PSYCHOSEXUAL ADJUSTMENT PROBLEMS
At each intake of National Servicemen, a couple of people would report in drag. I find it amusing to imagine a corporal screaming at some recruits to fall in only to find some of them wearing dresses, high heels, stockings and handbags. Such people were invariably sent straight to the psychiatry department for evaluation. The waiting room was rather like a goldfish bowl, and there would be some discussion about some of the possible transvestites we could see waiting. Some of them were quite attractive!
Most of them would turn out to be ordinary homosexuals, who would then be expected to complete national service, but where transsexualism was diagnosed, a recruit would be given a temporary discharge, and would be called up again unless he had passed the 'point of no return' in the process of sex change operations. I met one or two such people in my years at 1 Mil, though many tried it on.
There was a gay guy who believed that he had been told that he could have a sex change operation at Onderstepoort. This we found amusing, and sniggered about it later after the patient had left, because there is nothing at Onderstepoort other than the Veterinary Department of the University of Pretoria.
Early in my time at 1 Mil a twenty eight-year-old national serviceman (it was a long story) was referred to me after he reported to the referring doctor that he had fantasies about tying up little boys and watching until they soiled themselves. The doctor referred him to me very fast. He was a clammy little man, small and inoffensive, and looked a lot older than I did when I was twenty-eight! He reported that he would never act on these fantasies, but he felt that while he was in the army, with free psychiatric/psychological treatment available, he might as well get this abnormality 'sorted out'.
He had led a very sheltered life, and was very ignorant about sex and sexuality. I give him some sex education, and told him how to masturbate to fantasies (should I give a reference here?). I dined out on this story, by announcing at the dinner table, "I taught a patient to wank today," which was a suitably shocking conversation stopper. People explode mouthfuls of soup!
He seemed to get a bit better, and finished his national service as a self-confessed 'satisfied customer'.
I saw an 18 year old chap with a hormonal delay which left him with a twelve year old body. His infantry unit were keen to have him back, and seemed to be accommodating him - surprising for an Infantry unit. He was keen to lead as normal a life as possible. Why was he on a psychiatric ward? I think a decision was made about whether to delay his national service until his hormones had caught up with his chronological age, but I think he was glad to return to his infantry unit. Sooner him than me!
I had one patient, Barend, who intrigued us with vague references to a sexual interest in horses, but he seemed to cope quite happily in the gay fraternity on the ward. He was one of those who was determined that he was not going to fit into the army, and eventually his doctor and I motivated for him to get a temporary discharge to sort himself out before returning to do his whole two years. There were features reminiscent of Peter Schaffer's 'Equus', which I discussed with his doctor, Leon Berzen, but not enough to make us suspect that he was copying the idea. It could easily happen though; 'read a book and act the pathology, and get the shrinks really intrigued'.
ASIDE:In 1980, at University, I picked up and stored a useless gem of information; that at Rundu (on the Border) there was a sign on a dustbin which declared 'Swearing is the crutch of conversational cripples'. There must be a similar statement about 'Smoking is a crutch for people who have difficulty expressing themselves!' Smoking seems to be a way of expressing yourself, especially if you have a histrionic personality - you can use your cigarette hand to make all sorts of gestures.
I remember Barend chain smoking, and performing many effeminate gestures with his cigarette-holding hands. I remember wondering wickedly what he would do with his hands if he didn't have cigarettes to gesture with.
Being homosexual, or declaring yourself to be homosexual did not exempt anyone from national service, nor did it make special arrangements to be made for people who made this announcement. 'Coming out' would open the doors to victimisation, and prejudice the person's chances of becoming an officer or doing security sensitive work. It might have been argued that not many gay people would want to be officers anyway. (More on this in the 'Lecture notes' later in this chapter.)
Many of the gay patients I saw were very pleasant, but generally seemed to be immature, histrionic, or to have poor or inflexible coping mechanisms. Most seemed to need support during basic training, but after that seemed to cope reasonably well. There were probably as many or more gay national servicemen who passed through the system without ever drawing attention to themselves. A colleague pointed out that most of the gay people we saw were 'histrionic homosexuals' rather than just homosexuals.
Paul, a sophisticated chap from Cape Town, described a domestic situation at home of him and his partner sitting in front of the fire doing their knitting. He moved during basics from being a sad non-coper demanding help, to being elected as the 'Bungalow Bull' in his bungalow. He was a good organiser, and quoted his corporal as having said that 'If you want to get anything organised, you have to get the gay guys to organise it.'
During his difficult time he once subjected me to silence for an hour when he thought that I wasn't doing enough practically to help him.
Paul took one less capable gay guy under his wing, but was distressed when another gay guy latched on, and started to abuse the vegetarian privileges that Paul has secured for his sidekick and himself; that the man would contaminate a vegetarian meal by cutting into it with a gravy smeared knife.
The offender (above) was Gawie, who lacked Paul's culture and morality. I met him again in 1987 when he was referred back to me after he had been mugged and raped, and feared he might have AIDS. His story was that he was walking home late when he was offered a lift by two men on a motorbike. He accepted, and sitting between them (three men on the bike) was driven to a park where he was raped and beaten up. We wondered whether he hadn't actually been prostituting himself, and his clients might have decided to beat him up instead of paying him. The AIDS test came back negative.
Paul's sidekick, Billy was twenty, and involved with a much older man at a small seaside town. He worried that his lover 'would not be able to cope without him'; this was while Billy was doing army basic training.
Another gay youngster had changed his name by deedpoll to 'Juan'. During a psychiatric panel he declared that he felt like a woman trapped in a man's body, and wanted to be treated as a woman! (Watch Marius throw up!) In the panel, he turned to a maternalistic Social Worker, Major Annette O., and asked her how she, as a woman, would like to do something so demeaning as 'leopard crawl'? She told him in no uncertain terms that she had done leopard crawl during her basic training.
Michael was a rather sad gay guy, who was not effeminate, nor histrionic, but had a drug problem. He attended the Gay Adjustment Groups, but that didn't address his real problem. He was useful to have as an example of 'You don't have to rub everyone's nose in your homosexuality.' He had insight into his drug problem, and was aware that he had nothing in his life to replace drugs with. Fair comment in his case!
A GAY PATIENT MAKES A PASS?
One of my gay patients made a pass at me. (I think!) Throughout one session he first told me that he doesn't get 'turned on by other gays' and he fantasises about sexual relationships with 'straight' guys. Then he says that when he stops at a traffic light he starts to evaluate the men around him out of ten.
"Then I try to work out what it is that I give marks for," he says. "I just love a good skin. Like a 'peaches and cream skin' just makes me wild. Like yours! I'm so jealous I could die!"
He told me later that something else that really turns him on is men who have a little 'looseness' around the tummy. Why couldn't he have been female and with a British passport?
"Johnny, 18, was referred following suicide attempt - pending charge of AWOL. Presented with vague uncertainty about gay-straight sexual identity. He has a hankering to go to gay bars still - he expects this next weekend to be 'make or break' as he is spending it with his new gay lover. Early sexual experiences with male family member. He started hustling as a young teenager, and was once whipped [by a client]. Relationships are always with older men but he denies seeking a father figure. He has been in DB twice since I last saw him."
Desmond was a 19 year old who was admitted to the ward with depression. He was very attractive, and must have 'broken many hearts', but he was quite aware of this, and used it.
I don't know how much of what he told me I should believe, as he had seen another army psychologist in Johannesburg for some time, but (he says) he stopped seeing him because they had grown too close, and that this psychologist had failed to 'challenge' him when Desmond felt that he needed to be challenged. He also said that he had gone to sessions stoned, and he was disappointed that the psychologist had not noticed. (Reading through my notes while writing this piece, it occurs to me that he did the same to me, and I didn't pick up on it at the time either!):
"22-09-86 Desmond arrived before the session but presented for it about twenty minutes late. Strange and inappropriate behaviour, alluding to problems which I "would not understand" - very borderline, testing of relationship. I was concerned about his vagueness which he construed as being evidence that I "was not with him", and did not understand him. I went to Dr. Coenraad G. for a second opinion - was the strange behaviour a product of our relationship or is he experiencing strange thoughts [Didn't I think of drugs?] While I was out, Desmond rearranged my office and walked to the canteen. Dr. Coenraad G. says that Desmond is just being stroppy! Desmond left without a follow up appointment - I may negotiate if he contacts me again. Otherwise I will leave it as I feel he does not have any serious problems to work on."
Desmond presented much material about his family, and his father in particularly, to interest a psychologist. Of his parents he said, "If they could have thrown me away and have forgotten about me completely they would have." He said that when he was about ten years old his father had told him; "If I ever find out that you are queer I will hunt you down to the ends of the earth and kill you with my bare hands."
Desmond's father must have suspected Desmond's sexual preference from the lifestyle that he lead, but his father chose to ignore it - or to try to compensate by taking him along to macho events like rugby matches. One of the projects Desmond outlined for himself while I was seeing him was that he would confront his father with the fact that he was Gay. He said that he did this, but his father refused to believe him.
Desmond had great interests in creative pursuits like clothing design, play-writing and play directing and this did not score points with his sport worshipping parents.
Concerned that others on the ward are taking advantage of him. Desmond walked into my office for one session, and announced that he had realised that he was an 'exhibitionist'. Did he expect me to say, "Show me!"?
What I believe was a genuine, but low-level depression improved, and Dr. Coenraad G. and I discussed discharging Desmond from the ward. He was amenable to the idea, and talked about having two week's 'recovery leave' which he would use to go and sit in the Drakensberg mountains and contemplate life. (I imagine that he thought this would appeal to a psychologist aiming at 'self-actualisation', and that we would do our best to arrange it for him.)
I told him this was impossible and he became aggressive saying everybody else on the ward got recovery leave. Why shouldn't he? He made some manipulative suicidal threats after which he stormed out of my office. I informed Dr. Coenraad G.
He calmed down, and I saw him as an outpatient for a while. He got into trouble when cannabis was found in his room, but he said that it belonged to his room mate. According to him, he was ostracised by the rest of the gay community at his unit, because they though that he should 'take the rap' for his gay room mate, who already had a drugs possession charge against him.
I didn't hear from Desmond again after the session I now think he might have been stoned for, until:
"30-10-86 Desmond phoned casually, asking questions "What can you tell me?" and then said that he needed to see me next week. I arranged an appointment. He asked me to phone his RSM to confirm it."
"I little while later he phoned back to say that he had 'just heard' that his unit are going to Luhatla next week for exercises. He said that he doesn't like this idea as he says that he has only six weeks of national service left. He said that he would have a nervous breakdown if he did not get to see me next week, but he declined an appointment tomorrow. I feel that he is just manipulating to get out of going to Luhatla, and I am not following this up."
HOMOSEXUALS IN THE PERMANENT FORCE
Although homosexuals were expected to complete national service along with everyone else, attempts were made to prevent homosexuals from joining the Permanent Force, or if a Permanent Force member was found to be homosexual, he would be sent for 'treatment' or forced to resign. Contemporary psychology and psychiatry do not see homosexuality as a problem, unless this is seen as a problem by that person, in which case treatment is usually aimed at helping that person to come to terms with his homosexuality rather than try to make him straight.
An Air Force caterer was referred to me after one of his national service subordinates reported him for making homosexual advances. The man was concerned about this, not denying that he had made the advances, but he thought that the national serviceman was reciprocating his interest.
The caterer was married ('happily', he said) but he had a long standing sexual relationship with a friend, also married with kids. The two of them would find some excuse when the two families were together to drive to the unoccupied house, jump into bed and fondle each other.
We talked about this, and about the limits that he should set on sexual advances, and his vulnerability in a work situation which his referral had demonstrated. I think I was able to report that 'he responded well with treatment and that I thought it was very unlikely that anything similar would happen again.'
I hope he is still happily employed and happily married.
I heard of another chap, either a young officer or NCO, who was identified after some incident as being gay. He was immediately fired from the permanent force and had his rank taken away, but, if I remember correctly, was expected to carry on with his responsible job - which by all accounts he had done well - as a rank and file national serviceman. The incident occurred on the Border, to where he returned.
GAY STAFF AT 1 MILITARY HOSPITAL
Some of my friends and colleagues at 1 Mil were gay, as I believe is common in any medical establishment. I was amused to hear some comparing notes about patients admitted to the ward; 'How do you like the boy in bed 6?'
1 Mil had a reputation for having a large number of gay staff. Apparently one senior officer decided that 'something must be done about this!', and contacted the OC of the hospital, advising him to transfer all the gay members of staff to the Border. The OC is reported to have replied; "If I did that, I wouldn't have any doctors left!" I love it!
I was told that after I left, there was a 'witch hunt' of gay staff at 1 Mil. Apparently one male nurse was identified as being gay - possibly following an AIDS test - and the military police went through all of the photos in his collection, and he was made to identify every person who appeared in any of his photos. These people were then investigated themselves. Didn't the MPs have anything better to do?
"I run a group for gay 'queens', teaching them more appropriate behaviour for certain conditions - ie. when they are about to be beaten up by a group of straights. I'm not sure if its working, and it seems almost as if its becoming something of a Lonely Hearts Club for gays during the waiting time before and after sessions. I'm not happy about this, but we can't stop them talking while waiting for their transport."
A friend of mine commented on the above paragraph in a letter to him:
Chris R.'s comments about my 'Gay Therapy Group' (29/03/86)"Just what do you teach as 'appropriate behaviour' for someone (gay) being beaten up? This conjures up an image of a group of gays practising high pitched screams and yells of 'Medics!', "Police!" and "More!"
While I was busy running one of my gay groups in the video room, (one of the few big enough to accommodate ten people) not knowing that a couple of staff had sneaked into the observation room and were observing the proceedings with amusement, especially at my embarrassment at the successful attempts to shock me from one of the more histrionic gay lads. I complained in general about this, and the HOD said that this was not supposed to happen.
"Decided to try [specific patient] in the group, although I think that his belief that 'he knows all about psychology' could be tiresome, and I might have to terminate his involvement with the group."
[Later:] "[Patient] phoned up all 'pally pally' after not having arrived for last Thursday's Gay Adjustment Group. I told him that the group was working okay (and we don't need his uninvolved help.) He asked me to refer him back to Dr. Andries V., which I have done in writing."
There was a tendency among my colleagues to refer any gay patients to my group, but I thought it more appropriate to refer some of them to Annette V.'s general adjustment group. Many patients weren't in favour of being in the groups, and wanted to see a professional individually as well. I had some sympathy for this!
ABUSE OF HOMOSEXUALS
A doctor friend told me of a gay guy who was a cook or at least working in a kitchen, who was seized one day by the people he worked with and under, and they forced a cucumber into his rectum. He needed extensive surgery after this, and will be incontinent for the rest of his life.
MY NOTES FOR GIVING LECTURES TO UNITS ON HOMOSEXUALITY
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I adapted a lecture prepared by someone else. It was written 'to' the audience, and doesn't 'reflect the views of the author'. I include it here for people who may be interested in the content of this lecture given to candidate officers and NCOs in training.
GENERAL PROBLEMS EXPERIENCED BY GAY PEOPLE IN THE SADF :
- Victimisation: Their actions, behaviour and dress may identify them as being Gay, which can lead to them being victimised by other people in their bungalows. (Some amateur psychologists believe that if they beat a 'moffie' up hard enough - or often enough - he will become straight.)['Moffie' is South African slang for 'homosexual', probably the equivalent of `Poof!'] They may be teased, threatened, assaulted, and discriminated against - excluded from the groups formed by the 'straights'. Fear of discovery leads to increased anxiety.
- The 'G5' Myth: There is a popular myth in circulation that Gay people will be given a G5 (Medical Discharge) from the army, and many Gay people report to the army with the idea that they will soon be sent home. When they find that this is not the case, they may have difficulty adjusting to the idea of staying in for two years.
- Concern of their 'lovers' cheating on them: This may be a disguised motive behind requests for transfers, sleep out pass. Many Gay soldiers may argue that they have had a relationship with the same person for several years; that they consider themselves to be 'married', and they would argue that they should be granted the same concessions sometimes granted to heterosexual National Servicemen who are married. Although a serious relationship might occur in a few cases, it is not the rule in the Gay subculture, and concessions given here will set a precedent, which WILL BE ABUSED! (In some gay circles, gay partners were referred to as 'My affair!') Gays also have the difficulty of not being able to share news from home / from their lovers with the straight guys in the bungalow.
- Problems with keeping up physically: Gay people do not have the monopoly on this and there are heterosexual soldiers who may have similar difficulties. Gay soldiers should not be given special treatment unless their medical classification limits their activities. Many Gay soldiers may say that they see themselves as a woman, and demand to be treated as such. Such a person, if genuine, would be considered to be transsexual, and a decision regarding his management in the SADF will be made by a Department of Psychiatry.
ATTITUDE: Gays give themselves a bad name, but not all gays want the label that the most obvious 'camp' ones earn them all.
Anxiety/Depression/Withdrawal: Gay National Servicemen do experience these problems, and many do seem to be particularly sensitive individuals, but they do not have the monopoly on these problems, and heterosexual National Servicemen may experience the same difficulties.
Such people should be treated as you would treat a sensitive heterosexual person who has the same difficulties.
Form cliques: Gay National Servicemen often form cliques, as a 'birds of a feather flock together' reaction to being in a predominantly heterosexual environment.
Such groups should not be allowed to form 'Power Lobbies', or to antagonise other elements of the platoon or bungalow.
Suicide Attempts: Homosexual National Servicemen do not have the monopoly on suicide attempts, and these may be made by Heterosexual people who are also experiencing adjustment difficulties.
Suicide Attempts are routinely referred to Social Workers, Psychologists or Psychiatrists, and they will decide and advice of any special treatment which must be given to someone who has attempted suicide.
Showering with other males: They may be embarrassed at showering with other males; usually fearing being mocked by straights - "Don't bend down to pick up the soap" - or that they might get an erection, which might lead to them being teased again. BUT there are many straight people who are 'modest' and who don't like the idea of showering with a whole lot of other males - again, this is not exclusively a Gay problem. Some people will go to great lengths to avoid showering with the other males, like waiting until everyone else is asleep.
SADF POLICY CONCERNING HOMOSEXUALITY IN THE SADF
[Reference: Aanhangsel A by Beleidsdirektief HSAW/1/13/82]
The practise of homosexuality is considered to be an undermining factor in the SADF.
The practise of homosexuality damages the image of the SADF, undermines discipline, and can lead to blackmail and security risks.
HOMOSEXUALITY is unacceptable in the SADF, but a 'witch hunt must avoided'.
INTERPRETED: The practice of homosexuality is forbidden, i.e. sexual relationships between members of the SADF, in the context of the SADF.
But to be a Homosexual (non-active) in the SADF is not a crime - no attempt should be made to attempt to determine who is gay and who is not in a bungalow or platoon, and Officers and NCOs should do their utmost to prevent efforts to identify possible Gays. (This is information is only needed by the Social Workers) Identification leads to discrimination and victimisation.
A policy statement might be a good idea early on: "I don't care what you are or do when you are on 'civvy street', but I expect you to do your best while you are under my command."
GENERAL PRINCIPALS OF MANAGEMENT
Treat a homosexual person as a normal person who just happens to have a different sexual preference to heterosexual person:
This is easier said than done! The majority of Gay people who create problems in the SADF threaten or challenge other people with the fact that they are Gay. ["I'm Gay - what are you going to do about it?!"]
DISCRETION: - parents and younger siblings may be unaware that the member has homosexual tendencies.
Gay people may have problems; many people who present as being Gay have many other identity or personality problems, and homosexuality may only be a symptom. Do not dismiss the person with the idea that Homosexuality is his only problem. Try to see each soldier as an individual - Gay or Straight - rather than dealing with stereotypes.
CONFIDENTIALITY: If a National Serviceman reports to you that he is Gay, this information is CONFIDENTIAL and should not be announced to the other members of the platoon or bungalow. Also do not make announcements like 'There are five moffies in this bungalow' which creates a witch hunt immediately.
TO SOCIAL WORKERS:
* Collect all relevant information; from the patient, referring party and the member's command element.
* See the patient's complaint in the light of the information above
* If the problem cannot be handled at Unit level, refer to the psychology or psychiatry: Where there is the possibility of psychopathology, refer to Psychiatry. Where the person is having excessive difficulty with adjustment, refer to psychology.
* If you do refer to the above, be aware of what the patient may be capable of during treatment
* Avoid unnecessary referrals
*Send all of the available information along with the patient, but not so that he will have the opportunity of reading it.
* All referrals to a Military Hospital must be done through the Medical Officer at the unit sickbay, who will make the necessary arrangements with the hospital.
* If a Psychologist is available at the unit sickbay, get that Psychologist involved with the case before referring to a Military Hospital.
Additional information regarding the gay national servicemen, from a different perspective, is provided in RESISTER magazine.