Discrimination against LGBTQ+ soldiers doesn’t stop just because a policy has been revoked

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08/22/2021

In 1969, former prime minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau decriminalized “homosexuality” in Canadian civil society declaring “there’s no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation.” Yet, the Canadian Armed Forces was allowed to continue officially discriminating on the grounds of homosexuality until 1992. Using a little-known military law entitled, CFAO 19-20 Homosexuality, Sexual Abnormality Investigation, Medical Examination and Disposal the military systematically targeted and investigated all suspected soldiers, aviators or sailors. Two of us, Lynne, a sociologist, and Carmen, a psychologist, carried out 126 interviews with LGBTQ+ soldiers and their partners between 1997 and 2010 for a study documenting their military experiences. The participants also included former military members who had been discharged on the grounds of homosexuality. When this research began, Lynne had just retired after 16 years in the Canadian Armed Forces. In addition to personally having experienced the military’s eradication campaign, she knew many LGBTQ+ soldiers, sailors and aviators who were still serving, or had served, in previous years. Carmen experienced the reality of being partnered with an LGBTQ+ soldier during the purge. Together, they decided these untold stories needed to be documented. Their research illuminated that the dehumanizing and humiliating treatment of LGBTQ+ soldiers, aviators, sailors and their partners was akin to being treated like prisoners of war and being tortured. Labeled as a threat to national security and an enemy within, LGBTQ+ soldiers experienced stalking, spying, threats, entrapment, forced confinement, lie detector tests, interrogations and physical and sexual assaults.

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