Homosexuality in the Military





Homosexuality in the Military

One of the most controversial issues in the country over the past years concerns the issue of homosexuality in the military. It is estimated that 2% of members of the military are gay, lesbian, and bisexual (Bumiller). For a long time, the military has banned homosexuality. Many gays wishing to serve in the military have had to hide their sexuality. Those who are brave enough have opened up about their sexuality and many of them have been dismissed from the military. People have different perceptions concerning homosexuality. They are guided by different standards and ideals. For some people, their religious and moral beliefs prevent them from supporting the practice. Some people may accept homosexuals and they generally support the practice, but they do not support the idea of having homosexuals within the military setting. They are concerned that encouraging people to practice homosexuality in the military will destroy the organizational culture and it will be an intrusion on other people’s lives. The military tries to maintain high standards and morals among its members. It discourages actions that would disturb the peace and cohesion that enables it to operate efficiently. Some people believe that allowing homosexuality will disturb this cohesion thereby affecting operations. Society’s perception concerning homosexuality has changed and people have increased their support. Homosexuals should be allowed to serve in the military so long as they adhere to the set rule and regulations.

History contains cases of people who have faced discrimination and have had to endure suffering because of their sexual orientation. Throughout the years, certain laws have been established, which aim at ensuring that the practice of homosexuality is not present in the military. According to the US Naval Institute, the first case for homosexuality in the military happened in 1778. Lieutenant Gotthold Enslin was dismissed from the military because he was a homosexual and he was found guilty of sodomy. The article of war of 1916 stated that any person who intended to commit sodomy would be punished by the court martial. Males who displayed female characteristics were considered unfit for service. In addition, those who showed homosexual proclivities would not be enlisted (USNI).

In 1942, military psychiatrists advanced the idea that homosexuals had psychopathic personality disorders and were not in a position to serve. Following the pronouncement, homosexuals were discharged and they were denied the benefits offered to veterans. Executive order 10450, which was signed by President Eisenhower in 1953, prohibited federal employees from joining subversive groups. Sexual perversion was considered a security threat and those found guilty would be fired or denied a chance of employment (USNI). In the seventies, the American psychiatric association and the American psychological association declared that homosexuality was not a mental illness (Shawyer 3). In 1976, Technical sergeant Leonard Matlovich challenged the military’s position on homosexuality, arguing that it was unconstitutional. He had been discharged from the US air force after he admitted that he was gay. He was unsuccessful in court and he ended up being discharged honorably (USNI).

During the 1992 campaigns, Bill Clinton had promised that under his leadership, people could not be discriminated against based on their sexual orientation and everyone would be allowed to serve in the military. He was not able to fulfill his promise when he was elected but he signed the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policy into law. The law regarded homosexuality as an unacceptable risk and many members of the military have been discharged under the law. In 2010, the senate and the House of Representatives voted to repeal the DADT policy and the president signed the repeal into law (USNI).

The US military adoption of DADT regarding people’s sexuality has led to an exclusion policy, where gays are not accepted in the military (Shawyer 3). The military no longer considers homosexuality to be a mental illness. Despite the declarations made by the military and different institutions, the military has continued to exclude gay people from its ranks. Perception of the public concerning homosexuality has changed over the years. Many people have accepted gays in the society. However, some people are still opposed to homosexuality. Although the DADT policy was repealed in 2011, many homosexuals are afraid of prejudice and discrimination. Some people have reported being harassed because of their sexuality. Some of the members of the military have been charged with discrimination and mistreatment of homosexuals and others have lost their jobs because of this (Bullimer). This shows the seriousness in which people are taking the new laws. Many of the homosexuals are still afraid to let others know about their sexual orientation.

Many people do not oppose homosexuality in the military based on their religious beliefs. Instead, they argue that allowing the practice to continue will affect the working performance of the soldiers and decrease the effectiveness of the army. They claim that having homosexuals in the military will lower the morale of the other soldiers and reduce the cohesion between them. They also argue that it will affect discipline and leadership as well as the rights to privacy of other members in the military. Some of the soldiers opposing homosexuality assert that they would not share the same room or showers with homosexuals. They also state that they would not take orders from gay or lesbian soldiers. Some argue that lifting the ban on homosexuality will affect recruiting and medical fitness of the soldiers (Belkin and McNichol 75). Such sentiments and attitudes towards homosexuals affect the soldiers’ morale and ability to perform. Although soldiers specialize in taking orders, they consider sexuality to be a personal and intimate matter. They are more likely to oppose any plan that disturbs the current order.

Some people argue that lifting the ban on homosexuality will have consequences on people’s health. They also argue that those who do not support homosexuality would have their freedom curtailed. Lifting the ban would cause a change in rules and regulations regarding sexual offenses in the military. The military stands to lose money since it has to make new living arrangements so that privacy can be enhanced. The military does not follow the guidelines and laws laid down by the society. It does not have to follow the trends that are emerging. The personnel policies formed in the military reflect the harsh nature of war and they may differ greatly from what the society accepts. Therefore, the military does not have to accept homosexuality just because the society has embraced it (Sprigg).

The US is not alone in banning homosexuality, as many militaries around the world do not support it. The number of people who have been discharged from the military because of homosexuality is very small to warrant any changes in the entire military. Discharges have not affected operations and effectiveness in the military or reduced recruitment efforts. Therefore, there is no need to interfere with policies that are already working. Contrary to what people believe, banning homosexuality does not mean the same thing as prohibiting people from joining the military because of race or ethnicity. Homosexuality is about conduct and it is not a trait. People can improve or change their conduct. Therefore, the army does not have to make special provisions so that homosexuals can be allowed to enlist (Sprigg).

Homosexuality will affect the cohesion that exists in the military. The armed forces depend on the cohesion between the service members as this enables them to be more effective. Having soldiers that are openly gay in the military will cause a disruption and it would be a worrying influence. It would make the bonds that exist between the soldiers weaker and this would interfere with the effectiveness of the military (Jackson 221). People recognize and admire the armed forces because of the dignity and honor that is part of their culture. Allowing homosexuals to serve in the armed forces would erode such values. Some people claim that banning homosexuality is unconstitutional and that it goes against individual rights. However, the military is not a democratic institution. Soldiers go to the military knowing that it is an autocratic organization (Bawer 115). They should be ready to follow the orders given without hesitation or complaint. Homosexuality is not a right. Individuals should maintain the culture they have found at the organization. This will mean less interference in the way things are run at the organization.

Some people who argue against repealing the policy state that lifting the ban on homosexuality would affect retention, morale, and effectiveness of the army. In a study conducted one year after the DADT policy was repealed, researchers found out that the repeal had not affected military retention. They found out that the number of people who applied to enlist had remained steady. In addition, they found out that the soldiers’ morale was not affected. Military service members who do not support homosexuality noted that the repeal did not affect the way they operate or their morale. They noted that there had been no disruptions since the repeal was enforced (Belkin et al. 5-30). Some critics might argue that the study did not consider the long-term effects of the repeal. However, examining different countries that have allowed homosexuals to serve in the military reveals that they have not experienced any problems.

Canada was one of the countries that made the decision to lift the ban on homosexuality in the military early, as it did so in 1992. There were initial fears that lifting the ban would affect the military’s effectiveness. Canada has stood by its decision from 1992. This has given researchers enough time to evaluate any changes in the military performance. They have found that lifting the ban did not have any effect on the performance and readiness of the soldiers or on the cohesion and morale in the military (Belkin and McNichol 74). Belkin et al. observe that there has been no changes in the Dutch military since it began allowing homosexuals to serve. It was the first military to do so in 1974. This has provided scholars the chance to conduct long-term studies on the military (30). Britain began allowing homosexuals to serve in the army in 2010. It did not record any mass exits when it implemented the law. Moreover, since that time, it has not experienced any disciplinary problems because of allowing gay people to serve openly. The action did not disturb the cohesion of the forces (BBC). This is proof that allowing homosexuals to serve in the military will not affect military operations in any way. Most people are led by prejudice and fear.

Homosexuals are stigmatized and this exposes them to life stresses such as discrimination and victimization. This has a negative effect on their mental health and wellbeing. In addition, hiding ones sexual orientation reduces the social cohesion within a unit (Cochran et al 422). People serving in the military have volunteered to give back to their country and they are willing to risk their lives for its sake. Therefore, they should be free on matters concerning their personal lives. Being gay does not hinder a person’s effectiveness or reduce his abilities. The military has denied great men and women a chance to offer their services and make a difference by discharging them because of their sexuality. Such people could have contributed in leadership and in other areas of the military. Many gay people have served in the military without revealing their identity. This shows that homosexuals are not different from straight people in any way other than in their sexual preferences.

Banning homosexuality in the military and implementing the DADT policy meant that those who were not heterosexuals had to hide their sexual orientation. This encouraged a culture of hypocrisy, as people lived secret lives. Those who were brave enough to reveal their sexual identities risked being discharged from the military. Gay military members serving under the DADT policy were restricted from revealing their sexual orientation. The repeal of the policy has improved situations among military personnel. Gay people who have relationship problems or any other kind of problem can seek help openly. They do not have to suffer alone or hide their situation anymore. This was not possible before the repeal. Homosexuals were afraid of seeking help since it would mean revealing their identity. They endured suffering alone. The repeal of the DADT policy was a relief to the gay and bisexuals in the military. Since the repeal, they have been able to hold meetings, which act like support groups. They hold such meetings as they discuss different issues. Despite the repeal, some of the gay people have fears that they will be discriminated upon by others. The meetings and interactions held by different people have enabled them to overcome such fears (Bumiller).

According to Lois Shawyer, the etiquette of disregard prevents people from engaging in sexual behavior although they find other people attractive. They do this by remaining asexual. The etiquette of disregard prevents a gay person from staring at a heterosexual although they may share the same room. Shawyer points out that the argument that gay people would not be able to restrain their desires when in the company of others is absurd and unsupported. She compares this to the doctors who have to examine naked patients or to artists who have to paint other people in the nude. She notes that gays have the etiquette of disregard. They have been able to hide their identity while in the company of heterosexuals. Some heterosexuals are opposed to allowing homosexuality in the military because of fear. In the military setting, people often share facilities, including bathrooms. Some people fear that homosexuals would stare and ogle at them and that this would lead to sexual advances (Shawyer 29).

Many people oppose the repeal on the ban because of uncertainty and fear. They do not know much about gay people or homosexuality in general. They have the idea that homosexuals are always on the look out. For instance, some people fear sharing a room with a gay person because he will always be staring at them. However, they admit that they have may have shared rooms and showers with homosexual men without knowing it. They admit that it was okay to do so since they did not know who the homosexuals were. This shows that many people opposing the repeal are generally afraid of the idea of knowing specific individuals who are gay (Bawer 118). Creating more knowledge and increasing awareness concerning homosexuality would eliminate such uncertainties. When people know that homosexuals are not attracted to everybody in their gender or that they do not always stare at people looking for their next victim, then they will be more comfortable. They will not have to look at who is constantly staring at them when they are sharing. Many people are afraid of what they do not know and removing their ignorance often helps to eliminate their fears.

People have become more accepting of homosexuality in the society. Many people know a person who is a homosexual, either in their family or in their group of friends. They have come to accept the fact that some people prefer a different sexual orientation. They have lived with them and they understand that gay people are not different in any other way. Therefore, they have no problems of having homosexuals in the military. Younger people are more likely to accept homosexuals. They have lived in a world where people do not generally hide their sexual orientation. This is unlike the conservatives who are more likely to oppose the repeal. The conservative older generation prefers people to keep their sexuality private. The current generation serving in the military does not see any big deal in allowing homosexuals to serve in the military.

The argument that repealing the ban would reduce the discipline within the forces is unfounded. Allowing homosexuality in the military does not mean banning all other rules concerning sexual conduct and behavior and abandoning professionalism. Repealing the ban would allow homosexuals to come out of the closet but this does not mean that it will stop them from behaving morally and professionally. Just like other members of the military, homosexuals are expected to uphold the moral conduct of the armed forces. This ensures that discipline within the forces is maintained and that work operations continue as usual. The military has established rules regarding fraternization and sexual harassment and all members are expected to adhere to such rules irrespective of their status (Higbee 83).

A person’s ability to serve in the military does not depend on his or her sexual orientation. Gay and straight people can serve in the military so long as they have the ability, skill, and knowledge required to do so. Many people who are opposed to having homosexuals in the military are afraid of the unknown. They are uncertain of how their relationships with the gay community will affect them. Raising awareness and educating people concerning homosexuality will help relieve some of these fears. The argument that gays will affect the morale of the soldiers and cohesion and discipline within the forces is unfounded. Homosexuals are bound by the same rules and regulations that heterosexuals observe and they are no exception to the law.



Works Cited:

Bawer, Bruce. Place at the Table: the Gay Individual in American Society. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 2008. Print

BBC. Gays in the Military: The UK and US Compared. 2 Feb. 2010. Web. 15 April 2014

Belkin, Aaron et al. One Year Out: An Assessment of DADT Repeal’s Impact on Military Readiness. 20 Sep. 2012. Web. 15 April 2014

Belkin, Aaron and Mcnichol, Jason. “Homosexual Personnel Policy in the Canadian Forces: did lifting the Gay Ban Undermine Military Performance?” International Journal (Winter 2000-2001): 74-90

Bumiller, Elisabeth. “One Year Later, Military Says Gay Policy is working.” The New York Times. 19 Sep. 2012. Web. 15 April 2014

Cochran, Bryan N et al. “Mental health characteristics of sexual minority veterans.” Journal of Homosexuality 60 (2013): 419-435

Higbee, Douglas. Military Culture and Education: Current Intersections of Academic and Military Cultures. Surrey, UK: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2013. Print

Jackson, Paul. One of the Boys: Homosexuality in the Military during World War II. Quebec: Mc-Gill-Queen’s Press, 2010. Print

Shawyer, Lois. And the Flag was Still There: Straight People, Gay People, and Sexuality in the US Military. Psychology Press, 1995. Print

Sprigg, Peter. “Keep the Law against Open Homosexuality in the Military.” Family Research Council. July 2010. Web. 15 April 2014

USNI. “Key Dates in U.S. Policy on Gay Men and Women in Military Service.” U.S. Naval Institute. n. d. Web. 15 April 2014

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