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.
Throughout June, the USMC 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.#PrideMonth #USMC pic.twitter.com/MOyvFmyJiB
— U.S. Marines (@USMC) June 1, 2022
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
During #Pride Month, we recognize the resilience and determination of the many individuals who are fighting to live freely and authentically. Learn more about Pride: https://t.co/0B7sZkKnYb pic.twitter.com/OsAas2o3UL
— Department of State (@StateDept) June 1, 2022
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.
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.