Skip to content

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.

Due to current United States military regulation, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) citizens have to keep their sexual orientation a secret if they want to serve in any branch of the armed forces.  In 1993, in an attempt to stifle protest from the gay community, President Bill Clinton initiated the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy (DADT) within the United States armed forces.  The policy indicated that while homosexual citizens could still serve in the armed forces, they could not do so if they announced their sexual orientation.  This policy mirrored a ban previously instated in the United States which universally banned all homosexuals from serving in the armed forces.  In other words, DADT was different because it only “banned gays and lesbians from serving openly in uniform” (O’Keefe).  Recent opposition to the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy by President Barack Obama has been evident, and no more obvious then when he stated in a recent speech at the White House that “[t]hough we've made progress, there are still fellow citizens, perhaps neighbors or even family members and loved ones, who still hold fast to worn arguments and old attitudes” (“Remarks by the President”).  Here, President Obama is referencing those Americans who continue to support DADT and, thusly, the restriction of homosexuals in the United States military.  In my opinion, the President’s current stance regarding DADT is correct.  In the paper, statistical evidence, precedent set by the policies of foreign militaries, and lessons learned from military integration in the past will show that the DADT policy is not only unjust, but a hindrance to the cause of the United States armed forces.

Throughout this paper my goal will be to illustrate how the DADT policy is unnecessary, and why it should ultimately be repealed and abolished.  First, we will examine statistics regarding the segregation openly homosexual citizens have faced in recent years due to DADT in order to build pathos and further augment my argument.  Next, we will discuss the policies of foreign militaries relating to the rights on LGBT citizens and their eligibility to serve in the armed forces of those specific countries.  Also, we will examine lessons learned from history in topics comparable to homosexual integration into the military.  By looking further into the racial and gender-based integration processes undergone by the United States military in the past, we will be able to foresee how integrating homosexuals will likely affect the armed forces.  In order to gain true appreciation for my side of the argument, we will then consider the opposite side of the issue as well.  By analyzing the supposed detrimental effects of homosexual integration into the United States military on unit cohesion and combat effectiveness, as well as the burden integration would put on the budget of the central government, we will hopefully be able to appreciate the views of those who support the DADT policy.  Finally, I will conclude and have hopefully presented an affective argument against the DADT policy.

DADT is very real within the present day United States military.  Its restrictions are detrimental to countless service men and women, not only in the work place, but as a part of their social and family lives as well.  From 1993 to 2009, a total of just fewer than 14,000 troops were discharged from any branch of the United States military on account of their homosexuality.  This number represents all members of the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard who were discharged because they were lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.  In a recent survey conducted by the Pentagon, which was released in a report 30 November 2010, a sample of service members from all branches of the United States military were subject to questions regarding DADT.  When asked how their level of morale would be affected if after DADT is repealed they were working with a service member in their immediate unit who has said he or she is gay or lesbian, 43.6% of service members replied saying their morale would not be affected, and only 11.9% said their morale would be very negatively affected (“Report”).  A similar statistic is presented when the same sample is questioned regarding the affect that the repealing of DADT will have on their own personal job performance if they are working in a unit with an openly gay or lesbian service member.  Fifty-seven percent responded noting that they believed their job performance would be unaffected (“Report”).

While statistical representation provides a current, factual base, the past is where we search for model and actual results.  Foreign militaries have set the precedent regarding the integration of LGBT citizens and their rights to serve in the armed forces.  For the most part, in today’s world, major nondomestic militaries allow homosexual citizens to openly serve in their armed forces. In terms of the 43 countries in the North American Treaty Organization (NATO), 35 of those countries have no ban on gay or lesbian service within their armed forces (“Report”).  Also, included in the Pentagon’s report is the phrase, “A number of nations have, over the past 20 years, transitioned to policies permitting open service by gays and lesbians. These countries include the United Kingdom (policy changed in 2000), Canada (1992), Australia (1992), Germany (2000), and Israel (1993).”  While some of these countries amended policies based on legal obligations, such as court cases brought against the state on the basis of discrimination, most of the 35 nations did so out of the moral obligation to fair treatment of all citizens, regardless of sexual orientation.  More specifically, in Germany in the early 1990s, any ban on LGBT military service was officially lifted (“Gay German Soldier”).  In the years following, homosexuals, by German military law, were then allowed to become military officers as well.  By 2000, all official bans in Germany on military service by LGBT citizens were dismantled.  Australian policy mimics that of Germany and that of many other countries across the globe.  In research done by Congress regarding the policies of homosexuals in foreign military, it was found that Australia has allowed homosexuals to serve openly in their armed forces since 1992 (“Sexual Orientation”).  Also, more specifically, “early indications [were] that the new policy has had little or no adverse impact on unit cohesion” (Archive).  As expected, the document mentioned concern based on the adverse effect the integration may have on unit cohesiveness, a major component to the effectiveness of a combat unit, but reported no impact as of 1993.  In my opinion, the successful integration of LGBT citizens into many foreign militaries should serve as a result the United States should anticipate if we choose to do the same.

American history has taught us that integration in the armed forces is feasible.  Gender and racial integration has been initiated before, and in analyzing the immediate aftermath of those two processes, we can infer how the integration of LGBT service members will pan out.  An executive order by President Harry Truman moved to end segregation in the United States military in 1948.  It took over four years for each branch to adopt his policy, but eventually, in 1953, over 95% of African-American soldiers were serving in units which had been integrated as a result of Truman’s executive order (“Report”).  The decade previous to the issuing of the executive order by Truman, especially during World War II, was riddled with controversy surrounding the issue of whether or not it would be beneficial to the military to allow soldiers and sailors of different races to serve in arms together.  Particularly, Admiral Nimitz, the Commander in Chief of the Pacific (CinCPAC) during WWII, did not support the integration of blacks into battle roles.  He has been quoted on the topic stating, “The policy [of limiting black Sailors to the mess man’s branch] was instituted in the interest of harmony and efficiency aboard ship after many years of experience” (“Report”).  It can be said that even if Nimitz’s claims represented the opinion of the majority during the time period, it may have, in fact, just been the time period which influenced the opinion, and nothing else.  In other words, racial segregation was the norm in everyday life, so why should it be different in everyday military life?  Comparing the military of a more modern age, with the age of a segregated military in near hindsight, racial integration was an overall benefit to unit cohesion.  By integrating all of the branches of the United States armed forces, an entirely new demographic of America was reached.  Aside from adding to their raw numbers, the military also gained competent leadership.  By 2004, all of the highest ranks in each of the main United States branches of the military had been held by a minority (“Race and the Military”).

Along with racial minorities, females are also an example of how integration has benefited the United States armed forces.  Female involvement in the United States military dates back to the time of the Revolutionary War.  During this era in American history, women were utilized mostly in nursing positions.  The roles of women in the military expanded during the first and second World Wars, when women were assigned to positions which they would normally hold in a civilian capacity (office clerks, telephone operators, etc.), and some were even stationed overseas.  Towards the end of World War II, women began becoming more useful in roles outside of the office and were assigned to missions in Europe involving espionage.  Despite the combat restrictions and the lack of wartime necessity, the need for women in the military increased radically in the decade following the war in Vietnam.  As a result of the Equal Rights Amendment, which was passed by both houses of Congress in 1972, more women were pushing for those opportunities for equality to present themselves in the military as well.  As written by Mady Segal in Gender and the Military, “In 1971 there were approximately 43,000 women in uniform (30,000 enlisted and 13,000 officers), constituting only 1.6% of total active-duty military personnel. By the end of 1980, 9 years later, there were about 173,000 women or about 8.5 % of total active duty forces” (572).  In today’s military, women have begun to occupy an increasing number of combat roles, and their numbers in the armed forces only continue to rise.  Specifically in the Navy, over 96% of positions are available for female occupations, with the opportunity for women to attend nuclear power school opening up just this past summer (Segal 574).  Females are still restricted from the special warfare community (SEALs) as well as some restricted line communities such as the medical corps and the chaplain corps.  Overall the integration of women in the military, while controversial at the time, proved to be beneficial to the mission of the United States armed forces.

There are those who do not agree with my stance on the DADT policy, and they believe that it is a necessary and proper policy within the United States armed forces.  Only by gathering the main points of their argument can one really appreciate the argument in its entirety.  The military presents many valid and concise arguments as to why DADT, implemented in the early 1990s, is both necessary and proper.  Ultimately the most politically correct argument stems from the fact that invasion of privacy (specifically when homosexuals may observe heterosexuals in undress, thus resulting in sexual excitement) will lead to diminishing morale and ultimately a less effective combat unit.  Being realistic, and looking at the effect on combat effectiveness, one can appreciate the negative repercussions the integration of homosexuals in combat-ready roles may arise.  Disregarding the basic right of equality, some may argue that adding a new factor to the complex machine that is the United States armed forces may only prove to add strain to an already multifaceted structure.  Why fix what isn’t broken, right?  The fact of the matter is that if a combat-ready United States Marine is uneasy about rooming with a homosexual, his combat effectiveness will decrease, and thus negatively affect the overall success of the mission at hand.  Many of those who support DADT would urge that the policy remain intact for at least the time being so that combat effectiveness in Afghanistan is not affected whatsoever.  Although we as an unbiased audience must take this argument seriously, we must also recognize that this reason is not the only preface for the military’s support of the DADT policy.

Another reason for the ban most likely stems from the image of the military itself.  In her book And the Flag Was Still There, Lois Shawver states, “In our society, the military has played the role of the institution capable of turning undisciplined, careless, rebellious lads into industrious, fearless, right-thinking men” (5).  It is obvious that the military must in part support the ban because of they do not want to surrender their masculine image.  The Marine Corps, more so than most other branches of the military, are feared, revered, and respected because of their elite, masculine image.  Both the current Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Amos, and the most recently relieved Commandant, General Conway, advocated for the DADT policy.  General Conway in particular has been quoted saying, "We sometimes ask Marines what is their preference and I can tell you that an overwhelming majority would like not to be roomed with a person who is openly homosexual" (“Marine Leaders”).  This opinion did not pave the way for the Marine Corps’ traditional expectation of an all masculine, 100% heterosexual military.  In 2007, General Pace, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was interviewed and stated that he supported DADT and viewed homosexuality as an immoral sexual practice.  Although the Marine Corps does not boast the only supporters of the law, it does have the largest percentage among branches in the United States military, at 40% (“Marine Leaders”).  Other branches closely follow with the 27.6% of the Army supporting the policy, and 22.3% of the Navy.  These statistics show that while the policy is largely opposed by a majority of the armed forces, there are those still who view DADT as a necessary and proper policy within the United States military.

It is my hope that the statistical evidence, precedents set forth by the policies of foreign militaries, and lessons learned from military integration in the past shown here will help to sway the opinion of anyone who supports the DADT policy.  In my opinion, the policy should be repealed as soon as humanly possible to allow all citizens to serve in the armed forces of the United States.  It is ignorant to believe that a person’s combat readiness is doomed to suffer solely based on their sexual orientation.  In the interest of the true meaning of equal opportunity and of the liberties on which the United States was founded, I propose that a complete abolition of the DADT policy be taken into serious consideration. Why should the right to serve in the armed forces be restricted to anyone who is prepared to lay down their life for the country which has, for some time, suppressed their right to do so?