Coming Out in the Military

I keep thinking the other day about our discussion about terminology—what exactly it meant to be gay, masculine, effeminate, etc. Classmates have brought up the point, I think rightly so, that for men in perceptibly “less masculine” sport/profession (for instance, figure skating), being found to a homosexual is less shocking than if someone in a perceptibly “more masculine” sport/profession (for instance, the NFL) is found to be gay.

What I felt was missing in our discussion, however, is the current and ongoing issue of the LGBT community within the U.S. military.

Given the recent exposure in the last couple of weeks with President Obama proposing to lift the band and several head military officials, including Gates and Mullen, fits perfectly into our question about where the seeds of change concerning gay-effeminacy and gay-masculinity begin to change. The U.S. military, which is arguably one of the countries most masculine institutions, not only has the administrative support by top and respected military professionals, but also popular support among the American people to over turn the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy.

If the military is more open and LGBT friendly to America’s service men and women, do you think that would make a marked difference in public perception of the gay community? Or, does it only apply to those service men found to be gay within a wholly “masculine” role? Can one of America’s most respected, nationalistic institutions help people respect people for their person and not their sexuality? Or, will the terms that we have self imposed on people, institutions, and the like doomed to always be present, even in a diminished capacity?

Browsing through recent TIME magazine articles here and here, I hope, perhaps idealistically so, that it does. I hope that by such a male dominated, constructed, and admired “masculine” profession serving in the military comes along with, that by top officials saying that, “No, this is wrong and we should appeal it” makes it less shocking for a man to come out as gay not only to his fellow service men and women, but also everyone else in his life.

2 thoughts on “Coming Out in the Military

  1. I’m also optimistic that if DADT is repealed and LGBT service members are free to serve openly, that in time things can change. There’s a great scene from The West Wing involving an exchange between Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Fitzwallace and a lower-ranking officer:

    Fitzwallace: We’re discussing gays in the military, huh?
    Thompson: Yes, sir.
    Fitzwallace: Hm. What do you think? I said, what do you think?
    Thompson: Sir, we’re here to help the White House form a policy…
    Fitzwallace: I know, I’m asking you what you think.
    Tate: Sir, we’re not prejudiced toward homosexuals.
    Fitzwallace: You just don’t want to see them serving in the armed forces.
    Tate: No, sir, I don’t.
    Fitzwallace: Because they form a threat to unit discipline and cohesion.
    Thompson: Yes, sir.
    Fitzwallace: That’s what I think too. I also think the military wasn’t designed to be an instrument of social change.
    Thompson: Yes, sir.
    Fitzwallace: Problem with that is, that’s what they were saying about me fifty years ago. Blacks shouldn’t serve with whites. It would disrupt the unit. You know what? It did disrupt the unit. The unit got over it. The unit changed. I’m an admiral in the U.S. Navy and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Beat that with a stick.[1]

    Total acceptance isn’t going to happen overnight, sure. But I feel like if more equitable policies and willing leadership were in place, that the military could take steps toward creating an environment in which its LGBT members felt comfortable serving.

    [1] “Quotes from Let Bartlet Be Bartlet,” .

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