Social History for Every Classroom


Social History for Every Classroom

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Military History and the LGBTQ+ Community

Unknown Soldiers in Photobooth. circa 1940. Photograph. 
Image courtesy of The Friends of the National WWII Memorial.

LGBTQ+ people have been part of the nation’s military history since the country’s inception. Like all Americans, they served for a variety of reasons. Some were very patriotic, and saw military service as a way to fulfill their duties to the country. Some were drafted to defend the nation’s interests during wartime, and some viewed enlistment as a way to win social approval, or obtain financial security and economic mobility. Others were staunchly pacifist, and avoided or opposed military action entirely. When they joined the military, LGBTQ service members frequently confronted a culture that was hostile to them. Despite this, many found meaning and deep personal connection through their experiences in the military.

This collection is designed to demonstrate the following historical understandings:

  • Members of the LGBTQ+ community have been involved in military service since the beginning of the United States.
  • Individuals in the LGBTQ+ community had a variety of motivations for and diverse experiences with military service.
  • United States military policy regarding LGBTQ+ participation has changed significantly over time. 
  • As a major institution within American life, the military’s policies and culture have shaped and been shaped by societal views of gender and gender roles, sexuality, and the LGBTQ+ community.

In This Collection