Sunday, 17 February 2008

69: Gays in the Military - Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie 2

Hysteria 3, London Palladium, 30 June 1991
written by Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie
Hugh Laurie: Army Officer

Ladies and gentlemen, as I'm sure you're aware, there's been over the last few weeks a great deal of nonsense spoken in the newspapers and written on the television about the issue of homosexuality in Her Majesty's Armed Forces, or HMAF, as we call them for short, or FSH as we call. . . Anyway, there are just a couple of points I'd like to make. The question, it seems to me, is does homosexuality, as a way of life, or even just as a hobby, diminish the fighting efficiency of a military organization, which is essentially what the British Army is in the business of being?
Now, I should make clear first of all that I myself have nothing against homosexuality in principle. My concern is whether or not it actually works in practice. I have always taken the view that if God had intended men to be homosexual, he would have issued them with more attractively shaped bottoms.
However, I should point out that I have known several homosexuals quite well - in fact, I used to go to bed with a young Turkish boy called Abul when I was stationed in Cyprus. Most obliging lad. . . But anyway he, it later turned out, was, in fact, homosexual. I had to stop seeing him once I'd found out, naturally. But I raise this in order to show that I have nothing personally against homosexual men. I wouldn't want my daughter to marry one, perhaps, but that is another matter.
However, I must confess to very severe misgivings when I hear the idea being mooted, and it is being mooted, possibly over-mooted, that our national defence be placed in the hands of gaysexuals of any description. The fact is that your modern homosexual is a highly trained, highly motivated individual, capable, if he or she so chooses, of resembling an ordinary person at a moment's notice. Precisely. Chilling thought. You take a handful of these dedicated chutney ferrets, place them in the midst of a modern British fighting unit and they are going to have a bloody field day.
Let us imagine, for the sake of argument, the pilot and navigator of a Tornado ground-attack aircraft flying a dangerous mission into enemy territory. Two young men, far from home, thrown into very cramped and uncomfortable surroundings. Suddenly, and without warning, they are fired upon by enemy aircraft. With only seconds in which to avoid the impact of an air-to-air missile, the pilot removes his hands from the controls, turns round in the cockpit and begins to make sexual advances towards his navigator. Strategically speaking, this would be the worst possible course of action. Instead of getting their heads down and flying the aeroplane. . . Well, instead of flying the aeroplane, they would be getting their heads down. An extremely valuable piece of military kit would be put at risk, and a thoroughly bad example shown to anyone who happened to be listening on the radio. That way, quite obviously, madness lies.
But let us imagine an even more alarming possibility, what I call the absolute nightmare scenario. A young infantryman, called Jimmy - for he may very easily be Scottish - comes face to face with his Arab foe under the fierce desert sun. But, instead of shooting his-enemy dead, Jimmy throws his rifle to one side and, in halting Arabic, suggests that the two of them repair to a nearby motel bedroom. Instead of engaging the enemy Jimmy has become engaged to the enemy. Once again, chaos. I can only say that if you study your military history closely enough, you will see that no war has ever been won by going to bed with your opponent. It simply does not make military sense.
Now, of course, there are those who say that in its attitude to homosexuality the British Army is being hidebound. Take the Foreign Office, they will say. It is well known that there are one or two heterosexuals in the Foreign Office. . . I'm sorry, one or two homo­sexuals . . . No, I'm sorry, one or two heterosexuals . . . in the Foreign Office, and that, after all, seems to function pretty well most of the time. To them I would say, when it comes to the defence of our country 'pretty well most of the time' is a long way short of being good enough. The idea that the flower of British youth, instead of getting out there and killing people in the most cost-efficient manner possible, should simply spend its time going to bed with itself just does not bear thinking about.

Almost all of these cartoons have been from America. This may be because in the last 50 years, America has had more of its national identity invested in a sense of self-worth deriving from its military presence in the world at large. Therefore homosexuality is a direct threat to that sense of masculinity. Britain has also had its problems with gays in the miltiary over the last 15 years or so. This dates from 1991 when the issue was first seriously raised.

A frank man-to-man chat from a contemporary updating of the Colonel Blimp stereotype. Definitely not in charge of his brief, he unwittingly reveals his self-satisfaction, hypocrisy, and that peculiar right-wing quasi-sexual fetisisation of the soldiery as a point of national pride. And underlying it throughout is the fear of the pervasiveness and irresistible appeal of gay sex and men themselves, which could lead to a fighting force vulnerable to a different type of assault and whose priorities are in thrall to unspeakable pleasures.

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