A dated analysis of homosexuals in the U.S. military

I was interested in researching some of the history of homosexual persecution and came across some research on homosexuals in the military from 1970 called “Being Discovered: A Study of Homosexuals in the Military” by Colin J. Williams and Martin S. Weinburg. The essay is a bit dated in its analysis as this was 23 years before the “don’t ask don’t tell policy”. However it was definitely important to my own interests to how the treatment and frequent discharge of servicemen for being a homosexual was viewed and analyzed.

They began with the term “deviant” which in the military scope involves as David Bordua (1967) suggests “assumes an empty organism or at least on with little or no autonomous capacity to determine conduct.” William and Weinberg consider this title of “deviant” to have been either acquired by chance or through racial, socioeconomic factors. They say that the homosexual is under this scope of the “deviant” and use their experience as an example of how such a title is proclaimed on an individual.

Before beginning to explain the research they had done, Williams and Weinberg go into some what I believe is unnecessary assumptions about the sexual activity of a homosexual before induction into the military. They talked about how the homosexual who is frequently active in his civilian lifestyle will have multiple sexual encounters only a few days from the induction. From there they do nothing with that assumption and leave into the essay like it was a fact to be printed. I felt weird about their unsupported rant that just leaves behind but I believe that was just one of the few flaws in Williams and Weinbutg’s research. Yet, they go on to explain their assumption on how the homosexual will maintain the “operative” lifestyle in the military, learned through their civilian lifestyle. That statement they also leave alone without example.

To begin their actual research Williams and Weinburg sent questionnaires to a mailing list of two homophile magazines from San Francisco and New York.  Within the questionnaire were questions of whether these individuals were vets, whether they were excused from the service through honorable or dishonorable discharge, and whether the dishonorable discharge was due to their homosexual identity. From the numbers of responses they received and the interviews they were allowed to take of some of the volunteers, Williams and Weinburg figured the most common risk for homosexuality. Most of the participants experienced their sexuality “discovered” by association of other people. Most were turned in from either a jealous lover, blackmail, or having letters and journals raided by officials. Other participants were discovered through someone else’s finding out and being revealed through either their partner or from servicemen who voluntarily use their homosexuality as a tool to leave the military and reveal names within the process. They conclude their research by stating the factor that is most large at play for the situation of a homosexual being un-honorably discharged is sex. Which I thought obvious and of course equally horrible as wartime violations such as rape does not get punished to such a degree as a homosexual experience.

I feel like one element that this essay could have used, even though they mention it in the beginning of the paper, is the inclusion of race. Since he had been talking about the state’s tendency to narrow a person’s identity into one category or another, I was interested in the inclusion of race how it might have some sort of pattern with this evaluated group. For instance were homosexuals in the military more blackmailed or raided when they were a person of color? It would also be a nice idea for this type of information to be mentioned with the identity of this call list from the two magazines.



One thought on “A dated analysis of homosexuals in the U.S. military

  1. This post makes me wonder how it matters that Latin@s are disproportionately represented in the military, in light of the DADT battle. I wonder also how a growing queer anti-military movement might complicate these findings.

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