So I suppose at a time when the world media’s spotlights are centred firmly on the topic of same-sex marriage, an enlightening tale (regrettably in a solely bigotry-confirming sense) from the cloisters of our sacred legion is in order.
Homosexuality in the army has always been (and continues to be) the most cherished of taboos. It’s not denial. Even the cream of the disadvantaged demographical crops pumping raw recruits into military systems worldwide can’t be ignorant enough to just plain DENY its existence. Soldiers just prefer not to talk about these things. Like getting blown up on duty, or catching venereal diseases from hookers (also, unsurprisingly, on duty), avoiding discussion lengthens the distance between the idea and the reality. Men, eh? Always afraid to communicate their feelings, afraid of appearing weak, afraid to open up. Well, evidently not all men, and certainly not here Chez les Abrutis.
Arriving at regiment slap-bang in the middle of Winter and (due to an administrative error) - having yet to be issued with our ID cards permitting us to step outside the walls - there wasn’t a whole lot going on. On top of our lashings of solitude, we added just a pinch of long-weekend (for those with ID cards, of course) and our recipe for boring, vacuous isolation was complete. Fortunately, a rather spicy hair in the soup presented itself in the form of Corporal Ramires. Ramires, a Colombian with a penchant for dancing to Katie Perry on tea-light-covered counter tops long into the night, was my first liaison upon reaching our combat company. During this eternal weekend in Ghost Town, Ramires opened up the company bar and dutifully slipped behind the counter to cater to our beer-guzzling needs; he passed us his portable DVD player along with an extensive library to keep us amused, and implored us to report to him if any of the older lads gave us a hard time. All in all, we were delightfully impressed by his friendliness and approachability. In fact, most of the company were of a similar mind.
A few weeks ago Ramires was caught having sex with a fellow corporal during a Sergeant Training Course. Scandalous? - Very. Formally prohibited? - not quite ("severely frowned upon" would be the military heirarchy‘s preferred classification). Just plain wrong - oh please! (although Iris Robinson, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the entire state of Utah may argue otherwise). Ramires’ former "camarades" back at base have all but turned on him, baying for blood (or regimental sanctions, at the very least). Crude, unimaginative yet highly offensive jokes have started circulating in higher numbers than our annual ammunition allowance regarding Ramires’ ill-advised but completely harmless and ultimately consensual faut-pas. Hompophobia has quickly overtaken Shakira as the favourite past-time back at base, and frankly it angers me more than I can fully describe.
There's nohing tougher than having to listen to hate-fuelled rants against gays from guys you'd previously considered close friends, combat buddies and general brothers. Nonetheless, let’s try (if at all possible with these Neanderthals so very recently cavorting as "friends") to rationalise the situation. Had Ramires been caught shagging a female colleague (only possible in the French regular army, as the Legion do not accept female recruits), the bloke’s back would’ve been raw from all the admiring and macho, awe-fuelled slaps and pats cascading from his peers. Instead, despite (I imagine) attempted discretion, he now finds himself completely ostracised from the general population at our barracks, and with any hopes of further career-progression severely impaired by inherent ignorance and bigotry. A physically fit, emotionally stable, socially impeccable Sergent in the French Foreign Legion, but above all that a filthy fag not fit to wear the fatigues of our "honourable and fidelity-filled" band of brothers. They say that the Legion is your homeland, and yet I’m forced to witness an upstanding, highly professional soldier be forced into exile because of others’ inane backwardness. One thing’s as sure and certain as anything; once my little rosy-cheeked contract reaches deep-voiced, stubbly maturity I’m quitting this dysfunctional horde of rabble once and for all.
This pathetic excuse for an army isn’t worthy of soldiers like Ramires. Bon courage a lui…