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Coming out under fire: The history of gay…
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Coming out under fire: The history of gay men and women in World War II (original 1990; edition 2010)

by Allan Bérubé, John D'Emilio (Foreword), Estelle B. Freedman (Foreword)

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219453,142 (3.94)2
Member:lorax
Title:Coming out under fire: The history of gay men and women in World War II
Authors:Allan Bérubé
Other authors:John D'Emilio (Foreword), Estelle B. Freedman (Foreword)
Info:Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, c2010.
Collections:Your library, Jane's
Rating:***
Tags:nonfiction, history, american history, wwii, lgbt, tpb

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Coming out under fire by Allan Bérubé (1990)

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This book is exhaustively thorough, which is good in a history book exploring new territory, especially when access to the participants is disappearing as they age and die. However, it makes for a choppy, sometimes repetitive read. If you want the details, read the book. If you just want the overall gist, see the movie instead. ( )
1 vote aulsmith | Nov 8, 2011 |
Review by Elaine Taylor May points out that Berube's is a pioneering work in the social history of gays in World War II. He finds that the experience of WWII was both that of increased surveillance and of a greater solidarity as a gay subculture developed in the military during wartime. In a time when the military needed manpower, the services were ambivalent about what to do about gays in the military. As military's psychiatrists sought to discover the gay personality type, new ways of dealing with gay servicemen included the "queer stockade" and "blue discharges" (less than honorable discharge) as well as rehabilitation for return to duty. A minority of these psychiatrists did not feel that homosexuality affected battlefield performance. The fact that the military did not allow women in combat zones meant that those who entertained the troops returned to the age old convention of men playing the parts of women. Developing a drag performance style designated as "camping," the gay servicemen claimed their own cultural space. Berube also recounts the battlefield performance of gay men, which included many acts of heroism. The period of tolerance in the immediate post-war period quickly yielded to homophobic witch hunts in the cold war.

Among the more interesting sections of this book is the one that deals with medicine's treatment of homosexuality. In "Pioneer Experts: Psychiatrists Discover the Gay GI," he describes the research undertaken by military psychiatrists to better diagnose homosexuality in men. They began by working on tests that determined if a serviceman had a gag reflex, which they assumed disappeared in gay men who had performed frequent oral sex on other men. They moved on to studies which categorized the personality characteristics of gay men -- effeminacy, superiority and fear. One main objective of this work was to weed out true homosexuals from straight men who used homosexuality as an excuse to get out of the military. Though this was not as common as it would be later in Vietnam, malingering was still seen as a problem by military officers. Berube's account also explains how the compassion of many psychiatrists led them to purposefully "misdiagnose" the patient, rather than put "homosexual" on the medical record they made up other diagnoses like "psychoneurosis" to protect the patient. In one of the ironies of history, the first challenge to the military's anti-gay policies was launched by a group of psychiatrists reporting to LTC Lewis H. Loeser at the 36th station hospital in Devonshire, UK. Their research, documented by 450 case histories argued that homosexuality did not make men less capable soldiers and urged the Army to abandon discrimination against homosexuals in the military.
  mdobe | Jul 24, 2011 |
What I found most fascinating about this book is how the military's anti-gay policy was almost like a self fulfilling prophecy. Before cracking down on gays, it seems like they lived a relatively normal existence within the military, and it wasn't until they were stigmatized and forced to remain wholly within the closet that problems such as homophobia, stress and morale came into play. It's also pitiful how little has been done to change military policy since WWII. DADT isn't much of an improvent. Although I am opposed to all war, I believe that if we're still going to keep having them, all people (gay, straight, male or female) should be allowed to fight in them. ( )
1 vote lemontwist | Dec 28, 2009 |
A study of homosexual soldiers in the US armed forces during the World War II. Bérubé examines both official records and more private materials, such as letters and interviews. ( )
  mari_reads | Sep 10, 2006 |
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