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Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence

Publication Details

Tulsa Law Journal, Vol. 34, No. 3, Spring 1999


Certain queer theorists argue that gay men and lesbians are banned from military service in certain countries not due to a fear of otherness. Instead, they are prohibited from serving precisely because of a fear that the opposite might be true -- that introducing openly gay people into a 'homosocial' environment might destabilize accepted notions of sexuality among members of the service who presently constitute themselves as heterosexual. This article explores that idea in the context of the Report of the Homosexual Policy Assessment Team established to defend exclusion of openly gay people from military service in the United Kingdom. The Report justified the continued exclusion of openly gay service members (a ban subsequently dropped), by arguing that this would provoke a hostile, violent reaction from non-homosexual military personnel, undermining 'unit cohesion.' By subjecting the Report to what Janet Halley describes as an aggressive, unsympathetic reading, this article reveals a hidden rationale. The hidden rationale is that categories of sexual identity are inherently unstable and that acceptance of openly-acknowledged homosexual conduct could cause an increase is homosexual activity or acknowledgement of homosexual or bisexual desires among personnel previously regarded as heterosexual. The article argues that this hidden rationale of the authors of the military report ironically intersects with beliefs of so-called 'queer theorists,' who refuse to accept notions of fixed and unchanging categories of sexuality. The UK military may share a belief that categories of sexual identity are not inherent, but rather malleable and indeterminate.