Gays in Military History: Japanese Samurai

Now that DADT is finally under serious review, it is once again appropriate to consider how other military regimens deal or have dealt with their queer members – or aspirant members.

As I have noted before, across the EU this is simply not a question at issue. Gay men and lesbians serve routinely, just as any other servicemen and women. Here in the UK, every July some members routinely join the annual “London Pride” through the streets of London, either in uniform, in military squads, or as individuals in other groups of specific (non- military) interest. In South Africa, the constitution’s non-discrimination clause guarantees that sexual minorities should be able to serve on the same basis as anyone else. Last month, I was intrigued by this report from Peter Toscano, telling of a South African soldier who faced a gender identity issue by transitioning – and the military authorities provided a female officer as mentor and support to help her through the process.

In European history, gay soldiers were prominent in the Greek armies: notably in the Sacred Band of Thebes and its pairs of lovers (where only gay lovers were admitted), but also in other Greek fighting forces, where they were often crucial in creating or defending democracy.

Today, I want to discuss another renowned military culture with a strong homoerotic tradition – the Japanese shoguns and samurai.

 

A possibly gay soldier

Samurai and Shoguns

For centuries, love and sex between men have been recorded and celebrated at the highest levels of Japanese society, including several emperors, and have especially associated with the military establishment and with the monasteries. Read the rest of this entry »