Barrack Buddies and Soldier Lovers, by Steven Zeeland
An insightful, informative and interesting read
Publisher’s blurb: Steven Zeeland’s Barrack Buddies and Soldier Lovers is a raw, unsanitized personal record of conversations he had with young soldiers and airmen stationed in Germany shortly before the outbreak of the Gulf War. These interviews document the far-ranging and pervasive gay networks with the U.S. Army and Air Force. While a few of Zeeland’s buddies were targeted for discharge, most portray an atmosphere of sexually tense tolerance — and reveal a surprising degree of interaction with straight servicemen. Some of these soldiers even found that, ironically, the U.S. military actually helped them become gay. It did this by taking them away from hometown constraints, stationing them overseas in cities where they found greater opportunity to explore their sexuality, and thrusting them into the sexually charged atmosphere of all-male barracks life.
Review by Gerry Burnie
I suppose that nearly every gay male—myself included—has fantasized at one time or another about a uniform bulging with raw masculine virility. Of course, according to the politicians and military brass, homosexuality is not supposed to exist. Gays in the military? Unheard of! Steven Zeeland’s Barrack Buddies and Soldier Lovers [Routledge, 1993] puts a lie to that proposition by introducing us to sixteen very active gays in the military.
Although the timeline is dated some things are timeless, and human sexuality is one of these. So is the myopia of policy makers who, in the face of indisputable proof, continue to pretend that the issue simply does not exist.
The book is a collection of transcribed interviews with sixteen, gay servicemen, who describe their personal experiences while stationed in Germany. Critically speaking, the experiences are not that different or unique from any other group of sexually active men this age, but what is remarkable is the network of social connections that are inadvertently revealed; red light districts, gay bars and bath houses that soon become known and frequented.
Another aspect that comes to the light in these interviews is the lack of danger or fear as a result of their sexual orientation. Some spoke of minor discrimination, and others of frustration at having to hide their orientation, but most claimed that life was not unpleasant, overall. Moreover, the overwhelming majority thought that gays represented no particular problems in military service.
The shortcomings of this study are there as well. The first is the limited scope of the sample. Virtually all the interviewees came from the same branch of the military, located in the same base. Moreover, none of the interviewees were actively engaged in combat at the time. Would their responses have been any different if that were not so? It is hard to say. Nevertheless it is a question that is still open with this reader.
With that caveat, I recommend this study as being both interesting and informative. Four stars.
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