Thursday, July 03, 2014

Vincent Cianni: "Gays in the Military: Photographs and Interviews" -- a review


Author: Vincent Cianni

Title: “Gays in the Military: Photographs and Interviews

Publication: Daylight (link) ,  ISBN 978-0988983151, 252 pages, large, glossy; hardcover
Amazon link is here.The book does not appear to be available in Kindle or paper.
  
This “coffee table sized” book is an album of professional black and white photographs of gay men and women who have been in the US military, with a collection of interviews (I count 51) that run from page 121 to 240. 


There are some other text items: a letter from Bruce Simpson regarding denial of a good conduct medal; a commentary “Silent, Celibate and Invisible” by Allan M. Steinman, MD, a commentary “Soul of a Sailor” by Lt. Donald R. Bramer, and a commentary “Been There: History Witness and Some People We Might Never Have Known”.  There is a summary epilogue by the author.  The text pages are double columned, and are printed to look like manual type face (Pica, I think), and that made it a little harder on the eyes. There is no table of contents.  But, then, this is a “coffee table book”.
  
The interviews are often compelling, and run the range of situations from WWII to present day, after the 2011 repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.  In many cases, servicemembers were forcibly outed by others. 
A number of novel situations appear.  One, Goercke (the first one) joined the Merchant Marine, an operation that has a relatively low profile. Ironically, I had just visited the grounds of the Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, Long Island, New York Monday.  Alan Steinman (p. 208) served in the US Public Health Service, which as technically under the DADT policy (carrying stethoscopes instead of rifles), before moving to the Coast Guard.   Katie Miller (p. 169) reports resigning her commission at West Point on “moral grounds” in 2010 over having to hide (and she was so close to repeal). 

Two of the best known cases covered by interviews are Zoe Dunning (p. 215) , who the book says was the only openly gay soldier allowed to stay in the military in the 1990s, and  Victor Fehrenbach, a LTC in the USAF until 2011, and had served in the Gulf in all the wars.  Mike Almy (p. 145)  is pursuing reinstatement, and Anthony Loverde, as USAF staff sergeant, was reinstated in 2012 with the help of Outserve-SLDN (Servicemembers Legal Defense Network). 

A few of the cases that seemed important in the mid 90s – Keith Meinhold, Joseph Steffan, Dirk Selland, and Tracy Thorne, are not covered. 
  
My own history, of course, I’ve covered in my books and blogs.  In brief, I was thrown out of a civilian college (William and Mary) for “admitting” homosexual in 1961, classified 4-F, volunteered for the physical two more times and became 1-Y and 1-A, and was “drafted” in 1968, and, after a stint in Special Training Company at Fort Jackson, SC, graduated OK from Basic, was sent to the Pentagon (with my MA in mathematics) and then mysteriously transferred to Fort Eustis for the rest of my time, after my Top Secret clearance investigation had started.  I would have been happy to do an interview, but the point of my experience was more the effect that military service could have on civilian life.

The photos are certainly impressive.  The photo on pp 28-29 with the calves hairy despite the tattoos is  bizarre. 

Question: Is Cianni interested in making an independent film out of some of the interviews?  That would be an interesting and promising idea. 
   
In 1993, the idea that gays could disrupt “unit cohesion” and “privacy” in situations of forced intimacy sounded like “common sense” to some.   Foreign militaries (most of all Israel) and then our own would show that this idea was a gross oversimplification at best, even as much as McCain and all held onto even as late as 2010.  In 1993, people really could live double lives.  With the Internet, all that changed.


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