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Popular Topics in Social Sciences
Africa: Sub-Saharan, Pre-Independence
With reports from hundreds of sub-Saharan African locales of male-male sexual relations and from about fifty of female-female sexual relations, it is clear that same-sex sexual relations existed in traditional African societies, though varying in forms and in the degree of public acceptance
 
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Congratulations
 
Happy Memorial Day 2013
Posted by: Claude J. Summers on 05/27/13
Last updated on: 05/27/13
 
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Cpl. Andrew Wilfahrt, a gay soldier who died in Afghanistan in 2011.

As we celebrate Memorial Day 2013, we need to remember the sacrifices made by those who have served in our military, including glbtq servicemembers, both those who served in silence and those who are now able to serve openly. We need especially to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice.

It is gratifying to know that following the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, gay and lesbian servicemembers are able to enjoy the kind of freedom that their straight colleagues take for granted.

Following the repeal of DADT, American gay and lesbian servicemembers have served openly and without incident. Gay and lesbian clubs have formed at the military academies and gay and lesbian couples have attended formal balls at the U.S. Naval Academy and other schools, with the acceptance of their colleagues.

The new level of comfort felt by gay and lesbian servicemembers on active duty is also apparent in the numerous photographs and videos of same-sex partners greeting each other with kisses and hugs upon returning from deployment.

However, as we celebrate this new openness, we must not forget those who suffered under the old policies--including the 14,000 servicemembers discharged under DADT--and those who fought so tenaciously to change them.

More specifically, we need to remember heroes like Sgt. Leonard Matlovich, Sgt. Perry Watkins, Sgt. Miriam Ben-Shalom, and Col. Margarethe Cammermeyer, who were pioneers in fighting against discrimination in the military.

Heroes in the fight to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell also need to be honored. These include Aubrey Sarvis of the Service Members Legal Defense Network, Alexander Nicholson of Servicemembers United, and Nathaniel Frank and Aaron Belkin of the Palm Center, as well as Lt. Dan Choi, Capt. Jim Pietrangelo, Capt. Tanya Domi, Cpl. Evelyn Thomas, Maj. Michael Almy, Lt. Robert Chaurasiya, Lt. Col. Victor Fehrenbach, Sgt. Justin Elzie, and Spc. Jarrod Chlapowski, and Pty. Off. Autumn Sandeen, among many, many others.

In addition, we must also be cognizant that glbtq servicemembers and their families are often denied benefits that are made available to other families. Despite efforts to extend equal benefits, the military claims to be hampered in that regard by the Defense of Marriage Act, which compels the federal government to recognize only heterosexual marriages.

On Memorial Day, those who have given their lives defending our country especially should be remembered.

One of them is Sgt. Donna R. Johnson, who was killed on October 1, 2012 when a Taliban suicide bomber rammed a motorcycle packed with explosives into a joint U.S.-Afghan patrol in Afghanistan. She and two other members of the North Carolina National Guard were among 14 killed in the attack.

Compounding the tragedy of Sgt. Johnson's death is the fact that, thanks to the Defense of Marriage Act, her wife, Tracy Dice, was denied survivor's benefits that she would have received had she been a man.

Another gay soldier who made he ultimate sacrifice is Cpl. Andrew Wilfahrt of Rosemont, Minnesota, who was killed in Afghanistan in February 27, 2011.

The openly gay Wilfahrt joined the Army in 2009, when DADT was still in effect. His decision to join the military surprised his parents. They wondered why Andrew would enter the military, where he'd be forced to deny a part of who he is and where he would be in danger. Nevertheless, the parents supported his decision, just as they had supported him when he came out at age 16.

When they learned that their son had been killed, Jeff Wilfahrt, Andrew's father, at first feared that he might have been fragged because he was gay. "I want to talk directly to somebody in his platoon!" Jeff told the officer and chaplain who delivered the tragic news.

What he discovered was that Andrew was accepted and valued by his colleagues. He was so well-liked his comrades named a combat outpost for him. COP Wilfahrt sits 6 kilometers from Kandahar. To his buddies, it is not named for a gay soldier, but for one who fought with valor.

"Mom, everyone knows. Nobody cares," he told his mother in their final conversation.

Since Andrew Wilfahrt's death, his parents have embraced the cause of gay rights. As Jeff Wilfahrt has said, "If my son was good enough to fight and die for the constitution, the least I can do is continue the fight here."

For more about Andrew Wilfahrt, see Wayne Drash's CNN report and associated videos, which may be found here.

In the video below, Cpl. Wifahrt's parents speak movingly of their son.

 
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