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Special Features Index  

Spotlight Military Service
Lesbians and gay men have often served honorably in their nations' armed services, and some have been prominent military leaders. Officially-sanctioned homophobia has often made such service difficult and sometimes impossible.

America's Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy and some other countries' exclusion of gay and lesbian service members continue to devastate many lives today.

Frederick the Great
Frederick the Great
  Alexander the GreatKing Alexander the Great of Macedonia (356-323 B.C.E.) was not only a great soldier and conqueror, he was also renowned for his love of Hephaestion.  
  Lord Robert Baden-Powell (1857-1941), a British military hero and the founder of the Boy Scouts and the Girl Guides, was probably a homosexual.  
  Miriam Ben-Shalom (b. 1948) was the first gay or lesbian servicemember to be reinstated to her position in the United States military after being discharged for her sexual orientation.  
  Sir Richard BurtonSir Richard Burton (1821-1890) was knighted in 1886 in honor of his consular service and intelligence work, though he was regarded with suspicion because of his knowledge of same-sex sexual activity.  
  Julius Caesar (ca. 100-44 B.C.E.), the Roman politician, general, and writer, was one of the most powerful men of the ancient world. He was frequently reminded, sometimes derisively, of his youthful sexual affair with the king of Bithynia.  
  Colonel Margarethe Cammermeyer (b. 1942) successfully challenged the U.S. military's policy banning homosexuals prior to the implementation of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."  
  The Don't Ask Don't Tell policy, in effect since 1993, was a compromise intended to end discrimination against gay men and lesbians in the U.S. military, but it has failed to halt discharges based solely on sexual orientation.  
  European military culture varies widely in its attitudes toward gay and lesbian personnel from the acceptance of the Dutch to the laissez-faire policy of the French to the rejection of the Greek and Turkish forces.  
  King Frederick the Great of Prussia (1712-1786) greatly expanded his kingdom through a series of brutal wars. His homosexuality was an open secret during his reign.  
  Alexander HamiltonAlexander Hamilton (1757-1804), the  American Revolutionary War hero and statesman, exchanged a series of passionate love letters with a young man, John Laurens, who was killed in 1782.  
  Leonard Matlovich (1943-1988) became one of the glbtq community's most visible activists in the 1970s by challenging the
U.S. Air Force's ban on gay and lesbian service members.
  Harry Stack Sullivan (1892-1949), a psychiatrist and a gay man, developed the psychiatric program used by the American military during World War II to weed homosexuals out of the Army.  
  The relation between U.S. military culture and homosexuality is complex and contradictory, defining itself explicitly in opposition to homosexuality, but nevertheless facilitating the very behavior and identity it seeks to exclude.  
  The Uniform Code of Military Justice, adopted in 1950, is the fountainhead of the United States' military's discriminatory policies toward homosexual personnel.  
  Photo Credits:  Images of Frederick the Great, Alexander the Great, and Alexander Hamilton Copyright © 2003-2004, Image of Sir Richard Burton courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.  


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