Gays In The Military Essay Writing

An essay assignment for a second-semester freshman composition course (ENG102) written on 25 July 1994 at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

The Military's Ban Against Homosexuals Should Remain

by James M. Wallace

During the first week of his administration, in his zeal to keep at least one of his plethora of campaign promises, Bill Clinton created a political firestorm when he signed an executive order lifting the ban against military service by open, practicing homosexuals. In doing so, he made a grave error which risked damaging the one function of the federal government that actually works.

For weeks, "experts" who knew nothing of the military experience spouted psychobabble about the military's "need" to overcome its "homophobia." The media did their part by parading homosexual commissioned officers (whose experience is hardly representative) who claimed that they performed their duties well and that what they did in private harmed no one. None of this was relevant, and all of it completely missed the point. The real issue was lost in this smoke and mirrors: Is the presence of known, open, practicing homosexuals disruptive to the good order and discipline of military units thus rendering homosexuality incompatible with military service?

During the controversy, I never heard any input from junior enlisted members (EMs) and junior noncommissioned officers (NCOs) who would be most affected by a change in policy. Junior EMs are usually billeted in roughly 300 square foot, four-man rooms; junior NCOs get similar sized two-man rooms. They all share common latrine and shower facilities. These people are the bulk of the services; they are the military. Having risen through the ranks from Private First Class to Sergeant, my experience as an enlisted soldier is particularly informative.

There was a time (even as late as one year into my enlistment) when I would have argued for lifting the ban. I have always been somewhat sympathetic towards homosexuals. Having come of age as an atheist in the Bible Belt, I know what it is to be a member of a reviled minority.

In 1978, when I was a high school junior, former Miss America and entertainer Anita Bryant gained national attention as a leader of a group opposing homosexual teachers in Dade County, Florida public schools. She went on to found and lead a "pro-God, pro-family" organization and traveled around the country helping local citizens successfully oppose "gay-rights" laws.

As an atheist, I definitely regarded her as a threat whether one was straight or not. For extra credit in a creative writing class, I wrote a two-page poem against her and her activities entitled "The History of Annie Bryant." In it I referred to her followers as "her fellow fools," claimed that she was appealing "to emotion and not to reason," and implied that she was a threat to "life and liberty." I ended the poem, "And now that old bat Annie/Is spreading her sickness into California/With a spearhead of ignorance and fear/And we've got to stop her before it's too late."

As a student here at UNCG, I definitely went to school with homosexuals. In Spring 1985, as a member of the Student Senate Judicial Committee, I helped push impeachment proceedings against a fellow senator who had disrupted our meeting after we had voted $50 for refreshments for a talk on lesbian nuns sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian Student Association.

In my last civilian job prior to joining the Army, my manager and three of my four coworkers were homosexuals. One of my coworkers had been voluntarily separated from the Navy due to homosexuality. I was "open-minded" enough to put up with his vain, and in vain, attempts to seduce me before I went back to school.

In basic training, during an equal opportunity class given by our company's senior drill sergeant, one of my fellow recruits asked, "Isn't the Army's policy against homosexuals discriminatory?" The big NCO allowed himself a moment of humor and enthusiastically and gleefully replied, "Oh, yeah!"

We all laughed, but I remember thinking how narrow-minded and ignorant he was. As an "enlightened" college boy, I arrogantly assumed my own moral superiority. But theory and practice are often very different, and I received my comeuppance in the fullness of time.

During the middle of the second year of my enlistment, I began to suspect that two of my roommates were having a homosexual affair. They were keeping it out of the barracks, so I wasn't sure.

Other soldiers had begun to take notice as well. I was often asked what was up with them. I would feign ignorance and answer, "I don't know; what do you mean?" I knew full well what they meant, and their suspicions lent credence to my own.

I returned to our room late one night and discovered the two of them asleep in the same bunk. They were under the covers, in each other's arms, face-to-face, with very contented expressions on their faces. I no longer had any doubts. They were starting to awaken so I decided that it would be best just to go to bed as if I had seen nothing. As I turned out my lamp and settled into bed, the one scurried back to his own bunk.

The next morning, wanting to determine what I had seen, they asked me when I had gotten in the night before. I didn't want them to know that I had discovered them. In the Army, your roommates are fellow squad members and naturally your friends as well. If they knew that I knew about them, I risked alienating them because they would view me as a threat who might not keep his silence. If I did indeed keep my silence after affirming that I had seen them, I would become complicitous in their violation of Army regulations and would be in violation myself because I would have failed to report a known violation. Neither alternative seemed particularly desirable. To buy more time and to protect myself, I claimed that I didn't really remember due to the effects of good German beer.

They became emboldened and continued their affair in our room which they turned into their own love nest. For three weeks, I endured being locked out of my room and interrupting whatever it was that they were doing so that I could get in. Obviously, I knew what they were about, and just as obviously, they knew that I knew.

I finally decided that I had no choice but to inform our superiors. I asked our platoon sergeant how to get a couple of homosexuals out of the Army. He knew to whom I was referring. The command was informed of the situation, but it was determined that nothing could be done legally as it was a case of my word against theirs.

I wanted to move into another room, but there was no extra space. Anyway, the problem would be partially solved when one of my roommates was transferred back to the States during our upcoming field exercise, but I was stuck with them both for ten days. When I was in the room, they would have the vilest conversations about me as though I wasn't even there. They did everything they could to make me feel uncomfortable in my own room. My sleep was light, fitful, and brief; I often woke up several times a night in order to check on my well-being. I spent as little time as possible in my room, and I was never so glad to go to the field.

Military units are worse than small towns. Everyone was aware of the situation. My roommates' affair had pushed our unit out of its normal rhythms. The feeling of trust had been violated. My roommates became the focus of unit discontent.

The presence of known homosexuals is disruptive to the good order and discipline of military units. When my roommates became a couple, they ceased to be members of our unit in a social and emotional sense. They became so obsessed with one another and their relationship that they couldn't or wouldn't fulfill their responsibilities to the rest of us. Their commitment to one another negated the required loyalty to the Army and to their fellow soldiers. They willfully violated the regulations and policies of an organization that they freely joined. Not only were they abusive to me, they were defensive and confrontational with other members of our unit. They acted as though we and the Army were the ones who were wrong. For our part, we others couldn't and wouldn't accept their relationship. This exacerbated the situation and turned it into them against us. This state of affairs was intolerable.

Barracks life is highly communal, and privacy is very limited, but these conditions foster the camaraderie and the unit cohesion that is vital to the proper functioning of a combat-ready force. In the military, respect and loyalty between members is powerful enough to transcend almost every animosity. One is constantly aware of the fact that the SOB down the hall could very well be the SOB who comes between you and death. One disrupts the process at the risk of needlessly lost lives when war becomes a painful necessity. Males have a natural discomfort for homosexuality and intuitively know that they are not to relate to one another in that manner. In the close quarters of the barracks, this discomfort becomes a vital animosity which cannot be transcended.

The advocates for lifting the ban assume that homosexuals would "check their sexuality at the door" of their barracks. The opponents of lifting the ban and the militant homosexuals seeking an end to it agree that this is ludicrous. The advocates' assumption requires that homosexuals remain celibate because any expression of sexuality will probably end up in the barracks. The extreme promiscuity of male homosexuals makes this an inevitability.

After one roommate shipped back to the States, the remaining roommate continued his homosexual lifestyle while not quite openly but very obviously. His "dates" would visit him in our room much to the consternation of myself, my other roommates, and others in our barracks. He ended up having an affair with a supply clerk in one of the (all-male) infantry companies. This clerk had his own room, and they spent their weekends together there. I would often run into "grunts" from this unit. After learning to what unit I belonged, they would ask me if I knew my roommate. I would affirm that I did, and they would inquire as to his sexuality to confirm their suspicions. I would affirm that they were indeed correct. To assuage their remaining doubt, they would ask me if I was certain. I would answer very authoritatively, "He's one of my roommates." They would shower me with condolences. I would thank them for their kindness, and wryly tell them, "It's not so bad; there used to be two of them." They would commiserate with me some more, acknowledge that they probably couldn't deal with the situation, and admire my sense of humor in the face of adversity.

The real objective of those seeking to lift the ban is not the end of some perceived injustice but the normalization of homosexuality. This is entirely unacceptable. While a society can tolerate some deviancy on its fringes, it cannot accept it within its mainstream. Homosexuality represents a threat in that it creates an inappropriate sexual outlet that corrupts the natural relations between men and women. If increasing numbers of men and women opt out of child-bearing and child-rearing and choose "alternative" lifestyles instead, our society increasingly will be unable to renew and maintain itself and will ultimately founder. Those who choose the "traditional" lifestyle will find their task made more difficult by a disintegrating social structure.

As an aside, opposing the normalization of homosexuality is not advocating violence against homosexuals. One of the functions of society is create a sense a personal security for its members. Individuals who engage in "fag-bashing" are criminals and should be treated as such.

The military is not a suitable subject for experiments in social engineering such as the normalization of homosexuality. Our armed forces exist for the sole purpose of defending our country and our way of life. Anything that interferes with this function is a threat to our society and must be opposed vigorously.

The outrage expressed by veterans such as myself is well justified. We sacrificed part of our lives and part of ourselves by serving in our country's armed forces. We gave up far too much to stand by idly while those who "loathe the military" attempt to destroy that which we made part of ourselves, that which we will always love.


Military has a long history with the allegations of homosexuality. They both have always made strange bedfellows. The leadership of armed forces all over the world, usually traditionalists, has in general seen homosexuals as morally wrong, and a threat to solidity. At the start of a war the enormous

We will write a custom essay sample on

Homosexuality in the Military during World War II

or any similar topic only for you

Order Now
task of mobilizing thousands of soldiers surpassed concerns about the sexual behavior of troops.

But in the case of prolonged war those military men who are found in disgraceful conducts such as homosexuality become a problems for the senior military leadership and they become increasingly determined to rid the services of these types of military men. Paul Jackson’s book – One of the Boys: Homosexuality in the Military during World War II – has discussed this problem in very excellent literary style. In 1990, Allan Berube in his study — Coming out under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War Two –discussed experiences of gays and lesbians in the military of the United States during the World War II.

(Berube 1990, 1-22) The reading of Berube’s book had a great excitement and compelled me to read Paul Jackson’s book on the World War II experiences of surprising Canadian servicemen (and women). Jackson’s book — One of the Boys — is a deeply researched study of homosexuality in the Canadian military during the years of the World War II. The book contains the result of hours of pouring over court-martial transcripts, police reports, psychiatric assessments, and dozens of interviews.

One of the Boys is one of the deeply research researched peaces of writings on the issue as the literature about any feature of gay and lesbian history from the pre-Stonewall period (or to use the Canadian equivalent, before Trudeau’s Omnibus bill) requires widespread investigative literary work. No doubt it was not an easy task to discuss the coded disguising of homosexuality and Jackson has done a wonderful job while deciphering the coded phrases that were used to disguise homosexuality.

In the hypermasculine, heteronormative world of the Armed Forces, Jackson has

We will write a custom essay sample on

Homosexuality in the Military during World War II

or any similar topic only for you

Order Now
exposed a rich tapestry of homosexual experiences, and thus has made a considerable contribution both to queer history and to the social history of the World War II. In One of the Boys, Jackson seems very careful in choosing words. He avoided using the term gay, which was rarely used in its modern sense during the World War II. He used those terms that were familiar at the time of World War II such as homosexual, queer, fairy or fruit.

It seems that Jackson intentionally addressed the subject of homosexuality that he broadly defined to be “the ability to derive sexual pleasure from members of one’s own sex” (Jackson 148). By this way in fact Jackson refused to narrowly limit homosexuality to those who self-identified as such, or to exclude those who engaged in homosexual sex for bodily pleasure, rather than emotional love. Jackson has not included in the book the controversial debates over whether homosexuality is innate or learned behavior.

For the reasons of this work, he casts a wide net to cover the very diverse personifications of homosexuality in the Canadian military during Second World War. To be sure, as Jackson points out, military psychiatrists often decided that a person was not a “homosexual,” despite overwhelming proof that the person had engaged in same-sex sexual activities, and often regardless of the claims of the man himself that he was homosexual (Jackson 145).

While the analysis in One of the Boys of the queer experience of World War II is inspiring, there are a few areas in which Jackson’s work might have been stronger. Unlike Allan Berube’s work, Jackson has a very small portion in his book about female homosexuality. However, he seems justified in this omission partly on methodological grounds, since the Canadian military did not target women for courts martial or psychiatric evaluation on this basis. Given that these are Jackson’s main primary sources, one can see how this could pose a major challenge.

In terms of oral history, he asserts that lesbians could not be found to be interviewed because the Canadian Legion Magazine would not allow the word “sexuality” in his advertisements, and that as a gay man he found it difficult to find lesbians to interview (Jackson 22). However, it can be said that this is a rather unsatisfying basis for not including lesbians in the book. Certainly, it might have been better to simply argue that the experience of homosexual women in the World War II is likely to have been qualitatively different from that of men, and consequently out of the range of the book.

Jackson included the occasional reference to the experiences of lesbians in the Wrens. It can be little disappointment for those hoping Jackson’s book will provide the comprehensive examination of lesbianism in World War II called for in Ruth Roach Pierson’s “They’re Still Women After All”. (Pierson 1986, 219) Although the works of Berube and Jackson are good analyses of the subject, but they differ on many occasion.

As the Canadian experience of the World War II was clearly different from that of the United States, and Jackson clearly indicates why and how his methodology is different from that of Berube, it is likely that many readers of Jackson’s book will be well known with that of Berube. In some respects, the differences and similarities between the two countries are well addressed. For instance, the Canadian regimental system, organized by region, is different against the US buddy system that in views of Berube provided cover for homosexual relationships, and certainly fostered them.

On the other hand, Jackson also is of the view that contrary to the American experience found by Berube and John d’Emilio, discharges for homosexuality did not lead to postwar gay activism among Canadian old boys. (d’Emilio 1983, 1-7) However, it would have been useful to test some of the other conclusions of the American experience. For example, to what amount did Canadian veterans who had homosexual experiences during the World War II stay in urban centers where queer networks survived after demobilization?

How did the fight between psychiatrists and military police for authority over the issue of homosexuality play out and what were the larger impacts of this for the psychiatric profession? Berube seems arguing in his book that US psychiatrists went far towards setting up their professional credentials during the World War II; it would be attractive to know if the same held true for their Canadian counterparts and the degree to which identifying homosexuality was important for this.

Jackson’s book reads almost as if it is two books merged together: one a policy analysis, the other a social history. The first three chapters of “One of the Boys” deal with how the different sections of the Canadian military tried to regulate homosexuality. Chapter I looks at the quite confused efforts of the military to describe its policy on homosexuality. Chapter II looks at the court martial proceedings of those accused with homosexuality-related legal offences, while Chapter III discusses how military psychiatrists attempted to declare their authority over homosexuality as a medical issue.

The latter two chapters are oriented around a systematic reading of their respective primary sources: court martial transcripts and psychiatric evaluations. Jackson methodically attracts the attentions of his readers and takes them through the various phases of the court martial and psychiatric assessment processes, providing detailed and personalized accounts of how these two sections of the military dealt with the issue of homosexuality, the first as a moral and legal issue, and the second is trying to make it a medical issue.

Jackson’s arguments in his book make it clear that there was a serious unwillingness on the part of authorities to discharge homosexuals from military service. Courts martial were used primarily to discourage homosexual activity, but rarely led to the discharge of noncommissioned servicemen. More commonly, the soldiers would be sentenced to serve time in a custody, after which they would be allowed to return to service. Officers were more likely to be discharged if guilty was established, but were conversely much less likely to be convicted.

Jackson’s book suggests that the reason here matches the reason as to why psychiatrists were so unwilling, more so than the courts martial, to state that a man was homosexual. The medical model of homosexuality constructed a homosexual as an antisocial individual, a standpoint reflected in the moral standards of the court martial officers. Yet it was hard to settle this conception with the productive, healthy men who stood under examination; so, many were released, especially when they had fellow officers and servicemen keen to vow for their good character innocence.

The first chapter of One of the Boys discusses in details this contrast between official military policy denouncing homosexuality on the one hand and the routine leniency towards homosexual behavior on the other. This attitude of military examines the various facets of the military’s policy on homosexuality as crafted by the medical services, the National Film Board, the military police, and the RCAF. Generally the first chapter presents a rather random and inconsistent approach to homosexual behavior in the Canadian military: ruthless investigations on the one hand, routine denials on the other.

The chapter highlights amusingly in Jackson’s satirical “Routine Order” on homosexuality, in which he describes the de facto military policy on homosexuality, in the absence of an official one. Boiled down to essentials, the de facto policy was to ignore or reject homosexual behavior unless the performer was otherwise a misfit or a behavioral problem. Any punishment should be light for men in combat units, and heavy for noncombatants, unless they were well liked.

Again and again, Jackson discovers that the Canadian military attempted to ignore homosexuality unless individuals were otherwise problematic or were flaunting their sexuality. This silent policy followed from 1940s beginnings of sexuality: all military men were supposed to be male, masculine, and heterosexual, and in the absence of overwhelming proof to the contrary, would be treated as such. In the second half of One of the Boys, Jackson focuses on the social history of homosexuality in the military during the World War II.

Chapters IV and V look at the experiences of queer servicemen in Canada and overseas, and chapter VI looks at the impact of homosexuality on esprit de corps, unity, and confidence. The chapters of the second half of the book rely a lot on oral histories and war diaries in addition to the sources used for the earlier chapters, and paint bright pictures of the wartime experience for queer servicemen. Certainly, these sections bring to mind Desmond Morton’s excellent work on the experience of Canadian soldiers in the World War I.

(Morton 1993, 7-15) In conclusion it can be said that an inspiring amount of research has gone into Jackson’s book, and it would be a remiss if one neglected to mention the visual component of One of the Boys. The book presents an impressive array of war art, including many works by gay war artists that demonstrate aspects of homosexuality and the homosocial bonds that formed during the war. Many of these pieces illustrate homoeroticism and same-sex emotional bonds in the armed forces more clearly than a chapter of text can.

Combined with images from drag shows, stills from NFB films, and photos of young military men together, these pictures add a rich visual element to the text. Jackson should be praised also for his use of frank, open language in unfolding cases of homosexuality during the World War II. Not only does this reflect the actual language used in the records he found, but it is appropriate to the sexually charged material he is dealing with. The book tells the story with frankness and humor. Works Cited Berube, Allan. , Coming out under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War Two (New York: MacMillan, 1990).

d’Emilio, John. , Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities: The Making of a Homosexual Minority in the United States, 1940-1970 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983). Jackson, Paul. , “One of the Boys: Homosexuality in the Military during World War II” McGill-Queen’s Univ. Press 2004. Morton, Desmond. , When Your Number’s Up: The Canadian Soldier in the First World War (Toronto: Random House, 1993). Pierson, Ruth Roach. , “They’re Still Women After All”: The Second World War and Canadian Womanhood (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1986), p. 219.

We will write a custom essay sample on

Homosexuality in the Military during World War II

or any similar topic only for you

Order Now
Categories: 1

0 Replies to “Gays In The Military Essay Writing”

Leave a comment

L'indirizzo email non verrà pubblicato. I campi obbligatori sono contrassegnati *