Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Jackie Orr

Second Advisor

Gretchen Purser


DADT;homonationalism;LGBTQ+;Military;necropolitics;sexual citizenship

Subject Categories

Social and Behavioral Sciences | Sociology


At the core of this dissertation project lies the question: What forms of belonging and inclusions are made possible through liberal shifts in the laws governing the institutional contexts of sexual minorities? To answer this question, I draw upon 22 in-depth interviews with gay, lesbian, and bisexual (LGB) soldiers about their experiences of serving after the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT). More specifically, this dissertation focuses on three broad research questions to address these issues. First, I ask: What are the experiences of inclusion and acceptance of LGB-identified soldiers within the context of military service? How might these overlap or diverge from those experiences in queer community spaces? I am most interested in what those experiences tell us about the cultural logic(s) of sexual democratization, diversity, and inclusion. Second, to what extent can military service confer forms of respect and respectability for some LGB soldiers? How do these soldiers make sense of and balance their multiply situated identities? Throughout the research process, a third corollary interest emerged centered on how and under what circumstances might the rewards of respect and respectability might be distributed differently vis-à-vis other forms of difference and marginalization. Namely, this dissertation examines how sexuality intersects with racial and gender identities to produce or foreclose access to the material and affective resources made available through military service. The findings of this dissertation are organized around three themes: how and why LGB soldiers answer the call to service, the gendered regimes of military service, and the processes of incorporating diversity and inclusion. This research finds that post-DADT, the ability of LGB people to openly serve in the military operates as a strategic life choice that blends material conditions (e.g., education, career opportunities) and affective dimensions (receiving respect from family and community, feelings of belonging, serving a higher purpose). On the surface, this reasoning aligns with extant research on why people seek out military service. However, upon further inspection, I find that these experiences take on specific meanings for LGB soldiers in light of large-scale legal and cultural changes of the past two decades. The symbolic and material appeal of inclusion in normative institutions like the military represents unique opportunities for many at the margins of our society to access educational and economic advancement. Moreover, I find that the affective pull of service allows LGB soldiers to create meaningful lives of respect and purpose that is in stark contrast to a larger society that still devalues the contributions of women, racial, sexual, and gender minorities. I argue that this juxtaposition creates new forms of queer sexual citizenship predicated on narrowly defined versions of identity and difference. As a project of inclusion, the assemblage of respect-respectability privileges homonormative deployments of identity and, consequently, belonging. As a hegemonic and culturally celebrated path toward achieving symbolic and legal forms of citizenship, understanding how military service operates for some marginalized identities exposes some of the tensions and contradictions of liberalism.


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