It is no secret how many homosexuals are discriminated in almost all countries all over the world. Homosexuals, like all other minorities, have had to put up a strong fight to get their basic rights such as education, medical care, housing, and employment rights. It has been no different for gays in military, not only have they been discriminated but also have had to face serious repercussions such as the ban to join the military based on their sexual orientation. This behavior of discriminating against gays could probably be justified in the past when science had not established that homosexuality is not a choice; it is innate. However, in today’s age forbidding gays from being part of the military is absolutely absurd. How is it fair to blame someone for something they are not responsible for?
In this essay, I want to compare and contrast how being gay in the military was in the past and how is it different in present times.
Throughout the course of history, homosexuals have not had an equal status in the military as their straight cohorts. The policies regarding the induction of gays in military have always remained inconsistent. In olden times, before World War II, there was no policy on paper that placed a ban on the induction of gays in the military.
The ban on gays from serving the military came during the period of World War II, the Vietnam War and the Korean War. Homosexuals were declared to suffer from mental defects, which automatically made them unfit to qualify as military personnel. Later, this screening criterion had to be relaxed, as the need for people to fight rose and there was no option, but to take people despite their sexual orientation. Homosexuals, like all other straight military personnel, gave it their all to fight for their countries’ honor. This policy did not take long to change, it had been changed on selfish motives; as soon as the motives were achieved, i.e. the need for people decreased the military put homosexual military personnel out of service.
Keeping this unfair practice in view, it did not take long before a complete ban on gays in the military was enforced. According to Rod Powers, “in 1982 the Department of Defense put on record that “homosexuality was incompatible with military service”. According to a 1992 report by the Government Accounting Office, nearly 17,000 men and women were discharged under this new directive during the 1980s” (par. 4).
After this official policy, there have been many policies that came in and faded from view. During this time period, the most popular policy was the one of the United States called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. This policy was introduced in 1993 and stayed till 2011. It was an open discrimination against homosexuals without shame in a country that is the greatest advocate of human rights.
“Under “The don’t Ask Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy the military was not allowed to ask a recruit about their sexuality, however, if there was suspicion of homosexuality they were allowed to investigate. This too was a form of discrimination against these service members” (Solomon).
The current scenario, however, is different and has turned in favor of homosexuals since the ban was lifted in 2011. As a result, gays are now free to reveal their sexuality and will not be discriminated against it. Since this change in policy, a lot of gays and lesbians have come out of the closet and are sharing their real identity on social media networks and other networks such as YouTube.
It has drastically changed from the time when, Leonard Matlovich who was the first man who revealed his real sexual orientation and dedicated a substantial part of his life to the fighting against the taboo for gays in the military. The peak of his popularity as a gay was in the 1970s. At 19, he enrolled the US enhanced military combat in Vietnam, and he served three tours of duties. During his station in Florida, he found out that he was a homosexual. Matlovich discovered himself to his friends but hid his secret from the commanding officer. After understanding that such kind of discrimination is unfair, he volunteered at the Air Force in Relation classes. Leonard Matlovich regarded such a discrimination as similar to the one which African Americans faced ("StudyMode.Com").
In present times, we can definitely say that this scenario has drastically taken a shift, when Brig. Gen. Tammy S. Smith was promoted to brigadier general, and she had her wife pin her badge at the ceremony. It was an open declaration by Ms. Smith that gays are accepted in the military now, and the discrimination that once existed against them is no more. Also, her seniors knew about her sexual orientation before she was promoted (Wald).
I would like to conclude by reiterating that homosexuals in the military have had to face real tough times, but fortunately times have changed for the better. Now gays in the military are not looked down upon and have the same status as their straight cohorts.