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GAYS IN THE MILITARY
Fotografías de: VINCE CIANNI
Sociedad
DAYLIGHT BOOKS
2014


De 2009 a 2013, Vince Cianni a rencontré une centaine de militaires américains, hommes et femmes, toutes générations confondues – l’un des vétérans est né en 1923 -, tous homosexuels et ayant servi sous la loi du “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”, ou DADT. Mise en place en 1993 pour éviter les tensions, elle interdisait d’aborder le sujet de l’orientation sexuelle des recrues lors de leur intégration et pendant toutes les années de leur service. Le système a vite prouvé son inapplicabilité, depuis la difficulté de cacher sa vie personnelle à des collègues que l’on côtoie au quotidien, et de surcroît dans un environnement la plupart du temps stressant, à la souffrance engendrée par l’aversion ouverte de l’homosexualité. L’un des vétérans analyse : « It’s 17 years after the DADT, 14,000 persons have been discharged. The policy has been wrong the entire time. (…) That takes away from what really you should be completely focused on your mission. » Certains sont plus cyniques : « Lots of gay people walk out, tired of having to deal with the lies, the stress, and the fear. And everyone of those people who walk out takes with them years of training, experience, and money that thas been invested in them. » La loi a été révoquée par Barack Obama en septembre 2011.

Sur le podium avec le président le jour de l’annonce officielle, Maria Zoe, l’une des militaires interviewée, se souvient de lui dire : « Make sure you spell it right! » Elle commente : « He laughed; the Secret Service didn’t tackle me. All I could do is picture John McCain running down the aisles screaming: ‘It’s not valid!’ Fortunately, he did spell it right. » Le ton des témoignages varie, suivant qu'ils évoquent le contexte familial, le rapport du sujet à son homosexualité, assumée ou non — plusieurs hommes se souviennent êr allés à l’armée inspiré par le fameux adage “Young men will go to war and become real men” —, puis leur expérience au sein de l’armée. Certains en veulent au gouvernement : « Forget about the Soviets who were supposed to be our enemy; my country was chasing after me », se souvient l’un d’entre eux. « They are fucking with my flag by trying to make it into something that it’s not, where government is run by religion and it’s ok to oppress », se rappelle un autre. D’autres ont tellement souffert qu’ils ont développé un syndrome de stress post-traumatique ou confirmé des tendances suicidaires : « I felt for many years that when God made me, he put a sign in my back everybody could see expect me, saying ‘Not my best effort’. » D’autres, enfin, ont tout perdu alors que l’armée représentait leur seule chance d’émancipation financière, sociale, et parfois émotionnelle, et qu’ils s’y étaient révélés brillants.

Le premier tiers des témoignages est le plus indigeste, donnant à voir de la société les cas les plus violents, les plus injustes, les plus inacceptables, mais là n’est pas le propos. A ceux qui sont rejetés, dénoncés, violés, s’ajoutent ceux qui ont été encouragés : « I am in an amazing place now and it’s because of everyone supporting me », témoigne un militaire. La diversité des expériences et le refus de les hiérachiser dans l’ouvrage donnent sa richesse à l’ouvrage, qui au-delà du questionnement d’une loi est une interrogation de l’amour, de la société, de la tolérance. Les photographies, portraits intimes réalisés apres les interviews, affirment cette claire intention de Vince Cianni. Les expressions sont troublantes, sincères, le noir et blanc atemporel. « The act of photographing served as an exchange of the implicit trust we placed in each other », confie-t-il en postface. 


 

 

From 2009 to 2013, Vincent Cianni met with a hundred American servicemen and women of different generations—one of the veterans was born in 1923—all of whom are gay and who served under Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT). Signed into law in 1993, DADT prohibited mention of sexual orientation during the recruitment period and throughout military service. The system quickly proved impossible to enforce, from the difficulties of a soldier hiding his or her personal life from colleagues, with whom they often worked in stressful situations, and of the silent suffering caused by a blatant and widespread aversion to homosexuality.

“It’s been 17 years since DADT,” says one veteran. “Over 14,000 people have been discharged. The policy has been wrong the entire time. [...] All that takes away from what you should be focused on: your mission.” Others are more cynical: ““Lots of gay people walk out, tired of having to deal with the lies, the stress and the fear. And every one of those people who walks out takes with them the years of training, experience and money invested in them.” The law was repealed under Barack Obama in September 2011.

On the podium with President Obama on the day of the official announcement, Maria Zoe, one of the soldiers interviewed by Cianni, remembers telling him, “‘Make sure you spell it right!’ He laughed. The Secret Service didn’t tackle me. All I could do was picture John McCain running down the aisles, screaming ‘It’s not valid!’ Fortunately, he did spell it right.”

The tone of the testimonies varies, exploring the relationships of the soldiers with their families, the army, and their own sexuality, whether they had admitted it to themselves or not; several men remember being inspired to join the army after hearing the famous slogan, “Young men go to war and come home real men.” Some criticize the government: “They’re fucking with my flag by trying to make it into something that it’s not, where government is run by religion and it’s okay to oppress people.” Other suffered so much that they developed a post-traumatic stress disorder, haunted by suicidal thoughts. “I felt for many years that when God made me, he put a sign in my back that everybody could see except me: ‘Not my best effort.’

The first third of the testimonies are the hardest to accept. It shows society at its most violent, unjust and intolerant. But that’s not the point. While many were rejected, denounced or raped, others were encouraged. “I’m in an amazing place now,” says one soldier. “And it’s because of everyone supporting me.” The diversity of the experiences is what makes the book so rich. More than an examination of a single law, the work is an exploration of love, society and tolerance. The photographs, intimate portraits shot after the interviews, establish Cianni’s clear intention. The expressions are troubling, sincere, the black-and-white is timeless. “The act of photographing served as an exchange of the implicit trust we placed in each other,” he writes.