ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



 Homophobia, like racism and sexism, in our armed forces is dangerous because it thwarts

 the necessary emotional bonding needed among soldiers in battle, and it underutilized

the needed human resources to make a strong military.



The battle on the home front

By Rev. Irene Monroe


It is not surprising that Gen. Peter Pace—chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and senior ranking officer in the U.S. military—gave his personal opinion about gay service personnel, stating that homosexuality is “immoral.” But it is surprising that in the midst of a war that needs every able-bodied fighter, the enlisting of our American patriots continues to include a debate about sexual orientation.

Military readiness is not a heterosexual calling. And even Charles Moskos, the chief architect of the failed “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, has said that it should be temporarily suspended, especially if the draft is reinstated.

Under current policy, the Pentagon polices the sexual behavior of its service members because grounds for their discharge include: “if they attempt to engage in a ‘homosexual act,’ state they are gay openly (unless they can prove they have no propensity or intention to engage in a ‘homosexual act’) or attempt to marry a person of the same sex.” 

The military’s belief that service members who are gay or lesbian endanger “unit cohesion” only maintains a policy of segregation and fosters a climate of intolerance.

Also, the beliefs that men of mixed sexual orientations showering together and heterosexual women sitting on the same toilet seats as lesbians corrupt the military’s image are eerily reminiscent of the same arguments used when the military was forced to racially integrate.

But Pace isn’t the only one who feels gays should not serve in the military. In a 2003 interview with online news site, former Secretary of State Colin Powell shared his reason for defending the military’s ban on gay service members: “I think it’s a different matter with respect to the military, because you’re essentially told who you’re going to live with, who you’re going to sleep next to.”

The Rev. Peter J. Gomes, Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church at Harvard University, wrote in his essay, “Black Christians and Homosexuality: The Pathology of a Permitted Prejudice,” that Powell’s concern that gay Americans in the military would “destroy unit cohesion,” and thus compromise military capability, is a fallacious argument that he should know is reminiscent of the military’s long history of racist arguments that he, too, had once endured.

Unit cohesion and military capability, Gomes stated, “remains an appropriate concern of a military man, but Gen. Powell in this dispute was more than a mere military man. He was a military man of color, and thus could give cover to any painful analogy between the admission of gays into a heterosexual military and the admission of blacks into a white military.”

Homophobia, like racism and sexism, in our armed forces is dangerous because it thwarts the necessary emotional bonding needed among soldiers in battle, and it underutilized the needed human resources to make a strong military.

On another front, the privacy rationale states that all service members have the right to maintain at least partial control over the exposure of their bodies and intimate bodily functions. In other words, heterosexual men deserve the right to control who sees their naked bodies. According to the privacy rationale argument, the “homosexual gaze” in same-sex nudity does more than disrupt unit cohesion. Its supposedly predatory nature expresses sexual yearning and desire for unwilling subjects that not only violates the civil rights of heterosexuals, but also causes untoward psychological and emotional trauma.

While it is believed that the “homosexual gaze” would be the root cause for the disruption of unit cohesion and military capability, it is actually the macho male heterosexual culture embedded in this milieu. It is this culture that both sexually harasses and rapes female and gay service members.

A study entitled, “A Modest Proposal: Privacy as a Flawed Rationale for the Exclusion of Gays and Lesbians from the U.S. Military,” states that banning gay and lesbian service members would not preserve the privacy of its heterosexual service members, but would instead undermine heterosexual privacy because of its systematic invasion to maintain it. And in order to maintain heterosexual privacy, military inspectors would not only inquire about the sexual behaviors of its service members, but also look into the sexual behaviors of the spouses, partners, friends and relatives of its service members.

The study found that heterosexuals already shower with known gay service members, so lifting the ban would not significantly increase the number of gay personnel, and few heterosexuals are extremely uncomfortable with gay service members.

However, gays in the military were not always forcefully closeted with a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Like heterosexual service members, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender service members have been proudly and openly putting their lives on the line for their countries since antiquity.

The Greeks, for one, favored gay and bisexual young men in their military. Since gay and bisexual men were considered a family unit, the Greeks knew that paired male lovers assigned to the same battalions were a military asset. They would fights courageously, side by side, and would die heroically together in battle.

Alexander the Great (356-323 BCE), king of Macedonia and noted as one of the greatest military conquerors, was openly bisexual. When his lover Hephaestion died in battle, Alexander not only mourned openly for his lover, he staged an extravagant funeral that took six months to prepare.

Military drag was a common practice in war during the first century. Heterosexual and queer men were known to cross-dress as women in order to catch their opponents off-guard. First-century historian Josephus wrote in his “History of the Jewish War”: “While their faces looked like the faces of women, they killed with manly right hands.”

Our most well known queers in the military, however, are Jonathan and David in the Old Testament. In Samuel 18:1-3, Jonathan makes a covenant with David and strips off his clothes in front of Jonathan to give him his armor. In Samuel 20:41, Jonathan and David kiss each other. When Jonathan dies in battle, David conveys his love for Jonathan when he says, in 2 Samuel 1:26: “I grieve for you, Jonathan my brother! Most dear have you been to me; your love more wonderful to me surpassing the love of women.”

Our gay and lesbian service members are prepared to defend this country with their lives. And an absence of openly gay and lesbian service members shows how America will not be able to present itself as a united front on the battlefield because the real war in America is with itself.

posted 25 March 2007

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label ‘trafficked’ does not accurately describe migrants’ lives and that the ‘rescue industry’ serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. “Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality.”—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

According to the author, this society has historically exerted considerable pressure on black females to fit into one of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the Matriarch or the Jezebel.  The selfless Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.     

Professor Perry points out how the propagation of these harmful myths have served the mainstream culture well. For instance, the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for black females to feel a maternal instinct towards Caucasian babies.

As for the source of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their own bodies during slavery given that they were being auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless, it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate indiscriminately.

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Sister Grief: Defined and Conquered in Jesus

By Yvonne Terry-Lewis

“Sister Grief: Defined and Conquered in Jesus” is an engaging book that confronts the universal experience of living with death and dying. The author personifies the personal loss of loved ones as “Sister Grief.” The book, partly autobiographical, provides a holistic plan for conquering grief through faith, through a special relationship with Jesus. This plan is designed to help navigate one through the grieving process.

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

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*   *   *   *   *

The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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updated 3 November 2007 ]]>




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