Pentagon asks troops how gross it would be to shower with a gay person

The military's survey of active members on the effects of repealing "don't ask, don't tell" reveals biases

Published July 9, 2010 5:46PM (EDT)

The Pentagon is surveying 400,000 active troops on how they would handle a potential repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." It is kind of a mess.

Some gay rights groups are concerned that the gay and lesbian service members could inadvertently out themselves by filling it out. The survey is sorta-mostly anonymous, but the Defense Department will not provide immunity to anyone outed. On the other hand, if LGBT service members don't fill it out, the results could be weighted in favor of semi-anonymous homophobia.

As for the content of the survey? Well, it's got questions like this:

"If Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is repealed and you are assigned to bathroom facilities with an open bay shower that someone you believe to be a gay or lesbian Service member also used, which are you most likely to do? Mark 1."
“Take no action;

“Use the shower at a different time than the Service member I thought to be gay or lesbian;

“Discuss how we expect each other to behave and conduct ourselves;

“Talk to a chaplain, mentor, or leader about how to handle the situation;

“Talk to a leader to see if I had other options;

“Something else;

“Don't know.”

That's the "worst" question, though most of them do operate from the assumption that living and working with icky gay people will be something disruptive instead of just a normal fact of life.

Of course, the entire act of politely asking soldiers how they'd feel about a potential policy change does just seem a little weird for the military. Did Truman ask how if desegregating the armed forces would make anyone uncomfortable before he did it?

The entire survey is here.

By Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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