Shooting guns is like playing football to many gay boys. Growing up in Pennsylvania was the most challenging of environments for one to grow up gay. It seemed more important to kill one’s first buck at the age of sixteen than it was to learn the art of masturbation.
Unlike my brothers, who treated hunting as a form of art, I spent my time in the cold December air of the mountains of Huntingdon County scribbling poems in fallen brown pine needles surrounding the trees under which I “hunted”.
I seemed to be cursed at hunting. Perhaps the movement of my heel in the ground was what kept the helpless deer at bay. Only on several occasions did I have the chance to prove that I was a man by shooting a deer. The deer that crossed my path seemed protected by some force of nature, whereas my nervousness holding upright such a powerful force of human ingenuity was what spared the poor creatures lives. I did not miss because I fired with some queer-like hidden ambition. I was not good at hunting. It was as simple as that. I did not have the interest in the sport like my brothers.
It was only after joining that Army that I learned I was what the Department of the Amy referred to as a “hawk-eye”. I wore a prestigious silver medal on my dress-green uniform, a symbol of perfection when it came to shooting the M16 rifle during a qualification in basic training where forty pop-up targets appeared in the sands of South Carolina– some more than 200 yards away– and I managed to hit them all.
While stationed in West Germany and during training exercises in the woods of Bavaria in December, I sat inside my telecommunications rig and wondered if I would miss shooting at a Russian, like I had the deer in Pennsylvania, if ever the cold war suddenly turned hot.
I decided it would be best to play dead if ever I found myself on the battlefield. I don’t think it was in me to shoot another soul.
I was so hard on myself for missing my chance at killing a buck and proving to others I was not a sissy. The truth was, I was a real sissy, a gay one, and I tried my best at killing a buck, but I could not do it. Fate seemed to have something else in store for me, yet I felt cheated by nature for not being in the right place in the woods at the right time.
If fathers and boys in Pennsylvania lose their right to own guns, I fear the desire to send young men away to war may become an art of the past, even though one may now serve “openly”.