Cultural Confrontations and Identity
This is the first of three chapters about Zack, a gay police officer whom I met at meeting of the Gay Officers Action League, where I was introduced as a psychologist interested in speaking with gay men working in law enforcement. I met Zack about a year after the president's attempt to lift the ban on gays in the military. Among the unacknowledged aims of that ban were not only the social and psychological isolation of gay men from their heterosexual counterparts but also the denial of their fitness to participate in roles symbolic of male strength and competence. The deal that was finally struck-"don't ask, don't tell"-promised freedom from persecution in exchange for invisibility. Heterosexual men are visibly represented in the full range of vocations and professions-the arts, business, politics, athletics, the armed forces, and the police. Gay men are found in all of the same vocations and professions but ironically, the more a given role has been socially identified as masculine, the greater the pressure on gay men to remain invisible in it. This invisibility affects young men who think they might be gay by limiting the range of available role models for them, while it lends credence to stereotypes that undermine their self-esteem. I felt, therefore, that it would be useful, to meet some men in law enforcement-a field that is certainly socially tagged as masculine.