The Face of Gays in the Military: Neoliberalism, Multiculturalism, and the 'Right To Fight'

Liz Montegary, UC Davis

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Liz Montegary examines how calls for the repeal of the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, mainstream lesbian and gay organizations like the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) often rely on the testimonies of lesbian and gay service members who “come out” against the federally mandated ban on openly homosexual conduct in the military.

Liz Montegary examines how calls for the repeal of the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, mainstream lesbian and gay organizations like the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) often rely on the testimonies of lesbian and gay service members who “come out” against the federally mandated ban on openly homosexual conduct in the military. Eric Alva, a gay Latino marine who lost his leg to a landmine as the first American casualty in the second Iraq war, has become one of the most visible and vocal figures in the recent campaign to end the discrimination of lesbian and gay servicemembers. Through an examination of how the figure of Alva circulates within lesbian and gay rights discourse, this paper investigates the ways in which these activist practices rely on his disabled body of color in order to depict lesbians and gay men as patriotic citizens and thus to justify their claims on the state. Bringing together the fields of queer studies, critical race studies, and disability studies, Montegary interrogates the strategic incorporation of marginalized subjectivities into political projects advocating for the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Who counts as legitimate, who is further marginalized by policies of inclusion, which must necessarily imply exclusion?