✮ [PDF] ✩ Coming Out Under Fire By Allan Bérubé ✻ – Peakpopa.info

Coming Out Under Fire Hoo boy I want to start this off by first acknowledging the important work Berube did in this book this book was definitely groundbreaking when it was published, and importantly, legitimized the service of gay and lesbian veterans of World War II Berube s work here also served a materially political purpose, which is something that many academics cannot say That being said, if you, like me, are suspicious at best of the citizen soldier construct, this book can be difficult to get through I found myself drowning in homo nationalism so frequently that I had to put the book aside for weeks at a time You ll notice it took me six months to finish it, and that wasn t just because grad school got in the way The introduction to Berube s My Desire for History gives some context for his need to honor these veterans this way, but it still was difficult to grapple with as a reader who might have appreciated a little nuanced look into the service of these individuals The best parts of the book for me were those centering around lesbian women in the military they were mostly free from the horrifying culture of masculinity that Berube described with gay men serving, and so I enjoyed them much I will, as always in books like this, point out that though Berube pays lip service to bisexual and transgender people in the text, their actual appearances are minimal at best which is to say that some of the folks interviewed or talked about might have identified as bisexual, though Berube is not explicit in identifying any, and, in the case of transgender people in particular, are wholly absent which is really interesting, given the rich history of particularly transgender people serving in the military Though I understand that wasn t Berube s intention per se, I am going to note it for potential readers. In chronicling the range of experiences of gay men and lesbians who served in the US military in WWII, B rub argues that the military s treatment of homosexuality was a crucial catalyst in the subsequent development of the notion of gays as a political class with rights to fight for, and thence for the gay rights movement Prior to the war, the military dealt with homosexual acts via criminal codes and court martial With the Selective Service and the induction of hundreds of thousands of men to fight in the new war, though, a need arose to screen out draftees who were undesirable or thought to be unsuited for combat This, combined with some time honored stereotypes about gay men, led to the notion of homosexuality as a personality trait or mental disorder, depending upon whom you asked to be screened for and excluded This shift of focus from homosexual conduct to homosexual persons, B rub argues, was a crucial change of attitude that extended beyond the war into civilian life, and changed both the way society at large thought about homosexuality and the way gay people thought about themselves B rub also argues that the progression of the war saw a general liberalization of policies toward homosexuals, borne mostly out of necessity court martial or administrative hearings for every gay soldier would have been a tremendous drain on resources, and discharging them all would have reduced the available pool of soldiers at a time when every one was badly needed Different soldiers received vastly different treatment, depending upon where they were big administrative posts tended to be harsher toward gay soldiers than deployed units in active combat, where tightly bonded groups depended upon tolerance for survival , which psychiatrists examined them, who their commanding officers were, and other vagaries After the war, though, after a brief period of gratitude and tolerance in which many public voices decried discrimination against soldiers discharged for homosexuality and agitated to make them eligible for GI Bill benefits, the general cultural trend toward conformity and strict enforcement of gender roles swung the pendulum back and drove a new wave of discrimination which in turn furthered the development of the fledgling political movement for gay rights B rub chronicles all of this with a readable blend of pieces of the historical record and the oral histories of gay servicemen and women If that and women sounds like a bit of an afterthought, it sort of is B rub tries to include the stories of lesbians in his discussion, but the book is really 90% about policies toward, and experiences of, men This is partly because the vast majority of soldiers were men millions of American men served in the war and only a couple hundred thousand women And it s partly because lesbian sexuality often flies under the radar among male policymakers who have no concept of female sexuality independent of the presence of and desires of men But it s only partly so What B rub offers of the stories of lesbian WACs, WAVES, and nurses is rich and fascinating And the policy considerations that pointed toward or away from excluding lesbians from service were quite different from those that drove the treatment of gay male soldiers, an equally fascinating point that B rub treats only briefly One does have the feeling that B rub could have balanced his focus if he had wanted to. Groundbreaking study of the American LGBT experience during World War II Drawing on dozens of interviews with veterans, Berube shows how traditional gender roles were confused and complicated by mass military service The military officially spurned homosexuality, subjecting suspected gay and lesbian enlistees to psychological exams, imprisonment and dishonorable discharge Yet the homosocial climate and extreme value placed on wartime camaraderie from the buddy system encouraged by officers to male drag revues forged extremely close bonds between service members, which often led to either casual sexual encounters what Berube terms situational homosexuality or long term relationships among GIs, WACs and others Ironically, the need for discretion forged a shared identity among servicemen and women who d been previously reticent about their sexual orientation For many, it was their entry to a distinct community, albeit an extremely marginalized one Berube doesn t restrict himself to exploring wartime gender roles, however he shows that gay and lesbian soldiers served just as honorably as heterosexual GIs, saving the lives of comrades, winning decorations and performing dangerous jobs from combat medics to frontline infantry under fire Many were imprisoned, stripped of medals or denied veterans benefits after the war, forcing them to fight back resulting in one of the earliest gay rights movements in America A fascinating study that honors men and women who served a country that often failed to honor them a dilemma that, unfortunately, remains unresolved seven decades later. rating 5.5 5 This nonfiction history work presents a complex analysis of the intersection of homosexuality and society, culture, military rules and regulations, and soldiers drafted and volunteered alike during World War II It doesn t paint gays and lesbians as victims but delves deep into history to find the battles fought outside of the battlefields battles between culture and military need during wartime, imprisonment and need for practicality, vice squads and soldiers, military hierarchy and psychiatrists, soldiers within their ranks, young men and women and themselves their identity, sub culture formation and finding a place within the mainstream culture, freedom to be oneself and service self sacrifice, fear and courage, enemies and allies, culture wars, etc.It is an extraordinary history hidden deep within official documents and personal stories The author interviewed dozens of soldiers, using their words to describe their experiences He also searched for letters lost in attics letters between lovers, friends, comrades He allowed us to enter this fascinating and previously little known secret world, a mere few years in history that had profound impact on gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender individuals for decades after the war that created ripples which can be still felt today. I ve been researching a historical fiction novel about queer men and women in WWII for some time now, and from the preface, I knew this is the book I was looking for Incredibly broad but detailed in its scope, Berube delivers such a meaningful social history At times, while reading, I felt his voice peeking through the writing, above the academic rigour, above the research to make a point all his own Some would criticise this, but I liked it because it demonstrated to me how much this book meant to him What made this book stand out from the others was its consistent use of first person accounts and interviews Berube constantly brought LGBTIQA people to the forefront of his book, quoted them and their life stories I think this really added depth and power to the queer experience and gave his book credibility in a way that facts could not You read the text and are constantly reminded that someone, many people lived this experience Queer people fought in a war only to find that their own military, their own country, did not consider them people, but sexual psychopaths, deviants and perverts And yet we persevered, says Berube, with an all knowing wink the audience And yet we survived.The author gives us an alternate history, reveals how queer people had an affect on popular culture, how we transformed the military, how the military s oppressive policies only united us, literally and figuratively, to fight back, to write ourselves into history This book is so nuanced without being complicated It is compassionate It is full of spirit It is a triumph. Coming Out Under Fire is a thoroughly fascinating, detailed study of a crucial transitional period in American society It s extremely well documented throughout, and although the author s style might be considered dry, the pages come to life because of the words and lives of the people portrayed Berub really did a great job of finding and putting together diverse material, and the quotes from the people he interviewed are always illuminating.Besides the story of how gay soldiers tried to make a place for themselves in the army, find each other, and survive hostility, this book is illuminating as to a shift in social attitudes that was largely started off by the psychiatric profession Psychiatrists, by trying to shift the military procedures from criminalization of sex acts to the medical handling of latent or confirmed homosexuals, began whether they realized it or not to create the basis for recognizing the homosexual person as a problem, independent of what they did In a hostile society, this could lead to a person s positive achievements being entirely discounted Some a few psychiatrists started with the idea that homosexuality was a personality trait that didn t necessarily cause any problems, and ironically, a few who were tasked with interviewing large numbers of soldiers for discharge came to that conclusion their completely ineffective protests against the army s punitive attitude were some of the earliest defenses of homosexuality in the US Gay soldiers often came out of the war with a better sense of themselves as gay, whether because of the chance that cameraderie had given them to feel normal , because of meeting many others like themselves, or precisely because of the segregation and discrimination imposed on them if they were caught up in anti homosexuality policies Challenging their undesirable discharges encouraged some to speak up for themselves, as did the experience of those who went home unwilling to hide their new sense of themselves For the first time, they began to think of themselves as a minority and speak in terms of rights and justice The controversy over blue discharges even led to public discussion that was not always unsympathetic to homosexuals This was a remarkable transitional period before the hysterically conformist crackdown of the fifties.This book gave me a new perspective on a decade of American history that I had wrongly thought familiar, and made for a vivid picture of the social life of the people concerned. I really, really enjoyed this The author didn t touch at all on trans people though I admit I didn t expect him to , and it took him until 85% of the way through the book to admit that some people are bisexual, but overall I found this book fascinating, accessible, and deeply informative For full disclosure, I skipped about half of the chapter on the reformation of the military penal system, and skimmed a bit of the final chapter on post war attitudes towards gay people in part because it was deeply depressing and in part because it just wasn t what I picked up this book for Overall, though, I highly recommend it. This is the key text for homosexual experience in WWII and it remains so Berube did a great job of seeking out information from homosexuals and government documents If one spends time seeking out those documents one can appreciate the time and effort necessary for creating this book There is great breadth covered from the role of psychiatrists, military leaders, the experiences of gays and lesbians in the US military, repression as well as acceptance that does not seem to have too much uniformity during the war Well worth the read. An extensive and detailed history of the gay and lesbian experience in World War II.At times it was fairly repetitive and tried to wrap the entire gay and lesbian experience into a single narrative, but it was incredibly detailed, thoroughly researched and understood the limits of its own research as in, there is no way to tell how many gays and lesbians served.While it doesn t talk about any transgender or bisexual service members at least, it mentions servicemembers who did have partners of both sexes but called them either experimenting with their sexuality or releasing tension , it did do a pretty good job detailing the lives of gays and lesbians in the US military.The book really stands out with the personal narratives of various servicemembers detailing their experience from camping to camp shows, to the queer stockades and gay clubs, to living openly and having to hide everything, to being jailed for sodomy to being given a blue discharge for homosexuality.The haphazard enforcement of the no homosexual rules in the military really broke my heart, along with the queer stockades where men were kept in cages in open areas as examples for other servicemembers to gawk and stare at and those men who were jailed for homosexual acts and kept completely segregated in the jails and treated as sexual perverts Additionally, there were queer witch hunts, where individuals suspected of homosexuality were interrogated at length and forced to betray their friends and themselves often without the benefit of legal counsel and if they confessed their feelings to a doctor, psychologist or chaplain their secret had to be reported to the command.As a queer veteran who served during the repeal of DODT and DOMA, this entire book was eye opening and made me appreciate how much things have changed, and how much inclusive the military has become over the years and how much further we need to go, particularly in terms of homophobia in the ranks and the transgender ban I feel so badly for the hell those men and women who were caught and drummed out faced, because the repercussions of the blue discharge lasted their entire lives, and carried into the Lavender Scare of the 1950s.Definitely a must read if you re interested in gay and lesbian military history. Despite The Many Histories Of The Fighting Men And Women In World War II, None Has Been Written About The Estimated One Million Homosexuals Here Is A Dramatic Story Of These People, Revealing The History Of The Anti Gay Policy Pursued By The US Military Authorities In World War II Two Page Photo Inserts

About the Author: Allan Bérubé

Alan Berube, founder of the San Francisco Lesbian and Gay History Project, is best known for his 1990 book about homosexual life in the military during World War II.

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