How the military defined homosexuality and the ways that shaped the gay and lesbian identity and movements
The Political Construction of Sexuality by the U.S. Military
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Gary L. Lehring
In 1993, simply the idea that lesbians and gays should be able to serve openly in the military created a firestorm of protest from right-wing groups and powerful social conservatives that threatened to derail the entire agenda of a newly elected President. Nine short years later, in the wake of September 11, 2001, the Pentagon's suspension of discharge of gay and lesbians went largely overlooked and unremarked by political pundits, news organizations, military experts, religious leaders and gay activists. How can this collective cultural silence be explained?
Officially Gay follows the military's century-long attempt to identify and exclude gays and lesbians. It traces how the military historically constructed definitions of homosexual identity relying upon religious, medical, and psychological discourses that defined homosexuals as evil, degenerate, and unstable, making their risk to national security obvious, and mandating their exclusion from the Armed Services.
Officially Gay argues that this process made possible greater regulation and scrutiny of gays and lesbians both in and out of the military while simultaneously helping to create a gay and lesbian political movement and helped shape the direction that movement would take.
"Officially Gay turns philosophies and policies into clear, provocative accounts of movement ideas and personal lives. Lehring taps thinkers like Arendt and Foucault to analyze military policy, medical research, Congressional testimony, news reporting, legal analysis, and more. This is a telling contribution from political theory to public policy and practical politics."
"Lehring's examination of discharge cases is fascinating."
"[It] makes a unique and important contribution to the growing body of literature concerning the debate on the US military's ban on homosexuality...the strength of his book lies in his demonstration of how sociopolitical attitudes and values are translated into laws and policy."
"In this impassioned treatise, Lehring argues that military policies towards gays and lesbians have played a major role in the creation of what he terms an 'official' gay identitynamely, 'who and what lesbians and gay men are.' The opportunity to defend one's country is a hallmark of citizenship, explains Lehring; thus, an individual who is deemed unfit for military service based on his sexual orientation is, in many ways, stripped of some of his rights and privileges as an American."
"This book represents an important contribution to the disciplinary study of gay and lesbian politics.... Lehring's compelling treatment of the military policy chapters (which form the core of the book) make this recommended reading for students of minority politics, public policy, and gender and sexuality studies."
In the series
Queer Politics, Queer Theories, edited by Craig Rimmerman.
The last ten years have seen the growth of rich research in the politics of sexuality. Queer Politics, Queer Theories, edited by Craig Rimmerman, aims at developing this research both within and across disciplines. The series will focus on politics in the broadest sense: not only state- and government-oriented studies, but also community politics and the internal politics of new social movements. Such work may originate in political science, sociology, economics, American studies, philosophy, law, history, or anthropology. The series will be defined not by particular academic disciplines but by the questions raised in it. The keys are a concern for the play of power and meaning in discussions of sexuality, and/or a reading of the role of sexuality and sexual identities in conceptions of social and political studies or in our common life.