The repeal of DADT is a significant milestone for our nation with specific positive implications for those who are gay and wish to serve (or have been serving) in the military. How many of us thought, “not in my lifetime, buddy”, when it came to the notion of sexual minorities serving openly in the U.S. Military? The repeal, and the path it took through Congress, reflects a sea change in the general public’s acceptance of homosexuality as a usual or healthy sexual orientation. Can I say, “Yahoo”, on Facebook?
Not to say that the world has changed overnight or that the lives of those considered sexual minorities will be smooth sailing from now on. I expect there will be considerable blow back on this move and perhaps coming from the usual self-appointed guardians of public morality. In fact, as the last hurdles were being cleared, it was disappointing to watch as the evangelical military chaplains argued for an extension of the bigoted hypocrisy that was DADT. It was, they argued, their freedom of expression that was going to be unfairly curtailed if gays and lesbians couldn’t be forced to stay closeted. Of course others within the military reminded them that their charge as Chaplains is to serve all members of the military. It will be interesting to see how this and other possible conflicts inside the military play out as DADT goes away.
One topic of interest to the AMSA community related to the repeal of DADT is the further evolution of what are considered to be acceptable ways of being and behaving male. Men have long been forced, encouraged, enticed and rewarded for taking on the Warrior role. And this role has been linked with the hegemonic forms of masculinity that dominated the expectations that boys and men faced in finding their identity and purpose in life. But if the military is no longer polices masculinity to enforce a heteronormativity–if even on a voluntary basis through DADT–what does this say about men who choose to serve?
Of course the simple answer to my question is that choosing to serve is about the service and not about one’s sexuality. This now seems obvious, doesn’t it? But the decoupling of military masculinities from heternormativity is a major ideological and cultural shift that we should recognize. As we continue to encourage boys and men to realize their full humanity not restricted by the confines of traditional gender ideologies and “real man” expectations, we can now point to the U.S. Military as a place where things have changed.