Line in the Sand

YouTube Ke$ha parody amuses some, offends others, with the ''Don't Ask, Don't Tell'' policy and its possible end as the backdrop

by Chris Geidner
Published on May 14, 2010, 4:35pm | Comments

Six-pack abs. Simulated sex acts. Glow-sticks and choreography.

But then, camouflage everywhere. Weapons. Even armored vehicles.

Then, shower scenes. A creepy, dimly lit, urinal-peeping scene.

To many gay people, including veterans, who watched the ''If the Army goes Gay'' YouTube video – a take-off of pop singer Ke$ha's song ''Blah Blah Blah'' staged by U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq – it was funny and hot, as reflected by comments on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

To others, however, the video played off homophobic stereotypes of gay soldiers that have been used by those opposed to ending the ''Don't Ask, Don't Tell'' policy in the military. Critics suggest it could even be a violation of the Uniform Military Code of Justice (UMCJ), which governs soldiers such as those in the video.

To the Army, the video was ''clearly … in poor taste,'' and Army spokesman Col. Collins on Friday, May 14, told Metro Weekly that he had ''sent the video on to the people in Iraq'' to address any specific concerns regarding the soldiers who participated in making the video.

The action from the Army appears to have been prompted by a complaint from James Pietrangelo II, the former infantryman who fought the policy in court and has joined Lt. Dan Choi in twice being arrested for protest actions urging President Barack Obama to help repeal the policy.

On Thursday, May 13, Pietrangelo delivered a letter addressed to Army Secretary John McHugh to the office of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). He attempted to deliver the letter to McHugh in person as well, but instead only spoke to Collins, who told him, Pietrangelo said, to mail the letter to McHugh.

In the letter, Pietrangelo writes that the soldiers in the video are ''at a deployed base'' and ''in various uniforms or pieces of uniforms and sometimes holding weapons and using military equipment and vehicles.'' He states that the soldiers ''engage in disgraceful stereotypes of Gay service members'' and ''obviously have violated the UCMJ, including Article 134, which prohibits conduct discrediting to the military.''

Saying he didn't have ''the latest'' information about how the situation will be handled, Collins was able to address Pietrangelo's claim that the video was a violation of the UCMJ. ''The Army hasn't made a determination on that because it would be in the soldier's chain of command'' that such a determination would be made, he said.

Collins noted that the video had been removed from the original YouTube account where it was posted – although it remained available elsewhere – and that Army officials in Virginia had sent the video to Army officials in Iraq to take any appropriate action.

Writing to McHugh that the video is ''an indictment of the military and of the discriminatory policy known as 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' which you, Defense Secretary [Robert] Gates and President Obama gleefully enforce every day,'' Pietrangelo adds that ''the homophobic actions of these soldiers would NOT be possible but for the chain of command's allowance and encouragement of them under DADT's enforced stereotype that Gays are harmful to unit cohesion.''

Despite the Army's action, other LGBT people disagree with Pietrangelo's harsh assessment. Andy Towle posted the video on his Towleroad blog under the headline ''Straight Soldiers Show Their Support for Gays in the Military by Dancing to Ke$ha.'' Likewise, a spokesman for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation wrote in a May 14 e-mail to Metro Weekly, ''GLAAD is not currently planning any action on this.''

The soldier responsible for the video, who identified himself as Codey Wilson, wrote a long passage to accompany his YouTube submission. It reads, in part: ''The video is an EXAGGERATED act of a possible future military that is open to any sexual preference. … We're just a few good guys trying to enjoy ourselves and get this deployment over with. No one in the video is gay… that we know of, nor am I. Sorry guys. Not that there is anything wrong with that! (political correctness) I am NOT saying it IS ok to be gay in the military. I am not saying it's NOT OK.''

McCain's office did not return a request for comment on Friday.