Monthly Archives: May 2021
Honoring LGBTQ+ Soldiers 🏳️🌈🇺🇸
For many of us, Memorial Day weekend is about cookouts, sales, watching fireworks, fellowshipping with family and friends, though this year, like last year, is a bit different because of the pandemic. However, this weekend is supposed to be about honoring those who made the ultimate sacrifice. They gave their lives serving in one of the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces.
As a military historian and working at a military college, I am very much aware of the sacrifices made every day by military personnel. Historically, LGBTQ+ soldiers have sacrificed even more. For most of the history of the U.S. military, LGBTQ+ soldiers had to be closeted because being “out” wasn’t acceptable. Being outed could have cost them their military career. Many LGBTQ+ soldiers kept their mouths shut and their business to themselves to protect themselves from harm and protect the nation.
In 1982, the U.S. military enacted a policy explicitly banning gay men and lesbians from their ranks. Before that, however, same-sex relations were criminalized and cause for discharge. And in the early 1940s, it was classified as a mental illness, disqualifying gay men and lesbians from service. In 1993, the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy (DADT) went into effect, allowing closeted LGBTQ+ soldiers to serve in the military. Under the policy, service members would not be asked about their sexual orientation but would be discharged for disclosing it.
Many LGBTQ+ soldiers were outed as gay or lesbian by fellow soldiers and not allowed to serve. Some soldiers were killed by their fellow comrades while on active duty. If you saw the 2003 film Soldier’s Girl, you are aware of U.S. Army infantry soldier PFC Barry Winchell who was murdered on July 6, 1999, by a fellow soldier for dating a transgender woman, Calpernia Addams. The murder became a point of reference in the ongoing DADT debate. Eighteen years after DADT was enacted, Congress repealed the policy, allowing openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual people to serve in the military.
Another barrier was lifted in 2013 when spousal and family benefits were extended to same-sex married partners in the military. After ending temporarily in 2016, the ban on transgender individuals was again rescinded in 2021, allowing transgender individuals to enlist and serve in the armed forces. It’s been a long journey, but LGBTQ+ soldiers have always been part of the American military. In an era before gay marriage or open pride, military men fell in love, formed passionate friendships, and had same-sex encounters. Due to social and official discrimination, most of the stories of these LGBTQ+ soldiers have gone untold. One famous example was Baron Friedrich von Steuben, a Prussian military man hired by George Washington to whip the Continental Army into shape during the darkest days of the Revolutionary War. He was known for his bravery and the discipline and grit he brought to the American troops. Historians also believe he was gay—and served as an openly gay man in the military when sex between men was punished as a crime.
So, if you have never considered the LGBTQ+ service members who lost their lives to serve a country that didn’t respect them, you should. We shouldn’t take our freedom for granted. It comes with a price tag, and we all need to remember this. As we celebrate another Memorial Day weekend, please note this isn’t just another time to party. Today is a day set aside to remember those who have sacrificed their lives so that we may live and be free, fight against discrimination, and love who we want. These brave, unsung heroes sacrificed the truth of themselves. Let us never forget them.
Be safe, be conscious, be proud, and remember our fallen LGBTQ+ service members who died in times when being “out” wasn’t allowed. Thankfully, things seemed to have changed drastically in the U.S. military. LGBTQ+ service members are able to serve openly and without harassment. While acceptance of LGBTQ+ service members is a relatively new development in the military’s long history, the Department of Defense is committed to maintaining a strong force that reflects the nation’s diversity.
A Kind Word
Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.
In John 16:33, Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” This should be the way to a peaceful and tranquil heart, but the fact is, we can sometimes lose sight of what’s essential, and our feelings will betray some of our fears. Friedrich Nietzsche said, “When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago.” Often when we lay in bed at night, anxiety creeps up on us. It is when we are most tired that we are most susceptible to worry. This happens when worry and doubt take up a place somewhere in our minds, and these feelings won’t stop nagging us about the possible negative outcome that rolls around in our minds.
Try as we might to forget it, sometimes we cannot control it. Our inner demons of self-doubt work on this level. Doubt whispers in our ears to keep us focused on the possibility of disaster that awaits if things go as bad as they could. This is the “anxiety in the heart.” It colors every other thought and action until we can get rid of it by solving the problem or trusting God with the outcome. Sometimes, we cannot control the outcome. As much as we want to control everything, some things are just out of our control. That’s when we must trust that God will get us through.
Think about being in the closet. Much of the time we are in the closet, the anxiety is tied to feelings of self-doubt, insecurity, and even shame because of who we are. All of us in the LGBTQ+ community have a period when we are trying to understand our sexuality. It is during this time when a “kind word” is the thing that can cheer up our hearts. “I accept you” or “It’ll be ok” is an excellent place for someone to start. The kindest words to cheer up an anxious person can be found in Philippians 4:6, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”
When I was trying to come to terms with my sexuality, I prayed a lot. I meditated, and I asked God for a sign. I did not get one immediately. Even when I came out, I still had doubts about my sexuality and my relationship with God. However, I studied the Bible, and I studied the passages that so many Christians claim are about homosexuality. I examined the words that modern translations of the Bible translate to homosexuality. I found that what we understand today about sexuality was foreign to the writers of the Bible.
The Word of God became my source of peace. The passages used to condemn LGBTQ+ sexualities gave me the most comfort because I fervently believe that God led me to study those passages. It was His sign to me that He loved me and that true love can never be wrong. I learned that prayer is the best way to deal with a problem. If you are anxious, consider this a kind word to you. If you know someone who is anxious, who is struggling to come out, be a source of encouragement to them, and you will be doing good in the name of Jesus.
Today begins my four-day weekend holiday. It was actually a five-day weekend if you count yesterday which I also had off, but because I had a headache most of yesterday, I’m not counting it. I slept in a bit more than usual today, but not as long as I’d have liked. Today may be one of those days when I take a nap in the afternoon. Anyway, I hope all of you are doing great. Have a wonderful weekend!
Since my dental work healed, I have not been experiencing as many headaches. In fact, some days I have been completely headache free. Yesterday was not one of those days. I woke yesterday feeling pretty good, though a bit sore (the good kind) from my previous night’s activities. It was a warm and beautifully cloudless day. Neither of those things lasted very long. By the middle of the afternoon, a storm front began moving through chilling the temperature a bit. Yesterday’s high was 88 degrees; today’s high is expected to be 66. With the weather changes, I developed a headache. It wasn’t too bad at first, but by early evening, it was a pretty bad one. I went to bed before 9 pm. I was not the only person I know who was affected. Two ladies I work with both developed migraines as the storm front moved through the area. When I woke up for a bit around 11 pm, my headache was mostly gone, enough that I could write this blog post. I hope it will be better today.