently my interpretation of help crossed an invisible line of kosherness. While it was allowable for me to photocopy my homework for my friend, I shouldn’t have done it.

When I was in journalism school, I had to take a journalism ethics class that talked about propriety. We had lengthy discussions about whether to publish photos showing dead people at accident sites. Most of us decided that, for propriety’s sake, we wouldn’t. We could, but we wouldn’t. It wasn’t proper.

These lessons of kosherality and propriety came to mind this week when I was reading that, for probably the first time ever, Metro Weekly’s cover boy was an actively serving seaman.

Metro Weekly is one of the gay rags in DC and spans the gamut of gaydom from politics to nightlife. Every week, it features a cover boy with an interview revealing things like what’s in his nightstand, the type of underwear he sports, and other mundane questions and answers. Sometimes the answers can get a little on the sexy side.

But the image in my mind of a serving seaman is one standing at parade rest in a crisp white uniform, lined up on the deck of a ship as it departs port toward war. I think it crosses the line of propriety when in a public forum, we as military members, start talking about our lube preferences whilst being photographed in a racy shirtless pose in front of tin foil.

For the most part, the images of this young man were probably fine and his answers allowed me some appropriate level of information about him. But some of the coverage wasn’t kosher.

I’m no JAG, but I’m pretty sure if an officer did something of this sort, it could be considered unbecoming and we could face administrative discipline. But all of us, now that we can be out and proud, regardless of rules and regulations, ought to think about the public image of our military as a respected institution before we, for example’s sake, don our ass-less chaps and march down Folsom Street under the flag of our services. I’m not saying you can’t. But before you do, question if you should.

The most public images of gay and lesbian life don’t tend to be the “Modern Family’s” Cam and Mitchell suburban lifestyle. The public images tend to be bikini clad dancers on rainbow painted floats throwing condoms, leather daddies on Harleys thundering down the street, and shirtless women with stickers over their nipples to barely keep within a city’s nudity laws. Just Google gay! Those are the images that come up.

I don’t begrudge people for doing whatever they need to do to express themselves, especially after the repression many of us have gone through. But what I don’t want to see, and I hope others share this opinion, is combining those images with the honor, dignity and respect that come with wearing the uniform.

So if you need to bare your rippling abs in all your splendid gayness to the public, try not to combine the fact you are a defender of the free and the home of the brave. Be proud of your service to our country and honor it with some respect when you choose to be an ‘out’ service member in public.

About David Small

David Small, editor of OutServe Magazine’s blog, is a Major in the Air Force Reserve, stationed in New York, N.Y. Small’s perspective speaks to the everyday service member who may be working side by side with an LGBT coworker.

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  1. I. B. Salty
    March 6, 2012 at 2:46 PM

    The ceremony you describe (Sailors “standing at parade rest in a crisp white uniform, lined up on the deck of a ship”) is called “manning the rail” and is traditionally performed when pulling INTO port, not departing. You won’t see this as often while departing (although it can happen) because everyone has a job to do (called setting “sea & anchor detail”), and you’ll only see a handful of souls at most waving goodbye to a lover on the pier.

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