April 21, 2024
What a society accepts as normal changes over time. As it does, inevitably the military organizations that protects that society adapt to reflect those changes. Throughout history, the U.S. military has both led and lagged societal changes. Heather Haley is in the studio to discuss how the Department of Defense has handled LGBT issues and the changing attitudes in American society. She joins guest host Carrie Lee for a conversation about the acceptance of lesbian, gay ,and bisexual service members and the ongoing discussion about transgender service members.

What a society accepts as normal changes over time. As it does, inevitably the military organizations that protects that society adapt to reflect those changes. Throughout history, the U.S. military has both led and lagged societal changes. Heather Haley is in the studio to discuss how the Department of Defense has handled LGBT issues and the changing attitudes in American society. She joins guest host Carrie Lee for a conversation about the acceptance of lesbian, gay ,and bisexual service members and the ongoing discussion about transgender service members.

Studying the impact of the military both in peace and in war tells us a lot about the human experience.

Heather M. Haley is a historian for the Naval History and Heritage Command at the Washington Navy Yard. A social historian of the Cold War U.S. Navy, Dr. Haley is the author of the forthcoming book from Cornell University Press titled Queer in the Cold War in which she traces the concurrent civil lawsuits brought against military department secretaries by queer personnel in the early-to-mid-1970s. She is an active member of a number of the SECNAV LGBTQ+ Advisory Board, which endeavors to advance equality, safety, and inclusivity in the modern U.S. Navy.

Carrie A. Lee is an associate professor at the U.S. Army War College, where she serves as the chair of the Department of National Security and Strategy and director of the USAWC Center on Civil-Military Relations. She received her Ph.D. in political science from Stanford University and a B.S. from MIT.

The views expressed in this presentation are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Army War College, U.S. Army, Naval History and Heritage Command, U.S. Navy or Department of Defense.

Photo Description: U.S. Naval Forces Central Command’s (NAVCENT) Diversity Committee presents cake at a Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month observance at NAVCENT Headquarters, June 29, 2017. Initially established as “Gay and Lesbian Month” by Presidential Proclamation in 2000, LGBT Pride Month recognizes the accomplishments of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Photo Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Christina Brewer

12 thoughts on “ADAPTING TO CHANGE: HOW THE DOD HANDLES LGBT ISSUES

  1. Query: should the military be subject to the wishes of individuals? The presupposition that it should is not necessarily an established premise but it was the n basis for the guest’s parting thoughts. Also, the suggestion that the military’s reaction to these issues in the 1970’s was somehow incorrect or misinformed imposes today’s values on an institution’s 50 year old decisions, which is a frustrating tendency that I am notice happens frequently with modern historians.

    This would have been a more interesting discussion if the historian had discussed history and kept her value judgments out of the discussion. The interviewer was more interesting to me than the guest.

    1. Re: VL’s question above, “Should the (U.S.) military be subject to the wishes of individuals” (or, more correctly, subject to the wishes of groups, such as the wishes and/or concepts of groups such as Gen Z and/or Gen A, which the military would appear to now — and/or soon must — recruit from)? As to this such question, might the obvious answer here be “yes;” this, if you actually wish to have a military?

      The problem with this such question and answer, however, and as I attempt to introduce in my initial comment below, this is that this such — seemingly necessary and unavoidable — accommodating of the wishes and/or concepts of Gen Z and/or Gen A; this may, in fact,

      a. Significantly and adversely effect how the U.S./the West is viewed throughout the world, to wit: as an immoral and aberrant entity and, thus, as a “pariah” state — one seeking to achieve “universal” such aberrant, immoral changes more throughout the world. (This, in much the same way as — and for much the same reason — as the communist states were so viewed and understood in the Old Cold War?) And thus:

      b. Significantly and adversely effect whether the U.S./the West can prevail over states which purport to champion such things as “sovereignty” and “traditional values?” (This, much as the U.S. did during the Old Cold War?)

      Thus, ultimately, (a) to consider the question of having to accommodate the ideas — and the wants, needs and desires — of Gen Z and/or Gen A; this, (b) from the perspective of the New/Reverse Cold War that I describe above?

      1. Given my suggestion, in my comment immediately above, that we should consider ourselves, today, as being engaged in a New/Reverse Cold War. (In this regard consider, for example, the quoted items that I provide in my initial comment below.);

        That is, engaged in a New/Reverse Cold War in which it is the U.S./the West, today, that (a) fights under the banner of “achieving revolutionary change both at home and abroad” and who, accordingly, (b) counts as its natural allies (both here at home in the U.S./the West and there abroad elsewhere) those more liberal/those more modern/those more pro-change elements of the states and societies of the world. And a New/Reverse Cold War in which such entities as Russia, China, Iran, N. Korea, the Islamists, etc., today — thus existentially threatened by the U.S./the West’s “achieve revolutionary change both at home and abroad” agenda — (a) commonly fight back under the banner of such things as “uniqueness,” “sovereignty” and “traditional values” and who, accordingly, (b) commonly view as their natural allies (both here at home in the U.S./the West and there abroad elsewhere) those more conservative/those more traditional/those more no-change elements of the states and societies of the world. (Who, thus commonly threatened it would seem, strategize to prevent, to contain and/or to roll back the U.S./the West’s such revolutionary change efforts and successes.)

        Given these such matters and this such framework — then does it not make at least some sense to (a) view such things as our “achieve revolutionary change” women’s and LGBT rights agenda and advancement efforts (in U.S./Western militaries and/or elsewhere) — this, (b) more from the New/Reverse Cold War perspective that I describe here, and in my earlier comments above and below ?

        (If we do this then — given the results of the Old Cold War — do we believe that OUR continuing to pursue OUR “achieve revolutionary change both at home and abroad” agenda — for example, so as to accommodate Gen Z and/or Gen A — this will [a] result in New/Reverse Cold War “win” for the U.S./the West or will [b] result in a New/Reverse Cold War “loss” for the U.S./the West?)

        1. From the above, thus to ask whether Gen Z and/or Gen A — and/or their ideas relating to such things as women’s and/or LGBT rights and issues (and, indeed, the much broader “achieve revolutionary change both at home and abroad” agenda of the U.S./the West post-the Old Cold War), whether these such matters should be considered as something that has and will continue to enhance our national security — or as something that has and will continue to detract from our national security?

  2. What are the national security and international implications of U.S./Western societies — and/or U.S./Western militaries — embracing such things as women’s rights and/or LGBT issues today? As to that such question consider:

    ” … Since President Bush first raised the question in the immediate aftermath of September 11, Americans have asked, ‘Why do they hate us?’ The answer must be, in part, that aspects of our moral practice and culture have become increasingly unattractive to hundreds of millions of people worldwide — many of whom happen to live in areas that are likely to generate strategic threats to the United States. Although Osama bin Laden rarely indicts popular American morality, he has on occasion done so; and it seems safe to say that the contempt and loathing he expresses resonate with millions of others (including millions of Americans?). … ” (Item in parenthesis here is mine. See the only full paragraph of Page 724, of the 2005 Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law paper “Moral Communities or a Market State: The Supreme Court’s Vision of the Police Power in the Age of Globalization,” by Antonio F. Perez and Robert J. Delahunty.)

    “Liberal democratic societies have, in the past few decades, undergone a series of revolutionary changes in their social and political life, which are not to the taste of all their citizens. For many of those, who might be called social conservatives, Russia has become a more agreeable society, at least in principle, than those they live in. Communist Westerners used to speak of the Soviet Union as the pioneer society of a brighter future for all. Now, the rightwing nationalists of Europe and North America admire Russia and its leader for cleaving to the past.” (See “The American Interest” article “The Reality of Russian Soft Power” by John Lloyd and Daria Litinova.)

    “Compounding it all, Russia’s dictator has achieved all of this while creating sympathy in elements of the Right that mirrors the sympathy the Soviet Union achieved in elements of the Left. In other words, Putin is expanding Russian power and influence while mounting a cultural critique that resonates with some American audiences, casting himself as a defender of Christian civilization against Islam and the godless, decadent West.” (See the “National Review” item entitled: “How Russia Wins” by David French.)

    “During the Cold War, the USSR was perceived by American conservatives as an ‘evil empire,’ as a source of destructive cultural influences, while the United States was perceived as a force that was preventing the world from the triumph of godless communism and anarchy. The USSR, by contrast, positioned itself as a vanguard of emancipation, as a fighter for the progressive transformation of humanity (away from religion and toward atheism), and against the reactionary forces of the West. Today positions have changed dramatically; it is the United States or the ruling liberal establishment that in the conservative narrative has become the new or neo-USSR, spreading subversive ideas about family or the nature of authority around the world, while Russia has become almost a beacon of hope, ‘the last bastion of Christian values’ that helps keep the world from sliding into a liberal dystopia. Russia’s self-identity has changed accordingly; now it is Russia who actively resists destructive, revolutionary experiments with fundamental human institutions, experiments inspired by new revolutionary neo-communists from the United States. Hence the cautious hopes that the U.S. Christian right have for contemporary Russia: They are projecting on Russia their fantasies of another West that has not been infected by the virus of cultural liberalism.” (See the December 18, 2019, Georgetown University, Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs article “Global Culture Wars from the Perspective of Russian and American Actors: Some Preliminary Conclusions,” by Dmitry Uzlaner. Look to the paragraph beginning with “Russia and the United States as screens for each other’s projections.”)

    Based on the above, the question seems to become: (a) Given the adverse national security and international implications presented by me above, (b) SHOULD U.S./Western militaries adapt to the changes — re: women’s rights and/or LGBT issues — that we are seeing in U.S./Western societies today ??? (Or should we, in stark contrast, stand apart from same?)

    1. In the final, in parenthesis, question that I pose at the end of my comment above, I probably should have said:

      Or should we, in stark contrast, be allowed/be given permission, to stand apart from same. Yes?

      1. Depends on how communist you want the US to look?

        The great part about being a country with democratic values is that we allow our minority populations (whether defined by race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, or religion) to have a say in our government. This transfers to giving all people the opportunity to serve so long as they meet health and physical standards.

        At a time when recruitment is a challenge, do we really want to remove 10.3 million people (30% of Gen Z identifies as LGBTQ; Public Religion Research Institute, 2024) from the recruiting pool because that’s what Russia would do (Also I guarantee you Russia has LGBTQ troops that they don’t acknowledge fighting in the war)?

        It should also be considered that 64% of the American population finds LGBTQ people are “morally” acceptable (https://news.gallup.com/poll/1651/gay-lesbian-rights.aspx). So why would we cater to those on the far-right who admire communism? Especially, when its clear democratic values and the American people are in alignment about allowing LGBTQ people the freedom to serve and do so without additional barriers to success.

        1. R.J.:

          Item No. One: As to your question, “Depends on how communist you want the U.S. to look?” As to this such question, note that — as per the quoted items that I provide at my February 18, 2024 at 2:47 pm comment above — to “look communist” — this would seem to look more like those communist entities who:

          a. Sought to achieve revolutionary political, economic, social and/or value change more both at home and abroad. Who, thus,

          b. Were more likely to pursue and embrace such things as women’s and LBGT rights. Who, thus of necessity,

          c. Had to undermine and/or marginalize such things as certain traditional social values, beliefs and institutions. And who, accordingly,

          d. Were often considered to be “aberrant,” “immoral,” “pariah,” and “enemy” by those states and societies of the world, those regimes of the world and those individuals and groups of the world, who depended on the status quo for their power, influence, control, status, privilege, safety, security, etc.

          (Thus — as this and your later question, to wit: “So why would we cater to those on the far-right who admire communism — have you not confused the left [achieve certain revolutionary changes] with the right [prevent, contain and roll back certain revolutionary changes])?

          Item No. Two — the National Security Question: If the majority of the people in the U.S./the West were to find women’s and LGBT rights, etc., to be both morally acceptable and an imperative that they must pursue both here at home and there abroad (regardless of cost????) — then would this lessen — or enhance — the potential that this such stance had on:

          a. Placing the U.S./the West at odds with much of the rest of the world and, accordingly,

          b. Providing our enemies with — otherwise unavailable — means to defeat us?

    2. From the perspective offered by the quoted items that I provided in my Feb 18th @ 2:47 comment above, note that:

      a. The relationship between a nation’s population and their government — between a nation’s government and their military — between a nation’s population and their military — and between a nation’s population and enemy governments — THIS, WHEN THE DUTIES AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF ONE’S GOVERNMENT AND MILITARY ARE, FOR EXAMPLE, TO “PREVENT,” TO “CONTAIN” AND TO “ROLL BACK” REVOLUTIONARY (in that case COMMUNIST-related) CHANGE BOTH AT HOME AND ABROAD (to wit: as in the Old Cold War of yesterday) — these such relationships, oh so obviously it would seem, are unlikely to be the same as:

      b. The relationship between a nation’s population and their government — between a nation’s government and their military — between a nation’s population and their military — and between a nation’s population and enemy governments — THIS, WHEN THE DUTIES AND RESPONSBILITIES OF ONE’S GOVERNMENT AND MILITARY ARE, FOR EXAMPLE, TO “ACHIEVE” REVOLUTIONARY (in this case CAPITALIST-related) CHANGE BOTH AT HOME AND ABROAD (for example, as in the post-Cold War/New/Reverse Cold War of today.)

      (Herein, both communist and capitalist change tending to undermine the status quo — and, thus — the power, influence, control, status, privilege, safety, security, etc., of those who depend on the status quo for same.)

      Thus, in sum, to (a) understand the significant/the 180 degree change in civil-military (etc., etc., etc.) relations today; this, by (b) acknowledging the significant/the 180 degree change in the duties and responsibilities of U.S/Western and other governments and militaries post-the Old Cold War/in the New/Reverse Cold War of today?

  3. B.C.,

    I’m finding it hard to follow your logic this go-around. Democracy has been the most revolutionary forms of world government when you compare it to all previous forms of government. “George Washington, in his first inaugural address, described the ‘republican* model of government’ as an ‘experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.’” (Ohio Capital Journal, 2023) Through this lens incorporating marginalized communities into our government is no more a “social experiment” than the establishment of our democracy.

    So if I understand your argument, it is the idea of what is “revolutionary” can go both ways, depending on the relationships between the parties you listed: nation’s population (Np) and their government (Ng) — between a nation’s government and their military (Nm) — between a nation’s population and their military — and between a nation’s population and enemy governments (Eg). If I have it right, the shift to capitalism is when Np:Ng = Np:Nm > Ng:Nm > Np:Eg and the shift communism is the opposite in that Np:Eg > Ng:Nm > Np:Ng = Np:Nm.

    Furthermore, I believe you are arguing that because of the far-right’s alignment with Eg values and control of one party of government that Np:Ng flipped to Np:Eg and we need to embrace re-alignment to communist/religious conservative values so that Np:Eg shifts back to Np:Ng (a reset to capitalism). I would postulate that eventually capitalism will push social progress forward again until the next realignment needs to happen.

    My argument, given the data I gave you (particularly on morality), is that Np:Ng is currently greater than Np:Eg so there is no need for a re-alignment and reset because that would truly negatively impact national security and international cooperation. For one, removing LGBTQ people and relegating women back to non-combat roles would place would be cost prohibitive to the military; billions of dollars would have to redirected from weapons platforms and modernization to recruit and train straight men. Secondly, it could create a situation where the population becomes less supportive of the government and thus less supportive of the military (because they are connected values), creating a potential recruiting crisis (we saw this during Vietnam era). I’m not even going to begin to discuss international impacts.

    Notes:
    * Republican does not refer to the party but the definition as an adjective that means
    “(of a form of government, constitution, etc.) belonging to, or characteristic of a republic.” (Oxford Languages)

    ** “Np:Ng = Np:Nm” the equal sign in this case means connected value. Both should rise and fall together; albeit maybe not as dramatically sometimes.

    1. R.J.:

      For some odd reason, you still seem to believe that there is a positive, compatible relationship between the far right and communism today. As to this such suggestion, consider that:

      a. In your first comment above (see your third paragraph therein), you asked: “So why would we cater to those on the far-right who admire communism?” (Herein, do you not understand that — yesterday as today — those of the far-right abhor both communists and communism?) And that:

      b. In your must recent comment (again see your third paragraph) you refer to: “communist/religious conservative values.” (Again, do you not understand that the communists and the far-right/religious conservatives — yesterday as today — were/are the sworn enemies of one another and, thus, that they have no common values?)

      As to this such problem, could this be because you are unaware that (a) Russia is no longer a communist country, that (b) Russia has not been a communist country since the end of the Old Cold War and that (c) Russia today embraces — rather than “leftist”/communist values — far-right values instead? (This helping to explain why the far-right [a] now leans more toward Russia and [b] now views our own U.S./the West governments as being the more “communist” entities — this, because the far-right now perceives that it is our own U.S./Western governments that have come to embrace and promote such “leftist” things as further women’s and LGBT rights?)

      As to why the U.S./the West, post-the Old Cold War, would come to embrace such things as further women’s and LGBT rights, this would seem to be because, post-the Old Cold War, the U.S./the West came to believe that (a) economic/capitalist matters (rather than ideological matters as in the Old Cold War) had become the new basis for strategic competition and that, accordingly, (b) nations no longer could afford the luxury of marginalizing — and therefore not utilizing to their fullest capacity and capabilities — large portions of their societies:

      “Proponents of this vision of a globalized economy characterize the United States as ‘a giant corporation locked in a fierce competitive struggle with other nations for economic survival,’ so that ‘the central task of the federal government’ is ‘to increase the international competitiveness of the American economy.” (See the only full paragraph on Page 643 of the Catholic University of American, Columbus School of Law, paper “Moral Communities or a Market State … .”)

      R.J: Is this helpful?

      1. Addendum to my reply-to-comment above:

        R.J:

        Given my explanation immediately above, do we now believe that the U.S./the West — post-the Old Cold War — may have made an extremely grave mistake; this, in (a) believing that economic (rather than ideological) competition would dominate the post-Cold War world and that, accordingly, (b) embracing such things as further women’s and LBGT rights was the the way to go?

        (As to this such question, note that such entities as China, India, Russia, Iran, the Islamists, etc. — and the far-right in many/most countries of the world today — these folks seem to see “modern” Western liberalism (and thus further women’s and LBGT rights?) as their ideological opponent and, thus, seek to marginalize and/or defeat same using their more “local” — and “old school” — ideologies?)

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