So, nobody ever talks about this, and it certainly is not documented anywhere. I think the Public Affairs Office would have a stroke. Thus, I’m compelled to share the unspoken counterculture of lesbianism at the U.S. Military Academy.
Chapter 1: The inculcation
The contract we sign the first day of basic training explicitly describes DADT. And although the policy doesn’t ban homosexuality per se, it does make clear that those that “demonstrate a propensity to engage in homosexual acts” will be discharged. In other words, gay ≠ okay.
The identity crisis that follows is severe. West Point is composed of thousands of type A personalities trying to mold themselves into the individuals the military wants them to become. However, it is impossible to align the military’s values with one’s own when living under DADT. The military’s reputation is tainted for those that know how much of a social policy failure DADT is. How is one supposed to wholeheartedly commit to an institution that so blatantly discriminates against them? This is definitely the most damaging aspect of the policy, both to the military and the individual. The ensuing internal struggle is highly personal and varies from individual to individual. Some reject their sexuality and resort to celibacy; some follow all military policies except DADT. Regardless, talk about cognitive dissonance.
Of course, upon entering West Point I was scared to death that I was the only lesbian in the entire Armed Forces, and therefore the only woman struggling with the policy. How very wrong I was, which leads me to my next chapter.
Chapter 2: How we make contact with each other
Within the first two weeks of cadet basic training, I met another lesbian. Something about her demeanor tipped me off. Then we played each other in intramural basketball, and there was no doubt in my mind after that. I confronted, and she confided. Though simple, it was a significant moment for both of us.
I think Disney’s Tarzan accurately depicts the phenomenon of connecting with another lesbian at West Point:
I wanna know, can you show me
I wanna know about these strangers like me
Tell me more, please show me
Something's familiar about these strangers like me
Rock on Phil Collins, rock on.
Chapter 3: The two types of lesbians at West Point
There are only two types of lesbians at West Point: those that network and those who don’t.
For the most part, most lesbians feel a bond with the other lesbian cadets at the academy, and we will acknowledge each other’s presence with a head nod between classes or something like that. But there are a select few who, as a result of their own discomfort with their sexuality, chose not to reach out to the other lesbians. Or maybe they think no one knows about their secret relationships. Regardless, their standoffishness is bothersome. As I see it, we’re all going through this unique struggle together. In the (slightly modified) words of former SecDef Madeleine Albright “There is a special place in hell for lesbians that don’t help other lesbians.”
Chapter 4: How we interact
Although we can speak freely behind closed doors, it is rare that we find ourselves in situations devoid of heterosexuals (i.e. in class or military training events). Our dire need to gossip has led to the development of our own lingo. We’ll give our girlfriends a masculine nickname (my Kristin became “Kris”). Or if questioning another cadet’s sexuality, we’ll ask, “Yo, is that girl family?”
Furthermore, my particular group of friends refers to themselves as “bros,” embodying their masculine gender identities and their affinities toward feminine women. For example, should we be sitting down enjoying a Bud Light at Chili’s on the weekend, a comment is always made regarding the physical appearance of the waitress. And the hostess. And the girls sitting in the booth next to us… We resemble our male cadet counterparts exceptionally well. We really could be an asset to unit cohesion, bonding with men over our mutual love for women.
This lesson was a broad overview of West Point lesbianism. Next lesson I will describe more specific experiences, providing you with an in-depth understanding of these mysterious social dynamics.