Lesbian sailors' kiss a sign of change but more needed

Dec 23, 2011

The gay homecoming kiss is worth celebrating, but the military continues to struggle with diversity

THE REUNION kiss of a same-sex couple from the US Navy, captured in a photograph seen around the world yesterday, has been widely celebrated as a symbol of progress and a victory over intolerance. But for some commentators, the military still has a way to go.
Symbol of progress

The very public same-sex kiss between an American petty officer and her girlfriend of the same rank signalled not only a happy occasion for these two young women, but also reflected a social shift worthy of wider celebration, says an editorial in The Times. The Don't Ask, Don't Tell Rule, formally abandoned by the US military in September, has been "consigned to history in emphatic fashion" with this homecoming embrace.  
Lesbian kissing is more often than not viewed as specialist porn rather than a symbol of love and affection, says Julie Bindell in The Guardian, but not the image of petty officers Marissa Gaeta and her partner Citlalic Snell. The fact that the crowd screamed and waved flags around the couple "shows how far we have come since the days when the tabloids were expressing outrage at any sign of affection between lesbians on TV". [Other reports claim that onlookers barely reacted; whichever is correct, there were no signs of disapproval.]

This is surely the first lesbian kiss to be memorialised on the official website of the United States Navy, blogs Tim Dickinson in Rolling Stone. "God bless America. It just got better."

The right to be like everyone else

Maura Judkis blogs in the The Washinton Post that for the gay community and the troops who were affected by Don't Ask, Don't Tell, this image may become as iconic as the one it resembles – Alfred Eisenstaedt's iconic image of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square on V-J Day in 1945 for Life magazine.
While it may never be as famous as that iconic image, Judkis adds, it's a reminder that they "can imitate the iconic image just like any other couple".

This really is such a beautiful, important moment for the country, writes celebrity blogger Perez Hilton. One of the sailors commented: "It's nice to be able to be myself." Exactly. "A simple right that everyone should have. Congratulations, ladies!"

More progress needed

This kiss was certainly a sign of progress for America's armed forces, says an editorial in the Los Angeles Times. "But more is needed." On the same day as this kiss, the US Army charged eight soldiers in connection with racist bullying that resulted in the suicide of a young Chinese-American private.

The military continues to struggle with racism, sexism, religious prejudice, sexual assaults and homophobia, adds the LA Times. This kiss is a "small but significant" sign of progress. With hard work and leadership, we hope that all forms of "diversity in the military can become a non-issue in the years ahead".

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