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February 29, 2012

Our Take on the Active Duty Homecoming Kiss — The Gay Male Edition (Finally)

Its been widely noted that two men kissing is a lot more freighted than two women, which is why some people complained when I posted the dock-side photo of Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta kissing Petty Officer 3rd Class Citlalic Snell in Virginia Beach last December shortly after the military lifted DADT. In contrast, and because a male version was bound to have its due, Facebook and tens of thousands have now catapulted Marine Sgt. Brandon Morgan and partner Dalan Wells to the center of the digital public square.

There are several elements to point out about this photo which both punctuate the kiss and the potential for pushing buttons of less open-minded viewers. Here they are in increasing order of impact:

First, the big smooch taking place against such a humongous American flag is like a USA chant at a Pride parade. If “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has morphed into “We’re Cool, But Just Keep it on the QT,” surely not everyone out there is so comfortable seeing Old Glory as a candy wrapper for this kind of lovin’.

Of course, there is also the fact these two men illustrate a position that would really raise some hackles if one of them was on his back.

Perhaps the most provocative aspect of the photo, however, is the fact that it’s the guy in uniform who presents as the more submissive, or what many would equate as the more “feminine” role. He’s the one with the lei (not to be overlooked as a linguistic metaphor); he’s the one with his legs spread; and he — America’s fighting man — who is literally swept off his by the gay civilian. Now, don’t get me wrong; I’m sure the photo would have created a stir either way … but it wouldn’t have had quite the same punch punch if the lei-less, broad shouldered man with his feet on the ground was the one in Ole’ Uncle Sam’s uniform.

(h/t: JU Desert. photo: Gay Marines/Facebook)

  • Thomas

    Also, the Virginia Beach photo, with women and the Navy, is a shorthand for the portions of the military safely away from the streets-to-street combat; home from the war effort as opposed to home from imminent danger.
    Along with considering how the meaning may be effected by reversed positions, I can’t help but wonder how all of these variations on the homecoming genre would be seen at here and around the world if we had actually won a war instead of getting rope-a-doped in a quagmire and a fiasco.

  • karen h

    I love that none of the other people in the photo are paying any attention at all to this couple.

    • Lucaites

      Karen:  Although it is a tad ambiguous, one could argue that the people are not “paying any attention” but in fact that they have their backs turned on the couple.  This is potentially important for two reasons.  In the original Times Square image it is notable that people are paying close attention to the kissers (both on “his” side and “hers”) and that they display an approving smile. In 1996 Harpers magazine put a drawing of the original kiss on its cover with two sailors kissing at the height of “don’t ask,don’t tell” and, importantly, everyone has their back turned on the couple.    You can see the cover and the Hariman/Lucaites take on it at the Journal of AmericanHistory linked below.


  • Bamaguy1024

    I love this photograph so much. It is one of my favorite photos of this or any other year. These guys love each other so much. It is so simple and beautiful. Any man that is repulsed by this must have issues with his own sexual orientation. 

    • Ddh_1964


          I cannot agree with you more.  Growing up in Iowa with a bigot for a role model I had to overcome those bigotries passed onto me when I was young,  I was fortunate to grow up in a very diverse neighborhood and grew up with gay friends so I had outside associations that taught me differently than the messages I was getting from my brother.

          I am a woman and I am heterosexual.  I believe that people who have hangups about homosexuality should really take a long deep look into the mirror and ask themselves why they have such an obsession with homosexuality and secondly they should reexamine their own sexuality, because I believe that if your hungup about homosexuality your not completely comfortable with your own sexuality.


  • bks

    Clearly they’re unqualified to sit in a room somewhere remotely controlling drones to kill brown-skinned people in third-world countries.  Only Christian heterosexuals are capable of such warrior-like bravery.


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  • Caroj

    Srsly? You are equating the feminine role as “submissive”? So much for breaking out of prescribed gender roles. You should be ashamed.

  • CJ

    this picture is a form of “freedom of speech”, is it not?  well, i’m straight.  here’s my 1. opinion, 2. right to free speech: seeing 2 fags kissing is repulsive and disgusting.  keep your desk job.  don’t show up in my trench with your ideology and expect me to support or agree with it.  it’s don’t ask, don’t tell….and i’m not asking….so don’t tell

    • Rita

      You must be the king of the world.

  • Bamaguy1024

     That’s fine. Turn your back on me and my partner. I’m not afraid of your disapproval anymore. I could care less. We live our lives openly now. THAT’S my feeling about people turning their backs, and the rejection of the pious and homophobic people who have a problem with same-sex couples.

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