By Tony Adams
Justin Crockett Elzie's new book having already known his story. I worried that this would make it less interesting, less gut-wrenching and less angering. Those fears proved to be unfounded. Playing By The Rules is an exciting and captivating read. Remember the folks sitting on the bench at the bus stop listening to Forrest Gump tell his story? Well that was me, long into the night hours and unwilling to put it aside for sleep.
The sections of Playing By The Rules that describe Justin's years as a Marine provide, for those of us who have never served, a clear and grim picture of the double living of men and women whose honorable and exemplary service is even more admirable given that they achieve so much while burdened with the millstone of dread that their private lives may be exposed.
The sections of Playing By The Rules that describe Justin's childhood and upbringing constitute an extensive and classic manual for any parents who want to malnourish a gay son from the ground up. Lack of communication, stern and hostile treatment, no gift of self confidence, oppressive religious poisoning and loneliness. In short, all the potent ingredients that can turn a gay boy into a suicide statistic or into an overachiever with a mammoth secret seem to have coalesced in his boyhood home.
I was particularly interested in some of the ancillary characters in the book, the service members who chose not to come out and the roommate who resented Justin's coming out because of what it would do to his own reputation. I had the exact same experience with some of my gay priest friends who would not speak to me after I broke ranks.
Playing By The Rules is a fast-moving and intense account of the courage of one very good Marine. Justin is not a flamboyant preacher like Dan Choi, and he doesn't hammer away at the obvious themes of equality. He shows by example and deed that DADT is a pitiful loss for the military and consequently for all Americans. I'll be sending this to my brother, the Lieutenant Colonel.
Here's Justin in today's Village Voice.