Homosexuality in the Military
Homosexuality in the Military
Source Material Introduction
The primary source material in this research is a book titled Ask and Tell: Gay and Lesbian Veterans Speak Out. The book’s author is Estes Steve, an American born and raised in South Carolina. Besides sexuality, the author has interests in other topics such as race issues, education, and South American affairs. However, he is well known for addressing controversies surrounding sexuality and sexual orientation, especially gay and lesbian discrimination. The University of North Carolina Press published the book. In this book specifically, Estes explores the development and evolution of policies surrounding homosexuals who served in military over span of over fifty years. In this chapter specifically, The Ban, Estes explores a touching subject which is how policies put in effect prevented gays and lesbians from serving in the military1.
Steve’s primary audience is not only the law maker but also the enforcers of the policies the affected parties and the oblivious general public. For this broad spectrum of an audience Estes explores the proponents of homosexuality and how the ban of service by the gays and lesbians in the army not only affected the military’s overall expenditure but also how this ban impacted specific individuals. First, Estes outlines how gay and lesbian rights in the military were progressively acknowledged over time after a period of being unfairly banned. In some instances, he expresses opinions that the “Ask and Tell” ban was discriminatory for gays and lesbians in the military. For example, he presents the case between Leonard Matlovich v. Secretary of the Air Force where Matlovic is fighting for gay rights in the military and supports Matlovich’s position. Secondly, Steve seems to target the historians as his audience, considering that he gives a detailed account of the early circumstances and controversies of homosexuality.
Estes wrote this book in 2007 when homosexuality was still an unwelcome idea in society. Although people today are more open minded about the concept of homosexuality, the subject still attracts divergent views to date. Some of the issues that might have influenced the writer to release this book include the rampant incidences of injustice and discrimination against gays and lesbians and human rights activism. Most notably was, the ban issued for gays and lesbians prohibiting them from joining the military angered human rights activists, thus prompting the writer to explore the issues in his book and in this chapter. Also, Estes wrote the book when African Americans were facing racial discriminations and women rights were not respected.
Historical Significance of the Book
It is no doubt that Steve, in this book, provides a rich background history of homosexuality and the various conflicts the topic has generated in society over time. Besides, the author offers his personal opinions on the subjects of homosexuality, privacy rights and discrimination. Steve argues that during the fight for African American civil rights and the women’s movement, it accelerated the possibility of acknowledging gay and lesbian rights in the military2. An example is Leornard Matlovic, who began to speak out as an air force member against the discrimination of gays in the service. In 1966, anti-homosexual military discrimination calls had grown and led to gay and lesbian demonstrations3. At the same time the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” ban on homosexuality within the military was still in force.
Further, Steve discusses the role of religion and morality in enhancing homosexuality rights. While using the example of Paul Dodd, an evangelical pastor, he argues that religion offers a soft spot for the understanding of gay rights in the military. For instance, a gay pastor and psychiatrist could attract respect and honor from everyone. Also, he could have some officers looking up to him despite his sexual orientation. In this regard, Steve advocated for respect and freedom to anyone regardless of whether they are homosexual or not.
Another significant aspect of the homosexuality issue in military history is the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell debate, mainly bordering on the gender issues arising from the topic. Considering that initially, the military was considered a masculine profession and dominated by men, the homosexuality challenges targeted gays ignoring that women in the military faced the same gender discrimination and harassment4. Hence the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell debate concentrated on gay discrimination. For example, Steve argues that the gender issue was so real in the military that heterosexual women were banned from serving in the submarine in some instances.
Another issue that Estes critically explored was the idea that the controversial policy could not have possibly been set solely for privacy reasons5. However, the gay military was still allowed in the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy to serve in the service at the time. Still, sharing amenities such as showering spaces with straight individuals was discouraged. Masculinity views could result in gender discrimination since the ability to comprehend gender performance is affected by culture and gender6. Also, the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy advanced gender discrimination since women who would develop masculine features while in the military could be regarded as lesbians and seen as a potential threat to other women. However, Estes attributes these ideas to the stereotype that the military profession is synonymous with masculinity.
Changing Historical Landscape
The dynamics surrounding the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy ban on homosexuality within the military have changed fast. While during the early years of the policy, there was intense discrimination and strict measures taken against gays and lesbians. Today so much has changed, and homosexual individuals face little discrimination. One of the reasons that have caused the change of historical landscape is the political inclinations. The historical regimes did not support homosexual rights hence came up with the ban. However, the political goodwill advocating for homosexual, women, and racial rights began during Bill Clinton’s presidency. Steve states that Clinton supported the repealing of a policy banning gays and lesbians in the military as he had promised during his campaigns7. However, he faced a lot of criticism from Congress, and in 1993, he lost his bid to lift the ban, and policy was upheld8. Despite the hurdles, he progressively advocated for homosexual rights. The successive governments have however managed to reappeal and abolish constrictive and limiting laws and policies on the grounds of gender just as of that of race, religion and even now, sexual orientation.
Succeeding governments continued to advance the policies that enhance the respect for everyone’s freedom to belong to any sexual orientation, including allowing gays and lesbians to serve in the military.
Apart from the political goodwill on enhancing respect for homosexual rights, legislation, demystification of non-factual opinions, and the need to strengthen the military contributed to lifting the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy ban. According to Carter Julian, the changing attitude, including homosexual individuals in the United States military service during the 21st century, is attributable to the legislation for anti-racial and anti-homosexual discrimination9. Secondly, the demystification of non-factual information about homosexuality led to the banning of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. For instance, the anti-homosexual groups used to argue that gays and lesbians in the military would threaten the privacy of other personnel, especially in the showers. However, research has shown that the discomfort of heterosexual individuals around homosexual gays and lesbians decreases when they interact more10. Further, homosexual gays and lesbians have been allowed to join the military to strengthen the service especially during Obama presidency since he was a great advocate for homosexual and racial rights.
Effects of Women and Civil Right Movement on Gay Rights Movement
The women and civil rights movement have a significant impact on the gay rights movement in many ways. First, looking back to the African American struggles of racial discrimination, the acknowledgment of gay rights could also imply that African civil rights and women’s rights could be acknowledged. Steve argues that gays and lesbians serving in the military viewed respecting their open service as a case of civil rights11. Therefore, considering that the gay community is the minority in American society, civil rights activists would thus support gay rights.
Evaluation of the Primary Source
I think the primary source written by Steve covers conclusive and reliable research regarding homosexual gays and lesbians by providing a well thought historical background. It offers a non-biased analysis on the significant components of the topic, such as sexual orientation and the extent to which gays and lesbians were discriminated against. However, I think there are some limitations on the utility of the source. Although the book openly advocates for diversity and freedom to belong to any sexual orientation, I think some religious groups and the anti-homosexual group could not utilize the views of the book.
Belkin, Aaron, and Melissa Sheridan Embser-Herbert, “A Modest Proposal: Privacy as A Flawed Rationale for The Exclusion of Gays and Lesbians from The U.S. Military”, International Security, 27 (2002), 178-197 https://doi.org/10.1162/016228802760987860
Carter, Julian. “The Straight State: Sexuality and Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America. By Margot Canaday. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009. xvi, 277 pp. $29.95, ISBN 978-0-69113598-4.).” (2010): 233-234
Estes, Steve. Ask and Tell: Gay and lesbian veterans speak out. Univ of North Carolina Press, 2007.
Herbert, Melissa S. Camouflage isn’t only for combat: gender, sexuality, and women in the military. NYU Press, 1998
Kier, Elizabeth. “Homosexuals in the US military: Open integration and combat effectiveness.” International Security 23, no. 2 (1998): 5-39
Learning, Gary. “Bring Me Men: Military Masculinity and the Benign Facade of American Empire, 1898–2001.” (2015): 154-156
Steve Estes. Ask and Tell: Gay and lesbian veterans speak out. Univ of North Carolina Press, 2007.↩︎
Allan Bérubé. Coming out under fire: The history of gay men and women in World War II. Univ of North Carolina Press, 2010. P. 274.↩︎
Melissa S. Herbert. Camouflage isn’t only for combat: gender, sexuality, and women in the military. NYU Press, 1998.↩︎
Steve Estes. Ask and Tell: Gay and lesbian veterans speak out. p.189.↩︎
Gary Lehring. “Bring Me Men: Military Masculinity and the Benign Facade of American Empire, 1898–2001.” (2015): p. 154↩︎
Steve Estes. Ask and Tell: Gay and lesbian veterans speak out. p.187.↩︎
Elizabeth Kier. “Homosexuals in the US military: Open integration and combat effectiveness.” International Security 23, no. 2 (1998): p.5↩︎
Carter, Julian. “The Straight State: Sexuality and Citizenship in Twentieth-Century America. By Margot Canaday. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009. xvi, 277 pp. $29.95, ISBN 978-0-69113598-4.).” (2010): pp.233-234.↩︎
Aaron Belkin and Melissa Sheridan. “A modest proposal: Privacy as a flawed rationale for the exclusion of gays and lesbians from the US military.” International Security 27, no. 2 (2002): p. 190↩︎