PERSONAL: Partner of Billiam van Roestenberg (married in civil ceremony in New York, February 27, 2004). Education: Attended Fordham University
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Broadway Books, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.
CAREER: Salesperson and writer. Salesperson in the pharmaceutical industry. Military service: Served in U.S. Army, c. 1988–98; attained rank of major; served in Persian Gulf War.
Major Conflict: One Man's Life in the Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell Military, Broadway Books (New York, NY), 2005.
SIDELIGHTS: Jeffrey McGowan spent more than a decade in the U.S. Army, where he commanded troops in Operation Desert Storm in Iraq in 1990–91 and returned to the United States as an honored hero with the medals to prove it. But McGowan, who continued his military career, had a secret. He was a homosexual carrying on a romantic relationship with a fellow officer. In his memoir, Major Conflict: One Man's Life in the Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell Military, the author reveals his years living in paranoia as he hid his true sexual orientation from his homophobic fellow soldiers.
In his book McGowan traces the days from his entry in the military, when homosexuals were strictly banned, to his return from the war and his military career after the "Don't-Ask-Don't'-Tell" policy. The policy was implemented after President Bill Clinton took office in 1993 and began a move to have the U.S. military rescind its anti-gay policy. Although somewhat hopeful that this new approach might work, McGowan had his misgivings. In an interview with Robert Ordona for Gay.com, McGowan noted: "I was hopeful, but I was also skeptical—because I was in the Army and knew from being inside what the culture was—nobody was ready to accept the idea of gays serving." "The policy has turned out to be a disaster," McGowan added. "What on the surface was supposed to protect privacy turned into something where people were simply ignoring that and witch-hunting."
In addition to examining his own experience and the general gay experience in the military, McGowan also discusses his early soul searching concerning his sexual preferences. In the book he recalls his heterosexual liaisons in college and the growing knowledge that they did not meet his needs. He also writes about his struggles to come to terms with his macho image and life in the military. The author does not focus solely on sexual prejudice in the military, however, as he discusses other issues within the armed services, including how women are treated and the low pay that caused hardships for many military families.
In a review of Major Conflict in Kirkus Reviews, a contributor noted that the author "approaches all these issues with a simple strain of decency and common sense." The reviewer added, "When the author measures his own fraudulence against the venality of an ages-old military practice, it's an incandescent moment." Writing in the Rocky Mountain News, Geoffrey Bateman related: "While the first third of this narrative, with attention to McGowan's early years, tends to lag, his story soon shifts gears and movingly relates the passion he dedicates to his new life as a soldier." A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that McGowan's "style is familiar and easy, as if he's confiding his experiences to a trusted friend."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
McGowan, Jeffrey, Major Conflict: One Man's Life in the Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell Military, Broadway Books (New York, NY), 2005.
Advocate, May 24, 2005, excerpt from Major Conflict: One Man's Life in the Don't-Ask-Don't-Tell Military, p. 52.
Kirkus Reviews, January 1, 2005, review of Major Conflict, p. 37.
Publishers Weekly, February 7, 2005, review of Major Conflict, p. 54.
Rocky Mountain News, February 22, 2005, Geoffrey Bateman, review of Major Conflict.
CBS News Web site, http://www.cbsnews.com/ (February 27, 2005), "N.Y. Town Joins Gay Marriage Fray."
Chronogram, http://www.chronogram.com/ (July 15, 2005), Jane Smith, review of Major Conflict.
Gay.com, http://www.gay.com/ (July 15, 2005), Robert Ordona, "Surviving 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell': An Interview with Jeffrey McGowan."