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Gay Warriors

Gay Warriors: A Documentary History from the Ancient World to the Present

EDITED BY B. R. Burg
Copyright Date: 2002
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 299
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qfcm0
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  • Book Info
    Gay Warriors
    Book Description:

    In Ancient Greece and Rome, in Crusader campaigns and pirate adventures, same-sex romances were a common and condoned part of military culture. From the Peloponnesian War to the Gulf War, from Achelleus to Lawrence of Arabia gays and lesbians have played a crucial but often hidden role in military campaigns. But recent debates over the legality of gay service in the military and the "don't ask, don't tell" policy have obscured this rich aspect of military history. Richard Burg has recovered important documents and assembled an anthology on these often invisible gay and lesbian warriors. Burg shows us that the Amazons of legend weren't just fictional. We learn about the richness and variety of their culture in documents from Plato, Seneca and Suetonius. From courts-martial proceedings we discover women warriors in seventeenth century England who passed as men in order to serve, and army officers whose underground culture fostered long-term romantic friendships. There are also sections on the American Civil War, World War I and II, the contemporary U.S. military as well as sailors and pirates. This anthology will forever change the way we think about "gays in the military."

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-0909-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Editorial Note
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-4)

    In the autumn of 1991, presidential candidate Bill Clinton launched an acrimonious national debate over homosexuality. During an appearance at Harvard University, he was asked if he favored rescinding the U.S. military’s longstanding ban on service by lesbians and gay men. Clinton responded affirmatively, indicating that he would issue an executive order to that effect, if elected. After his inauguration in January 1993, he discovered a swarm of powerful opponents arrayed against him when he tried to redeem the pledge. In the angry and intemperate exchanges that followed, the arguments over whether or not gays could be allowed to serve...

  5. CHAPTER 1 The Classical World
    (pp. 5-26)

    The Greeks of antiquity produced a substantial quantity of literature on both warfare and homosexuality, but junctures where the two subjects intersect are few. The cities of Ilia and Thebes regularly exploited the homosexual ethos for military purposes, customarily posting pairs of lovers beside each other in battle. Little else is known of Ilian military practice, but the “Sacred Band of Thebes,” organized in 378 b.c., not only was composed entirely of homosexual lovers but formed the hard core of the formidable Theban army until it was crushed by Philip of Macedon at Chaeronea in 338 b.c. The Theban commander,...

  6. CHAPTER 2 Amazons
    (pp. 27-64)

    The Amazons of classical literature have been a puzzling phenomenon from the time of the ancients to the present. Although there was little doubt among at least some writers of two thousand years ago that they once existed, no physical evidence establishes that the Amazons were ever more than mythological beings. Information about them in literary sources is at best fragmentary, hardly more than scattered lines and commentary spread throughout the works of a wide array of Greek and Roman authors. What is clear from their varying descriptions is that writers of antiquity were unable to account for the Amazons,...

  7. CHAPTER 3 The Medieval Templars
    (pp. 65-102)

    In the early fourteenth century, the medieval order of the Knights Templar was accused of a series of crimes that included fostering homosexuality within its ranks. The order was judged guilty of most of the charges and disbanded in 1309, but the accuracy of the accusations of homosexuality has been hotly debated over the succeeding centuries. Some believe that the considerable power of the Templars and their vast wealth were, in and of themselves, sufficient cause for the Catholic Church to destroy them, and that the personal hostility of the French king, Philip IV, was also a principal factor in...

  8. CHAPTER 4 Eighteenth-Century Warriors
    (pp. 103-120)

    There are several sodomy cases in English Admiralty records before 1700, but none of the prosecutions involved naval personnel. It was not until the reign of Queen Anne in the early eighteenth century that concern began to grow over what appeared to be a rapid increase in homosexuality. The main factor leading to the spread of the vice, according to several commentators, was the importation of Italian opera into England. Sodomy was no longer considered a simple crime caused by bad character, as was the case in the days of Queen Elizabeth and the early Stuart kings. It had become...

  9. CHAPTER 5 Britain and the Wars against Napoleon
    (pp. 121-160)

    Record keeping, particularly judicial record keeping, improved substantially from the late eighteenth century onward. This is nowhere more apparent than in the transcripts of Royal Navy sodomy trials. Accounts of proceedings from the Napoleonic wars onward contain far more information than is found in the documents from earlier cases.

    It is not possible to speculate on the extent of sodomy in the navy on the basis of the number of courts martial during the period, but examination of the few dozen trials held at the Public Record Office indicates that punishments meted out to those convicted became progressively more brutal...

  10. CHAPTER 6 Nineteenth-Century Americans at War
    (pp. 161-190)

    The Mexican War in the late 1840s and the Civil War a dozen years later wrenched over a million of America’s young men from their homes and families and sent them off to serve under arms. The life they discovered as soldiers and sailors was, for most of them, far removed from what they had known before. Familiar restraints imposed by society, community, and the forces of religion vanished, but the military discipline they endured dominated only parts of their daily routine. In the many spare hours these men spent on board ships, garrisoning forts, on furlough, or in army...

  11. CHAPTER 7 The U.S. Navy after World War I
    (pp. 191-222)

    The U.S. military had not been particularly concerned with the homoerotic practices of its soldiers or sailors during the late eighteenth or the early nineteenth century. One of marine drummer Philip Van Buskirk’s most frequent laments during his service in the 1840s and 1850s was that the officers and noncommissioned officers cared little about the vice and immorality he observed, chronicled, and reported to them. Even the strains of the Civil War produced no move to protect either Union or Confederate warriors from covert sodomites who might be lurking in their tents or sleeping close by in shipboard hammocks. The...

  12. CHAPTER 8 World War II
    (pp. 223-250)

    Large gay communities were well established in major American cities by the early twentieth century. Physicians, academics, and investigators of human sexuality had, by then, already adopted the termhomosexualto describe men who belonged to what was widely recognized by both participants and observers as relatively stable confraternities of individuals with similar sexual preferences and an aggregation of overlapping interests, many of which were unrelated to their sexual practices.

    The expanding awareness of homosexuality was not shared by the United States military forces. They continued to regard sexual activity between members of the same sex as a crime, much...

  13. CHAPTER 9 The Cold War to the Age of Clinton
    (pp. 251-286)

    The demand for ever-greater numbers of men and women to fill the ranks evaporated with victory in World War II and the subsequent demobilization of the military. In the smaller postwar army and navy, and after 1947, the air force, manpower levels were easily maintained, and the recommendations of military psychiatrists and psychologists were largely ignored, since there was no pressing need to retain men and women in the services.

    When the struggle against communism began in earnest during the late 1940s and early 1950s, the government of the United States met the needs of the military by reinstituting a...

  14. Sources
    (pp. 287-290)
  15. Permissions
    (pp. 291-292)
  16. Index
    (pp. 293-298)
  17. About the Editor
    (pp. 299-300)