Gays in the Military

Edirotial:

Since 12 January 2000 The MOD’s policy is to allow homosexual men, lesbians and transgender personnel to serve openly, and discrimination on a sexual orientation basis is forbidden.  It is also forbidden for someone to pressure LGBT people to come out. All personnel are subject to the same rules against sexual harassment, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

In the Republic of Ireland, an obvious close neighbour of the United Kingdom, which had carried some of its interpretation of law over from the time that the United Kingdom ruled there, there has been no preclusion since 1993 when male homosexuality was decriminalised in the Republic of Ireland. Since 1993 there has been significant change to make sure that there was no discrimination in terms of public policy. At the same time as an equal age of consent was introduced for heterosexual and homosexual persons, the Irish Defence Forces announced that they would be treating heterosexual and homosexual members equally. Relationships between senior and junior ranks would continue to be forbidden, as is common in most militaries. There would also be no harassment of gay officers and no questioning of members about their sexuality.

Obviously, the argument that LGBT personnel should not have had to hide their sexuality and therefore impact on their work could be made, and indeed during the Second World War, when morale and efficiency were most crucial, as Britain faced the threat of Nazi invasion, vast numbers of gay people were allowed to serve in combat units, some quite openly.  There is sufficient evidence to prove that Britain operated different standards when it was caught short of recruits during history.

We all make judgements in hindsight, and history shows that often rules and laws are made which are nonsensical; this would seem to have one of those times!

 

 

Further reading:

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Serving with PRIDE: From a 92-year-old WWII veteran to soldiers in Afghanistan – the men and women who fought wars AND prejudice

  • Photo essay book, Gays in the Military, released by New York photographer Vincent Cianni
  • Individual stories tell the history of homosexuals in the military
  • Many were discharged because of their sexuality and suffer ongoing psychological damage
  • Rape, assault and bullying remain prevalent
  • Being gay was considered a criminal offense in the U.S. military until 1993 

A New York-based documentary photographer has spent three years traveling the U.S. photographing and interviewing gay veterans and servicemen to share their stories of suppression, sadness and silence in a moving photo essay.

Vincent Cianni, 63, said he embarked on the project, Gays in the Military, to better understand why homosexuals would enlist in the military to begin with; voluntarily signing up for a system that did, and in many ways still does, oppress them.

‘It seems I spent most of my life uninterested in knowing about the military because I supported peace, the fight to end violence and injustice, and the sanctity of life,’ the photographer told Vice.

‘I couldn’t understand why anyone would join the military, much less why gay people would join the military, an organization that shunned them.’

Pieced together, Cianni’s photos show commonalities between the subjects despite their different journeys, from a 92-year-old WW2 veteran to young soldiers who recently returned from Afghanistan.

Many were discharged because of their sexuality, others were raped, assaulted and bullied, causing ongoing psychological damage.

A major turning point for gay people in the military came in 2011 with the overturning of Dont Ask Don’t Tell (DADT), a discouraging policy signed by Bill Clinton in 1993 that continued a ban on gay soldiers enlisting, but stopped investigations and ‘witch hunts’ into whether soldiers were gay.

The bill was designed to protect the soldiers by keeping their sexuality a secret, however it forced them into the closet and further internalized their struggles.

Gay and in the military: Zachary Werth (left), says he was discharged from the Army National Guard in 2010 because of his sexuality, while his boyfriend, Dustin Hiersekorn (right) left the Marine Corps due to medical reasons. They are one of the couples who appear in Gays in the Military, a stunning photo essay by Vincent Cianni documenting the stories of homosexual soldiers

Gay and in the military: Zachary Werth (left), says he was discharged from the Army National Guard in 2010 because of his sexuality, while his boyfriend, Dustin Hiersekorn (right) left the Marine Corps due to medical reasons. They are one of the couples who appear in Gays in the Military, a stunning photo essay by Vincent Cianni documenting the stories of homosexual soldiers

Veteran: Paul Goercke, of San Francisco, is a World War II veteran who served in Okinawa, Hawaii and Saipan, said there was 'no evidence of gay life' when he  enlisted with the Merchant Marines when he was 18

Veteran: Paul Goercke, of San Francisco, is a World War II veteran who served in Okinawa, Hawaii and Saipan, said there was ‘no evidence of gay life’ when he enlisted with the Merchant Marines when he was 18

'The person I was dating was older than me and had been in the Navy quite a bit longer. She grew up under the old regime where there were active witch hunts to catch gay people in the act to get them out. I learned that culture and I was terrified the whole time I was in,' says Heather Davies (left), of Round Rock, Texas. She was a lieutenant in the US Navy from 1989 to 1998

‘The person I was dating was older than me and had been in the Navy quite a bit longer. She grew up under the old regime where there were active witch hunts to catch gay people in the act to get them out. I learned that culture and I was terrified the whole time I was in,’ says Heather Davies (left), of Round Rock, Texas. She was a lieutenant in the US Navy from 1989 to 1998

Togetherness: Matt McCary (right) was arrested in 2000 after being singled out by a fellow airman. He was discharged from the US Air Force within five days. David Cochenic (left) received Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal. The two were photographed in Orange Park, Florida

Togetherness: Matt McCary (right) was arrested in 2000 after being singled out by a fellow airman. He was discharged from the US Air Force within five days. David Cochenic (left) received Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal, and Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal. The two were photographed in Orange Park, Florida

'I was eighteen when I joined the United States Marine Corps in 1989. Because it was pre-Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the questions were asked about sexual orientation. I already knew I was gay, but I was consciously trying to suppress it,' says Eric Alva, of San Antonio, Texas. He was the first US military casualty in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004

‘I was eighteen when I joined the United States Marine Corps in 1989. Because it was pre-Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the questions were asked about sexual orientation. I already knew I was gay, but I was consciously trying to suppress it,’ says Eric Alva, of San Antonio, Texas. He was the first US military casualty in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2004

'I wanted to think about kissing her, but I tried very desperately to force it out of my mind. I became obsessive about running and dieting; the more I exhausted my body, the less energy I would have to think about that,' reveals Debra Fowler, of Lowell, Massachusetts. She was a Korean linguist in the US Army from 1986 to 1988

‘I wanted to think about kissing her, but I tried very desperately to force it out of my mind. I became obsessive about running and dieting; the more I exhausted my body, the less energy I would have to think about that,’ reveals Debra Fowler, of Lowell, Massachusetts. She was a Korean linguist in the US Army from 1986 to 1988

'I’m like everybody else. I have a job. I have a career. I want the same things: a home, family, everything else. I’m not any different.' Don Bramer, of Washington, DC, a Lieutenant O-3 in the US Navy, says. He has served since 2002 and is still serving

‘I’m like everybody else. I have a job. I have a career. I want the same things: a home, family, everything else. I’m not any different.’ Don Bramer, of Washington, DC, a Lieutenant O-3 in the US Navy, says. He has served since 2002 and is still serving

Before DADT, which was enacted in 1993, homosexual behavior was considered a criminal offense within the military.

‘In many cases, the people I interviewed and photographed had no recourse to their discharge,’ Cianni said.

‘At times, their entire record of serving in the military was expunged as if it never happened.

‘Participating in the project served to regain their dignity and their history of serving.

‘During the interviews they revisited difficult experiences, sometimes experiences they had forgotten about.

‘It was an emotional catharsis for many of them.’

Gays in the Military was published by Daylight Books in May 2014.

It is archived at the David M. Rubestein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University and is available as an exhibition and multi-media installation.

'I was three years old the first time I had a sexual experience with my grandmother. That continued until I was 17 years old. When I was eight years old, my stepdad and step-granddad started sexually abusing me, and in rather horrible ways.  I’m PTSD from Vietnam. I also have cancer from Agent Orange exposure. I’ve been HIV positive since 1987, full-blown AIDS since 1994, and I have Hepatitis C since 1989. Dying is not my responsibility; it’s part of nature. I recognize not all battles can be won,' says Bert Bares, of Houston, Texas. He served three tours of duty in Vietnam - receiving numerous commendations including the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star

‘I was three years old the first time I had a sexual experience with my grandmother. That continued until I was 17 years old. When I was eight years old, my stepdad and step-granddad started sexually abusing me, and in rather horrible ways. I’m PTSD from Vietnam. I also have cancer from Agent Orange exposure. I’ve been HIV positive since 1987, full-blown AIDS since 1994, and I have Hepatitis C since 1989. Dying is not my responsibility; it’s part of nature. I recognize not all battles can be won,’ says Bert Bares, of Houston, Texas. He served three tours of duty in Vietnam – receiving numerous commendations including the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star

'I left the Navy to be with someone. It would not have worked out well. I would have been faced with periodic deployments given my specialty, and (my partner) didn't like the deployments, so I decided to leave. It's difficult to hide a gay relationship. When you're single, the fifth senior officer on the ship, and always being the one who shows up alone at formal functions, it's difficult to maintain a charade. I grew accustomed to the fear of what would happen if I were caught. But I also knew that if something did happen, I would not ever admit that I was gay,' Larry Baxley says. The Washington, D.C.,-native resigned from the Navy in 2005

‘I left the Navy to be with someone. It would not have worked out well. I would have been faced with periodic deployments given my specialty, and (my partner) didn’t like the deployments, so I decided to leave. It’s difficult to hide a gay relationship. When you’re single, the fifth senior officer on the ship, and always being the one who shows up alone at formal functions, it’s difficult to maintain a charade. I grew accustomed to the fear of what would happen if I were caught. But I also knew that if something did happen, I would not ever admit that I was gay,’ Larry Baxley says. The Washington, D.C.,-native resigned from the Navy in 2005

'As far as actually getting into a real gay relationship, that didn't come until the military. In the Officer Basic Course there was an attraction between me and another woman but it never became a whole lot; the circumstances were not right. When I was at Fort McClellan was really when I started acting on my sexuality. When I left McClellan, I went to Fort Ritchie and had a relationship with the company commander. I was the executive officer. We had a relationship only until she was reassigned,' says Nancy Russell, of San Antonio, Texas. She is a retired Lieutenant Colonel of the US Army

‘As far as actually getting into a real gay relationship, that didn’t come until the military. In the Officer Basic Course there was an attraction between me and another woman but it never became a whole lot; the circumstances were not right. When I was at Fort McClellan was really when I started acting on my sexuality. When I left McClellan, I went to Fort Ritchie and had a relationship with the company commander. I was the executive officer. We had a relationship only until she was reassigned,’ says Nancy Russell, of San Antonio, Texas. She is a retired Lieutenant Colonel of the US Army

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3034869/Gay-military-92-year-old-WWII-veteran-returning-Afghanistan-soldiers-men-women-fight-wars-prejudice.html#ixzz3X4nVGsmN
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