Global identity and the individual: Military Service and Homosexuality

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The complexity of homosexuality with regards to the relationship of an individual with the nation state becomes clear when examining the military participation of GLBT people. Before 2011, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy of the US continued to marginalise the service of gay people within the US military. It may appear strange that gay people would want to serve within the military at all, considering the oppressive atmosphere which no doubt existed at the time. The Government Accountability Office report in 2005 reveals that 83% of those discharged under the DADT policy from 1994-2003 voluntarily revealed their sexuality (Sinclair, 2008). This figure includes highly skilled specialists in linguistics or intelligence, the US in fact, offered huge reenlistment bonuses up to $10,000 in order to bolster the numbers after causing droves of marginalised gay members to resign (Sinclair, 2008). The fact that gay people within the military are expected not to reveal any real information about themselves in conversation, marital status for example, seems absurd. Considering that in the past, homosexuals were denied access to the military due to not being able to integrate with heterosexuals, stressing unit cohesion as important. Sinclair (2008) uses Hakim’s preference theory in order to study the question of why a gay person would seek to serve in the military under DADT. Central are advances which have been made in gay rights to provide choices for homosexuals to pursue their interests with courage. Sinclair (2008, p.p 35-36) uses Hakim’s theory to group homosexuals who join the military into three categories of life preferences: adaptive, consisting of homosexuals whose sexuality does not play a central role in their lives and are so willing to make sacrifices such as not disclosing their sexuality in order to continue with a military career; work-centred, more concerned with the military career than the homosexual identity; or community-centred, the most connected with the homosexual identity and focus not on long term employment plans but exploring options. Homosexuals wishing to serve in the military are faced with a conflict of prioritising their interests. Sinclair concludes that the choice of a homosexual to join the military is based on their knowledge of the environment and of themselves at the time. Sinclar emphasis that researches shows that participants of his study to explore the issue of gay people in the US military, experienced depression at some stage of their duty.
Britton and Williams (1995, p.p 11-12) explain the restrictions on the service of homosexual members of the military as an important social control function. All sexuality is not repressed (a common argument in defending policies like the DADT bill) – in fact a masculinised heterosexuality is encouraged for example, through the encouragement of using prostitutes, among other forms of objectifying women. These factors are institutionalised to uphold these attitudes. The Russian military, for example, made homosexuality among military men punishable by flogging, rape and forced labour. The military may seek to maintain this heteronormativity in order not to “contaminate” the bonds required of people living in such close contact which they perceive as being invaded in other aspects of society, seeing the military as the last bastion to have a ‘pure’ male bond (Britton and Williams, 1995). Masculinity as synonymous with heterosexuality within the military context leads to any bonding becoming suspect, in the eyes of the institution, if openly gay men were in the ranks. An ideological element to the institutionalisation of heterosexuality is also the fact that the armed forces grants status advantages to men over women. The military has established a mythical image of the soldier as hyper-masculine – only available to males. This hegemonic perpetuation can be exemplified in the use of ‘pin-up girl’ images on planes during WWII or in the recent image of Marines marching under signs telling them “rape, pillage and burn” (Britton and Williams, 1995, p14). Homosexual men and women challenge this discourse, presenting a threat to the hegemonic masculinity presented as the ideal. This example is highly significant in deconstructing an actor’s identity with relation to the nation state and poses questions regarding the primacy of certain identities and sacrificing the interests of one aspect of an identity for the sake of another conviction.

Bibliography

Britton, D. M and Williams, C. L. (1995). ‘‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Pursue’’: Military Policy and the Construction of Heterosexual Masculinity. Journal of Homosexuality. 30 (1), 1-21.

Sinclair, D, G. (2008). Homosexuality and the U.S military: a study of homosexual identity and choice of military service . Available: http://dspace.uta.edu/bitstream/handle/10106/963/umi-uta-2055.pdf. [Last accessed 11/11/2013].

In conclusion to these globalisation essays, issues unfolding in global politics, on any level, are impossible to understanding without consideration to the matter of identity. The arguably decreasing role the more traditional theories are playing in discussions today highlights this. It is impossible to understand the interconnected world without considering the individual’s role within it, of paramount importance is understanding the construction of social norms in order to comprehend how an individual views themselves within the global society. The reconciliation of the debate of the global and local identities being at odds seems to be in the concept of ‘glocalisaiton’ – being at peace with the identities of the global and the local at once.

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