Almost seven decades after being the scene of one of the most ferocious and protracted battles of World War II – a site of legendary valor and sacrifice on the part of American soldiers – some U.S. service personnel stationed in Okinawa today are treating the world to another kind of display: “Gay” and lesbian service personnel performing in drag, to raise funds for their activities, to a sellout audience.
As reported Sunday by Stars and Stripes, openly homosexual service members at Okinawa’s Kadena Air Base took to the stage and performed as “drag queens” and “drag kings” Saturday “on a military installation in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender troops.”
According to the story, which includes a video montage of the crossdressing fundraiser and interviews with the performers, “six servicemembers – gay, lesbian and straight – donned heavy makeup to dance and lip sync songs such as ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody’ for a raucous capacity crowd at the Rocker NCO Club at Kadena Air Base. The event was a fundraiser for the recently formed Okinawa chapter of OutServe-SLDN, which is the largest nonprofit advocate for the military’s LGBT community.”
Participants and audience alike were reportedly surprised at the huge response to the event. Navy Lt. Marissa Greene, co-chapter leader of OutServe Okinawa, said, “We didn’t think there was much of a desire for an event like this on the island but it has actually blown up,” according to the report. Though anticipating selling only about 75 tickets, “We ended up selling 400 tickets in 10 days,” she told Stars and Stripes.
Commenting on the radical culture shift within the military, Stars and Stripes observed that “just a few years ago, gay and lesbian drag performances on a military base would have been unthinkable and potentially a cause for dismissal from the service.” It added, “The repeals of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, as well as the Defense of Marriage Act – the law barring the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages – have allowed gays and lesbians in the military to be open with their sexuality for the first time.”
One soldier in attendance at the fundraiser, Tech. Sgt. Kristen Baker, told Stars and Stripes the LGBT fundraising show not only was received warmly, but would help advance civil rights.
“Everything is just accepted,” she said. “It makes me really proud to watch it,” adding that, in the military, “we are all brothers and sisters no matter what.”
In September 2011, on the implementation of the repeal of the Clinton-era Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, President Obama said: “I was proud to sign the Repeal Act into law last December because I knew that it would enhance our national security, increase our military readiness, and bring us closer to the principles of equality and fairness that define us as Americans.”
However, latest reports are that the rate of sexual assaults, and especially male-on-male sexual assaults, in the U.S. military has skyrocketed.
“So we’ve got a male-on-male problem here,” says Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness. “The Department of Defense doesn’t want to comment on this. They know that the numbers are there. They say that they care, but all the attention is usually given to the female members of the military who are subjected to sexual assault.”