A person calling himself J.T. Chestnut claims that his dad forced him to join the Army to get his life together and “become more of a man” (ie. straight). Desperate for his dad’s love, Chestnut joined, got “framed for homosexual conduct” and endured homophobic abuse during the resulting investigation. Depressed and distressed, he went AWOL to California and spent four happy years running marathons and working for gay rights. This last week, the army caught up with him and if you support gays in the military, you should applaud that.
According to Chestnut, West Hollywood police stopped him for “no reason at all”, arrested him for his military warrant and told him to report to Fort Sill, Oklahoma where he will face military judicial proceedings. There’s a petition asking the army to release Mr. Chestnut (yeah, the army will surely be swayed by 500 e-signatures), but if you support equal treatment of gays and lesbians in the military, you shouldn’t sign it.
No matter the circumstances under which Chestnut joined (assuming he is real and this isn’t all a big hoax), he had to know what he was getting into when he enlisted. Anyone with a VCR and a copy of Full Metal Jacket or Private Benjamin knows that basic training sucks times one million. He probably did face bullying and abuse in the military, but so do tons of people singled out for being fat, Latino, stupid, skinny, short, Asian, red-headed or any number of mockable traits. Is it fair? No. But it is the military.
He also knew he was gay and could have gotten out with a honorable discharge under “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” but instead he took all the time and money invested into him by American taxpayers and bailed. While we might understand or even empathize with what he did, he did so as a legal adult with full knowledge that going AWOL is against the law. Thinking that he’d somehow slip under the military’s radar for the rest of his life is even more ridiculous.
While our heart goes out to any gay kid who goes against their better judgment to win their parent’s love, the gay community just got the right to serve and be treated equally in the military. If Mr. Chestnut wants to respect that, he’ll stop saying that he deserves special treatment because he is gay and take his punishment just like any other gay or straight adult should.