Homosexuals in the Military


Homosexuals have been excluded from our society since our 
country's beginning, giving them no equal protection underneath the 
large branch of the law. The Emancipation Proclamation gave freedom to 
blacks from slavery in the 1800's and women were given the freedoms 
reserved for males in the early 1900's with the women's suffrage 
movement. But everyone still knows the underlying feeling of nation in 
dealing with minorities and women, one of contempt and utter disgust. 
Hate crimes are still perpetrated to this day in this country, and 
most are unpublicized and "swept underneath the rug." The general 
public is just now dealing with the struggle of Homosexuals to gain 
rights in America, although this persecution is subtle, quiet and 
rarely ever seen to the naked eye or the general public.

 The big question today in Homosexuals rights struggles are 
dealing with the right to be a part of our country's Military Forces.
At the forefront of the struggle to gain access to the military has 
been Female's who have tried to gain access to "All Men" facilities 
and have been pressured out by other cadets. This small group of women 
have fought hard, and pressured the Government to change regulations 
dealing with the inclusion of all people, whether female or male, and 
giving them all the same opportunities they deserve. The Homosexual 
struggle with our Nation's Armed Forces has been acquiring damage and 
swift blows for over 60 years now, and now they too are beginning to 
fight back.

 With the public knowledge of "initiation rights" into many 
elite groups of the military, the general public is beginning to 
realize how exclusive the military can be. One cadet said after "hell 
week" in the Marines, "It was almost like joining a fraternity, but
the punishments were 1000 times worse than ever imagined, and the 
Administration did not pretend to turn there back, they were 
instrumental in the brutality." The intense pressure of "hell week" in 
the Marines drove a few to wounding themselves, go AWOL, and a few 
even took there own life. People who are not "meant to be" in the 
Military are usually weeded out during these "initiations" and forced 
either to persevere or be discharged dishonorably. The military in the United States has become an elite society, a society where only few 

 In a survey taken in 1990, the United States population on a 
whole is believed to consist of 13-15% Homosexuals. This figure is 
believed to have a margin of error on the upward swing due to the fact 
that most homosexuals are still "afraid" of their sexuality and the 
social taboos it carries along with it. With so many Homosexuals in 
the United States, how can the military prove its exclusion policy 
against Homosexuals correct and moral? Through the "long standing 
tradition and policy," says one Admiral of the U.S. Navy. But is it 
fair or correct? That is the question posed on Capitol Hill even 
today, as politicians battle through a virtual minefield of tradition 
and equal rights.

 Historically, support for one's military was a way to show 
one's patriotism, if not a pre-requisite for being patriotic at all.
Society has given the military a great deal of latitude in running its 
own affairs, principally due to society's acknowledgment that the 
military needs such space in order to run effectively. The military, 
in turn, has adopted policies which, for the most part, have lead to 
very successful military ventures, which served to continually renew 
society's faith in the military. Recently, however, that support has 
been fading. The Vietnam War represented both a cause of diminishing 
support for the military by society as well a problem. The Vietnam War 
occurred during a period of large-scale civil disobedience, as well as 
a time where peace was more popular than war. Since the effectiveness 
of the military depends a great deal upon society's support, when
society's support dropped out of the war effort, the war effort in 
turn suffered. The ultimate defeat of the United States in the Vietnam 
War effort only lead to less faith in the military's ability. This set 
the stage for society becoming more involved in how the military was 

 The ban on homosexuals serving in the military, was originally 
instituted in 1942. Though some of the reasons that were used to
justify it at the time have been debunked since-that homosexual 
service members in sensitive positions could be blackmailed, for 
instance ("Gays and the Military" 54)-the policy was largely an 
extension of the military's long-standing policy against homosexual 
acts. At the time, the prevailing attitude was that homosexuality was 
a medical/psychiatric condition, and thus the military sought to align 
itself with this school of thought. Rather than just continuing to 
punish service members for individual acts of sodomy, the military 
took what was thought to be a kinder position-excluding those people 
who were inclined to commit such acts in the first place, thus 
avoiding stiffer penalties (including prison sentences) for actually 
committing them.

 As society and the military came to be more enlightened about 
the nature of homosexuality, a redefinition of the policy became
necessary. In 1982, the policy was redefined to state that "a 
homosexual (or a lesbian) in the armed forces seriously impairs the
ability of the military services to maintain discipline, good order 
and morale.'" (Quoted in "Out of the Locker" 26) Essentially, it was 
reasoned that homosexuality and military service were incompatible, 
and thus homosexuals should be excluded from the military. Only in 
1994 was this policy changed, and then only the exclusion of 
homosexuals-acts of homosexuality or overt acknowledgment of one's 
homosexuality are still forbidden in the military. But we must ask 
ourselves, why was this ban upheld for so long?

 The primary reason that the military upheld its ban against 
gay service members was that it was necessary for the military to
provide "cohesiveness." Society bent to accommodate homosexuality. The 
military, however, cannot bend if it is to effectively carry out its 
duties. The realities of military life include working closely while 
on duty, but the true intimacies "are to be traced to less bellicose 
surroundings-to the barracks, the orderly room, the mess hall. If 
indeed the military can lay claim to any sense of `organic unity,' it 
will be found in the intimacy of platoon and company life." (Bacevich 
31) The military demands an extreme amount of cohesiveness, and this 
is very much reinforced in barracks life. You must sleep with, eat 
with, and share facilities with your fellow platoon members. Life in 
the barracks is extremely intimate. Men must share rooms together, and 
showers are public also. Having homosexuals be part of this structure 
violates this cohesiveness so the military says. Men and women are
kept in separate barracks much for the same reasons.

 However, the true purpose behind barring gay service members 
is how the individuals who are part of the military feel about them. 
Members of the military are more conservatively minded people, but, 
moreover, they are overwhelmingly opposed to having homosexuals among 
their ranks (Hackworth 24). To then force these individuals to serve 
with gays only undermines the morale of the military. And when morale 
is undermined, the effectiveness of the military plummets as well. The 
leadership of the military has always been persistent in its 
position-"Up and down the chain of command, you'll find the military 
leadership favors the ban." (Quoted in "Gays and the Military" 55). 
And, as one navy lieutenant put it: "The military is a life-and-death 
business, not an equal opportunity employer." (Quoted in Hackworth 24)

 No one is doubting that gays have served in the military. Ever 
since Baron Frederich von Steuben (a renowned Prussian military-mind 
and known homosexual) served as a Major General in the Continental 
Army (Shilts 7), there have been homosexuals serving in the military. 
Even today there exists a Gay American Legion post in San Francisco 
("Gays and the Military" 55). However, the general consensus is that 
allowing them in the service represents a rubber-stamping of their
existence rather than a concerted effort to discourage it. Though the 
homosexual lobby often cites the fact that gays have always served in 
the military as a justification for lifting the ban, this sort of 
reasoning is invalid. There are many other types of behavior that the 
military has been unable to completely eradicate, such as discharge 
and use of illegal substances. No one would ever deny that these 
things happen in the military. But the point is that if they were made 
legal, there would be more instances of them. To use the lack of 
perfect implementation as a pretext for legalization is equally absurd 
in the civilian world: Do we legalize criminal behavior on the grounds 
that "people have always done it"?

 Another parallel that is frequently drawn with gays in the 
military is that of the situation of women in the military. Though 
largely a male institution-"Symbolically, the military represents 
masculinity more than any institution other than professional sports"
(Quoted in "Gunning for Gays" 44)-women have been a part of the 
military since World Wide II and the women's support units have been 
abolished since 1978 (Moskos 22). But, like that of race to 
homosexuality, the comparison is invalid. Women are not permitted in 
combat units (Towell 3679)-an exclusion that for homosexuals would be 
hard to implement, at best. They also have separate barracks and 
facilities, which would be equally as unpractical to homosexuals.

 In 1994, Bill Clinton, by executive order, implemented a 
policy of "Don't ask, don't tell." Homosexuals can be in the military 
so long as they do not violate rules against homosexual acts and do 
not announce themselves as being gay. Already severely disliked among 
members of the military (Hackworth 24), President Clinton received 
criticism from both sides of the issue for the implementation of this 
policy. Members of the military were upset at the legalization of 
homosexuals serving in the military, and members of the gay lobby (and 
their supporters) were upset that a full lifting of the ban was not 
implemented. Many were also concerned that this violated gay service 
members' right to free speech, though members of the military do not 
hold this right.

 The movement to have the ban on homosexuals in the military 
lifted came, for the most part, from without (society) rather than
from within the military itself. The military, by and large, has 
always remained opposed to the lifting of this ban. But the transition 
of the control of the military from the military itself to the 
political world has been a sign of society's changing attitude toward 
the military. The lifting of the ban seemed not a matter of dealing 
with the reality of military life or an effort to create a more 
effective military, evidenced in such statements as "Resisting the ban 
is important, but so is opposing militarism" ("Cross Purposes" 157) 
and "the (end of) the Soviet Union would herald not just a new 
American foreign policy but, more radically, a new American political 
culture free from militarized pride and anxieties." (Enloe 24) It 
becomes increasingly questionable whether those who would have gays 
serve in the military having the welfare of their own ideals, rather 
than the welfare of the military, in mind when considering policy. 
Indeed, most of the military considers this to be the case. (Hackworth 

 If the admission of homosexuals into the military causes 
adverse effects on the morale of the soldiers, then the debate should 
be re-opened there. The military's function is to protect democracy. 
The sacrifices associated with military service may be very great-up 
to giving up one's life. Excluding homosexuals from military service 
seems petty, everyone should be allowed to defend their country. 
Moreover, the politicizing of such issues undermines the military's 
faith in the civilian leadership that guides it. The military is 
quickly loosing its prestige, its traditional conservative values, and 
that is a good thing for most Americans. Reinstating the ban would be 
a gesture of utter and sheer digustedness in our military. Having 
homosexuals in the military is a matter of military effectiveness-not 
of the homosexuals' ability to perform military duties, but of the 
morale of the military as a whole. And, in the military, it is always 
the good of the whole which must be considered before the good of the 
individual. The ending of the Cold War and the re-definition of the 
military's mission does not mean that we should make the military less
effective. If a policy in regards to the military does not improve its 
effectiveness, then it should not be implemented. But when the 
implementation means giving a chance to few who would like to serve 
out great nation, than it should be considered legal.


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