State of emergency : an exploration of attitudes towards homosexuality in the SADF, 1969-1994

Schaap, Rudy (2011-03)

Thesis (MA)--University of Stellenbosch, 2011.


This research set out to give a better understanding of gay conscripts within the South African Defence Force (SADF) during the 1970's and 1980's, as well as to establish whether a noticeable change towards gay conscripts could be detected before and after c.1985. Based upon sources from the military archives, oral interviews as well as existing secondary literature on the topic, it becomes clear that aside from the “official line”, both conservative as well as progressive views on homosexuality existed. Even though it can be concluded that attitudes towards homosexuality among civilian South Africans became more permissive during the 1980‟s, it was not a change in attitude shared throughout (white) society. This research has been done firstly to add to the general knowledge of the experiences of gay conscripts in the 1970‟s and 1980‟s within the SADF. It has done so by conducting interviews with fifteen ex-conscripts, both gay and straight, covering anti-gay attitudes, coming out in the army, the existence of queer platoons and/or jobs perceived to be „gay‟, psychiatric treatment of homosexuals and the knowledge of the existence of these treatments, the gay/straight barrier and qualitative personal assessments of the period of conscription. Secondly, it attempts to answer the question whether a change in attitude towards gay conscripts could be seen roughly around 1985, as South African society also became (slowly) more permissive towards homosexuality.

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