There are anti-discrimination laws and the proliferation of TV shows openly espousing the beauty of the queer folks and no anti-gay movement can derail them. Again, what a contrast one will find in the historical study of the development of the gay community. It was not a long time ago when they are sometimes literally being locked in closets by their parents due to the extreme amount of shame they brought to their families. The book by Paul Jackson is interesting and unique in many ways.
First of all it focuses on the gay community in Canada from the late 19th century and into the decades when the world was at war. Then it made claims that when Canada in particular and the world in general mobilized armies to fight in the war the same activity that gathered young men to fight was at the same time responsible for the blossoming of gay consciousness. But he did not stop there he also made claims that Canadians as a whole could not make up their minds on what to do with the emergence of a gay community inside the army.
The top brass wanted them out of the army while those who were close to the queer men have no problems displaying camaraderie in the same way that they offer it to heterosexuals. Paul Jackson used a fine-tooth comb to prove his claims. He used the following research materials and methodology to build his case: ¢ Personnel files ¢ Court Martial records ¢ Psychiatric files ¢ War diaries ¢ Films and Documentaries ¢ Paintings and Illustrations ¢ Photographs ¢ Interviews with veterans of WWII
Jackson was able to masterfully collate all the data from all these sources and then painted his version of what really happened. It was a fresh look at the effects of World War II. It is very helpful not only in understanding Canada in those years but also the big picture. Why is this so? It is common practice that when schools teach history and World War II most of the time the discussion centers on the political aspect. The variation one can expect is in the discussion on war itself e. g. strategy and tactics.
But rarely do historians discuss history in the social aspect. Here is where Jackson shines when retelling the past. It is rare to find an author combining two seemingly incompatible ideas: war and homosexuality. But in this book Jackson was not only successful in proving his thesis but he was also entertaining as well with the expert use of photographs and other illustrations to prove his point and perhaps intentionally moving the reader emotionally to sympathize with those who were discriminated upon. Definition of Terms
Just like any good researcher, Jackson has to have a foundation to build on and in this case having a basis of understanding between author and reader is crucial. The concept of homosexuality should be first clarified and to know the usage of the term 70 or more years ago and how it has evolved in the present. Here, Jackson was forced into a long drawn discussion because homosexuality was never seriously considered and therefore many people could not verbally express what they mean or feel when talking about the third sex.
In other words, in the 21st century society is more sophisticated in dealing with homosexuals but almost a century ago there were no easy way to identify them as a subculture or even as an aberration in the natural order of things. Jackson for instance remarked that the word gay was not used in any military record and those he interviewed asserted that they did not use it either (p. 4). It is also interesting to note that the favorite term used was the word queer. This is significant because the modern world use this term to convey acceptance and even amusement as seen in TV.
Yet in this period in Canadian history the motive for using such a term can entirely at odds with modern usage. Jackson quoted David Halperin in defining the term, according to Halperin it is alluding to, ¦whatever is at odds with the normal, the legitimate, the dominant. There is nothing in particular to which it necessarily refers (p. 4). And there one can get an idea of what is going on during those times. Thesis There are two major ideas that Jackson wanted students of history to remember and fully understand.
The first one is about the conflicts faced by gay military servicemen who dutifully served their country in the previous world war. The second idea is in the effect or role that the war itself contributed to the propagation of this deviant behavior. The second also implies that what happened to the world in the global conflict paved the way for the emergence of the modern gay movement. In other words something happened to the members of this culture when placed inside the crucible of war. There they blossomed, in there they matured and in their they went out more determined and more courageous in voicing out what they truly felt.
The book comes full circle when Jackson described the machination aimed at nipping the bud. In the collusion of top military brass and the influential members of the community to remove the shame of the notion of having homosexual men in the officer corps and in the Canadian armed forces itself. Jackson was able to support his claims. First of all judging by the numerous records of homosexual servicemen being court martialed for their behaviour is enough proof that Canadian society in this age and time was not at all favorable to homosexuality specially not in the army.
The reason for this is that many were afraid that gay servicemen will help unravel unit cohesion and that it will be gravely detrimental to the overall well-being of the armed forces. Jackson spent a significant amount of space refuting this. And one of the most effective method he used was the testimony of the surviving commissioned officers who testifies to the effectivity of gay servicemen whether in combat or in logistical support.