US Marine Corps’ Pride Month Post Ignites Discussion About Being LGBTQ+ in the Military

Photo Credit: Lance Cpl. Leighton Winslow / Marine Corps Installations Pacific / DVIDS / Public Domain

Each June, companies and allies across the globe take to social media to express their support for members of the LGBTQ+ community. Oftentimes, this support is shown through the display of rainbow colors, which have come to represent Pride Month. This year, the US Marine Corps shared their own image, posting a rendering of a helmet with a row of multi-colored 5.56 mm NATO rounds strapped to it – and people have mixed feelings.

The post shared to Instagram and Twitter reads, “During the month of June, the Marine Corps takes #Pride in recognizing and honoring the contributions of our LGBTQ service members. We remain committed to fostering an environment free from discrimination, and defend the values of treating all equally with dignity and respect.”

Pride Month pays tribute to the 1969 Stonewall Uprising in Manhattan, New York. The riots began on June 28, 1969, when police officers raided the Stonewall Inn, a Greenwich Village club frequented by members of the gay community. The raid sparked a riot, leading to violent clashes and protests.

For many, the six-day uprising is viewed as a turning point for LGBTQ+ rights.

Maj. Tyler McBride and Capt. Justin Lennon holding a Pride flag in front of an aircraft
Maj. Tyler McBride, 62nd Fighter Squadron F-35A Lightning II instructor pilot, and Capt. Justin Lennon, 56th Training Squadron F-35 instructor pilot, hold a Pride flag after a Pride Month flyby on June 26, 2020, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. McBride and Lennon performed the flyby over Luke AFB to celebrate and highlight the LGBTQ+ community. (Photo Credit: Airman 1st Class Leala Marquez / 56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs / DVIDS / Public Domain)

The Marine Corps‘ post has ignited a lot of backlash on social media, with people sharing the long-held frustration that companies and other public entities only show their support of the community during Pride month, with some going as far as to say that the service doesn’t support its existing LGBTQ+ members.

“LGBTQ+  people do NOT want to be used as expendable tools in institutions that want them extinct,” wrote one Twitter user.

Bill Clinton sitting at his desk in the Oval Office
Bill Clinton passed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy for military service in 1993. (Photo Credit: JOYCE NALTCHAYAN / AFP / Getty Images)

Many have also pointed to the US military’s discriminatory policies that, for years, forced queer service members to keep quiet about their sexuality. In 1982, the military entered into the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” era, with the Department of Defense stating that “homosexuality is incompatible with military service.”

Between 1980-90, an average of 1,500 military service members were discharged annually because of their sexual orientation.

In 1993, President Bill Clinton signed into law the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which banned openly gay and lesbian individuals from serving in the military and prohibited the harassment of closeted service members. This remained active until 2011, when it was repealed by President Barack Obama’s administration.

Senior Airman Kiana Brothers waving the Pride flag
Senior Airman Kiana Brothers waves the Pride flag and cheers on participants of the Pride Month 5K at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, June 24, 2016. (Photo Credit: Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Fowler / 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs / DVIDS / Public Domain)

Once repealed, the focus shifted to the rights of transgender service members. In 2015, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter revealed that no service member could be discharged from the military because of their identity without direct approval of the Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.

However, President Donald Trump reversed this decision, announcing two years later that “the United States Government will not accept or allow … Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military.” He based this on what he called “the tremendous medical costs and disruption that [being] transgender in the military would entail.”

Trump spoke more about this in 2018, saying, “Transgender persons with a history or diagnosis of gender dysphoria – individuals who the policies state may require substantial medical treatment, including medications and surgery – are disqualified from military service except under certain limited circumstances.”

The ban on transgender service members was lifted by President Joe Biden upon entering office. Despite this and other policies being removed, LGBTQ+ service members continue to face discrimination while in uniform, including threats and acts of violence, prompting many to continue to keep quiet about their sexual orientation and identity.

Master Sgt. Staci Cooper and Danie Cooper with Pride flags painted on their cheeks
US Air Force Master Sgt. Staci Cooper, 131st Operation Support Flight Aviation Resource Management superintendent, and her wife, Danie Cooper, Lincoln College Preparatory Academy teacher, stand for a photo on June 10, 2020 at Blue Springs, Missouri. (Photo Credit: Airman 1st Class Christina Carter / 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs / DVIDS / Public Domain)

Some have defended the Marine Corps and applauded their attempts to increase the representation of LGBTQ+ Marines. They’ve also called out those who are against the social media post, asking such questions as, “To those critical of this – why is a LGBT soldier any less deserving of our respect?” and “Do [people] in these comments forget that like a huge portion of the Army are LGBTQ?”

A Marine veteran wrote, “I am a Marine who served 87-91 and I am gay. Some knew and couldn’t care less. There were [a lot] of gay men in the USMC then and it’s no different now. We serve exactly the same as anyone else with the same amount of pride. I never met a Marine who thought it was a problem.”

“Why is it the majority of people b****ing are the ones who never served? Good leaders understand that representation matters,” one Twitter user wrote. “The LGBTQ+ community has served in every war and engagement since the beginning of this country.”

Others have taken a completely different approach to the image, comparing it to the promotional poster for Stanley Kubrick‘s 1987 film, Full Metal Jacket. It’s an anti-war movie, whereas the Marine Corps has been involved in numerous wars and conflicts. It should be noted, however, that the film acknowledges the contradictions between military service and war.

More from us: Marine Harold Schultz Helped Raise the Flag at Iwo Jima – He Wasn’t Recognized Until 2016

The US Marine Corps is not the only military or government entity to share a post in support of the LGBTQ+ community. The Department of State also posted two tweets, one of which featured a video about the history of Pride Month.