Homosexuals In The Military


Homosexuals In The Military Essay, Research Paper

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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