Navies must get this issue right: the consequences of getting it wrong would be grave. Misplaced pride and outdated prejudice will not be needed, rather it will take plenty of quiet and purposeful persuasion—and time.
The senior German naval officer fixed me with what might have been a Prussian glare and assured me that in the German Navy, "we are very relaxed about homosexuals." "But," he continued, "we have very few of them." A little later I was assured by a similarly senior French officer that the French Navy took tile "Don't Ask; Don't Tell" line, and that this worked happily for all concerned. "But," he added, with what might have been just the hint of an elegant Gallic shrug, "known homosexuals would not, in practice, achieve command. They would not be selected." The distinguished Italian naval officer, whom I next met, suggested that while few Italian men were homosexual, there was no bar against them joining the navy. I waited for the "but"' . . . and sure enough: "But those who do join are unlikely to gain a security clearance." Is this the perceived pattern in European NATO navies: public acceptance with just a measure of latent prejudice?