- Articles of War of 1916, “punishing sexual assault between men” (revised in 1919 to specify consensual and forced sex)
- 1940s/1950s Senate Subcommittee on Expenditures report deemed gay soldiers a “security risk” and likely to commit treason
- Navy’s 1957 Crittenden Report, stating gays didn’t pose any risk, sexual identity had no negative effect on service, and LGB SMs were successful (military denied existence of this until its release in 1976 by Freedom of Information Act)
- 1973 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders removed homosexuality from the list (caused the military to start banning based on conduct instead of mental charges)
- 1994 DADT, allowing LGBT SM to serve under the premise that they conceal their orientation (repealed in 2010)
- LBGT-related military investigations, including coercive tactics and health/religious providers violating confidentiality
- Military sexual trauma, MST, including rape and other forms of sexual assault, which goes unspoken, even for decades
- Criminalization of HIV/AIDS, AIDS was treated as a “homosexual problem” instead of a medical problem, causing gay SMs to avoid their military doctors and be discharged on the assumption of sodomy (as discussed in a previous annotation)
- Discrimination, including pastors quoting homosexual damnation passages from the bible, people refusing to share elevators, or refusing to bring homosexual patients food
Strategies of strength and resistance by LGBT service members
Queering military trainings/spaces, as aforementioned, subverting the marriage quarters systems (reserved for heterosexual SMs), and creating a more relaxed environment of their HIV/AIDS ward in hospitals
Strategic use of “the closet”, calling other LGBT SMs “family” and using retirement parties to come out. Contrarily, LGBT SMs were hiding their sexual orientation to put their patriotism and other benefits first, or they were in a higher position that had to enforce anti-LGBT policies (and they wanted to protect their LGBT family).
For my primary source analysis, I aim to discuss the lack of research for homosexual servicemen and the problems that remain with the providing of healthcare in the U.S. military. Issues on homosexual servicemen include mental and sexual health. The issues involving the concealment of sexual orientation in the military, due to the pre-existing laws and the homophobic environment, create a problem of minimal research for the healthcare of these gay servicemen. With minimal research and a lasting judgment on homosexuals, it is difficult to provide appropriate health care or HIV/AIDS prevention programs for homosexual servicemen.
First I will talk about how my AIDS Quilt panel initiated my research journey. I then will discuss the Department of Defense policy “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the effects of this policy before, during, and after it’s establishment. While investigating this, the homophobic environment created in the military will be explored. Following that, I will discuss the lack of research available for homosexual service members and why there is a lack of research. Sequently, the issues involving a lack of HIV/AIDS prevention programs for those at higher risk and the mental health of homosexual servicemen will be investigated, along with appropriate statistics.
My panel does not answer the questions proposed, but it does create the initial curiosity. The panel shows that this individual was in the military at some point, but it doesn’t address the healthcare or lack thereof in the military for homosexuals. The panel does, however, address that this memorialized man was more than just a service member of the U.S. Army.
Campbell, Wesley R., Mojgan Jahan, Mary F. Bavaro, and Robert J. Carpenter. “Primary Care of Men Who Have Sex With Men in the U.S. Military in the Post-Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Era: A Review of Recent Progress, Health Needs, and Challenges.” Military Medicine 182, no. 3/4 (April 3, 2017): e1603–11. https://doi.org/10.7205/MILMED-D-16-00255.
“Homosexuals in the Military.” Congressional Digest 89, no. 4 (April 2010): 103.
Bill Clinton, in 1992, commented that he would “lift the ban” on homosexuals serving in the military if elected. Under this policy, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, the Department of Defense (DOD) wouldn’t ask questions about the sexual orientation of prospective members of the military. Individuals were required, however, to keep their sexual orientation to themselves or be discharged or denied enlistment if they were not already active duty. On July 19, 1993, President Clinton announced this policy.
It became that statements of homosexuality were grounds for investigation and, if proven true, discharge. Critics hypothesized that Clinton strategized implementing a muddled regulation and poorly defended the policy. Additionally, the term “orientation” is subject to various interpretations.
“The law codified the grounds for discharge as follows: (1) the member has engaged in, attempted to engage in, or solicited another to engage in a homosexual act or acts; (2) the member states that he or she is a homosexual or bisexual; or (3) the member has married or attempted to marry someone of the same sex.”
The elusiveness of “orientation” has created many issues in its ambiguity, as the actions of homosexuality were illegal, but acknowledging one’s “orientation” was not committing an act of homosexuality. The law’s wording focuses on the homosexual conduct, not the homosexual preferences.
This source talks further on the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the ambiguity of it, which helps clarify what the other sources didn’t go into much depth on, hence, why I chose it. This source explores the complications of the policy and thus, the consequences and maltreatment that was given to homosexuals and bisexuals, which were more commonly infected with AIDS/HIV than their heterosexual counterparts. The source seems to include many references, but the PDF itself did not include a notes page. It can be possible that this source is credible by it’s seemingly knowledgeable and various references, but there is no physical citations or a bibliography to really deem this source as ‘credible’ which is a major flaw in the source. Overall, the source gives the historical background, in sequence, of the Department of Defense’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy and connects to the other sources to give light on the uncertainty of the policy and how homosexual/bisexual servicemen and prospects had to tread. Though unstated, this uncertainty of the policy’s solid rules can add to the anxiety a homosexual/bisexual might have already experienced in an unaccepting workplace, and the discrimination that surrounded any sexual minority can be assumed to negatively affect their mental health (i.e. depression, stress, anxiety), relating to the first annotation.
Hannah, William N., Shilpa Hakre, Peter Dawson, Hao Wu, Sheila A. Peel, Nelson L. Michael, Paul T. Scott, and Jason F. Okulicz. “Clinical Indicators Associated with HIV Acquisition in the United States Air Force.” AIDS Care 29, no. 6 (June 2017): 724–28. https://doi.org/10.1080/09540121.2016.1260086.
Development of a successful HIV-1 prevention program depends on the identification of HIV risk factors and testing of at-risk individuals to reduce HIV acquisition and sharing. The United States Air Force (USAF) has mandated HIV testing for active duty members about every 2 days. About one-third of those infected with HIV are unaware of their harboring of the virus. Early detection can be difficult because there are several risk factors, such as intravenous drug use (IDU) and illicit substance abuse. By mandated screening, about 75% of incident cases in the USAF allow disruption in forward HIV transmission.
The USAF conducts HIV screenings every 2 years and for peri-deployment. In this source’s study, the study population consisted of active duty USAF members at any time during January 1996 and December 2011 with available demographic information. All persons with a new HIV diagnosis during the study were considered cases. Individuals were matched into controls by age, length of service, sex, race, branch, service component (active duty, National Guard, or Reserve), and HIV test collection date.
462 total cases of HIV were identified among USAF personnel that served actively during January 1996 and December 2011. Because of the small numbers, the 10 female cases were removed. In unadjusted analyses within the last two years before HIV diagnosis, having clinical signs and symptoms of HIV infection, having a clinical syndrome consistent with HIV clinical history of a mental health disorder, or history of a STI had significantly higher odds of HIV infection. Five indicators had notably higher odds of HIV infection: having signs of HIV infection, clinical syndrome consistent with HIV infection, a clinical syndrome consistent with HIV, more frequent medical encounters, clinical history of a mental health disorder and history of a STI. This source recommends that the USAF screen those with HIV indicators more than the mandated screenings. Numerous studies have proven that the association “between HIV infection and serious mental health illness, and the prevalence rate of HIV infection in patients with serious mental illness is higher than expected in the general population for the same demographic area.” Severe mental illness in the military, however, undergoes an in-depth evaluation that ultimately leads to discharge. “The results of this study suggest that less debilitating forms of mental illness, such as depression, adjustment reactions, and anxiety may also play a contributory role in HIV acquisition in the active duty population.” This source also suggests that those with mental illness are likely to have riskier sexual behavior (including lack of condom with the same sex) and alcohol and drug use.
The goal of the study was to “identify and assess clinical indicators associated with HIV infection in the USAF.” It also suggests, based on findings, that the USAF should consider an increase of HIV testing for persons at risk, which would be GB men, relating this back to the first annotation. This source offered a different, more specific side of the HIV scenario in the military. This source focuses on the USAF, but it also surprised me that this branch had mandatory HIV screenings.
The source identifies its own limitations, indicating that the study included exclusive use of ICD-9 diagnosis codes which weren’t available the entire study period. Many of the diagnoses also lacked specificity. Politically, this testing of HIV is mandated through the USAF, but socially this source provides a glimpse at the indicators that relate to higher odds of HIV acquisition.
Goldbach, Jeremy T, and Carl Andrew Castro. “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Service Members: Life After Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Current Psychiatry Reports 18, no. 6 (June 2016): 56–56. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11920-016-0695-0.
71,000 military personnel identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual with many others identified as transsexual. Though homosexual behavior has always been prohibited, being of gay or lesbian sexual orientation was not explicitly stated as being banned from the military until 1942. Over time, the list of objections to allow homosexuals join the service grew, including higher health care costs (primarily because of AIDS), erosion of military morale, violation of privacy/modesty rights of non-lesbian and gay service members, and violation of the Uniformed Code of Military Justice’s prohibition against sodomy. Though the intention DADT was to protect LGB members in the service, it did little to protect them from discrimination and may have actually made it easier to be identified and separated as a LGB service member.
Because LGB service members were prohibited, studies on them aren’t available, however, we see in this source like we did in “The Effect of Discrimination and Stress on Sexual and Behavioral Health among Sexual Minority Servicemen”, that there have been studies on LGB veterans and civilians. Civilian LGBT studies show increased amounts of stress and psychological vulnerability, specifically depression, anxiety, PTSD, and substance abuse.
Contrary to we saw from the small study in “The Effect of Discrimination and Stress on Sexual and Behavioral Health among Sexual Minority Servicemen” (but was also the belief based on civilian and veteran GB studies) LGBT civilians have increased risks for a variety of illnesses and diseases. Lesbians, tending to smoke more, have STIs, and lack screening, are at greater risks for cervical and breast cancer. Gays are at higher risk for HIV and anal cancer. In civilian literature, health issues are usually attributed to LGBT-unique individuals, called minority stress, which states that major life events can cause one to be less equipped to adapt and tolerate life stressors. This can lead to poor physical and mental health.
Before the repeal of DADT, members could be discharged for disclosing their homosexuality. Even after the repeal, this distrust remains. Only 70% stated comfort with discussing their sexual orientation, while only 56.7% believe the military cares for their health regardless of sexual orientation. We saw similar information in “The Effect of Discrimination and Stress on Sexual and Behavioral Health among Sexual Minority Servicemen.”
The lack of military health care providers’ knowledge on LGBT health issues is a large issue discussed in the source, considering that with the repealing of DADT occurring in 2011, any provider trained before this would have limited exposure to LGBT health considerations.
The last issue regarding personal views of mental health care providers regarding LGBT service members in that many in the military do not believe LGBT should be allowed to serve. While everyone is entitled to have their own views, it can cause concern for LGBT service members knowing that their healthcare providers may treat them with discrimination.
This source discusses the repeal of DADT and the effects following it, along with issues that still need to be dealt with, such as knowledge gaps on healthcare and discrimination in the medical field and in the service throughout. This source argues also that there needs to be more research on active duty service members and discusses about the issues before and after DADT concerning healthcare and discrimination, connecting it to the other annotations. This source is a recent, concise article that has numerous resources for evidence, making it credible. There isn’t any reporting of new evidence in this source, so it would have to be assumed that this article used credible sources itself.
Delgado, Adolph Joseph, Danielle Gordon, and Phillip Schnarrs. “The Effect of Discrimination and Stress on Sexual and Behavioral Health among Sexual Minority Servicemen.” Journal of Gay & Lesbian Mental Health 20, no. 3 (July 2016): 258–79. doi:10.1080/19359705.2016.1141344.
Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT)
The military is estimated to have 37,071 gay and bisexual men serving, either actively or in the reserves, totaling about 1.5% of all servicemen. Further, there is estimated to be 12,965 gay and bisexual men that are retired from the reserves. However, this number is likely significantly underrepresentation due to an old military policy, DADT, that forced lesbians, gays, and bisexuals to mask their sexuality. Fortunately, these numbers no longer have to be estimates, as DADT has been repealed as of September 20, 2011. However, the repeal of DADT has not removed heteronormative roles caused by long time discrimination against homosexuals.
Service members experience more stressful situations than civilians. This source refers to other studies to prove that service members have increased risks of mental distress, such as anxiety or depression, negative health behaviors, such as alcohol consumption, and risky sexual behavior, such as unprotected sex. In addition to the likely aforementioned issues, sexual minorities in the military also experience social isolation, stigmatization, and discrimination. This source recognizes that DADT has limited the research that could have been done on active duty sexual minorities. This source wants to focus on the effect of discrimination and mental distress on negative health behaviors for sexual minority servicemen. The source acknowledges, however, that there has been research conducted on sexual minority civilians and sexual minority veterans.
Discrimination against homosexual and bisexual service members has been documented as far back as World War I (WWI). Sodomy became illegal; thus, numerous sexual minority service members were discharged. During World War II (WWII), the American Psychiatric Association classified homosexuality as a mental illness, labeling any homosexual or bisexual service member as unfit for the military. In 1982, the U.S. military wrote the Department of Defense (DOD) directive 1332.14 stating explicitly that homosexuals were to be excluded from military service solely based on their sexual orientation. DADT, however, passed in 1993 by Congress, allowed homosexuals to serve.
This source recognizes a handful of studies have reported negative outcomes of discrimination among LGB service members, and references a study of 71,570 service members. 39% of 71,455 active duty respondents reported being aware of harassments based on sexual identity. The referenced study also found a negative correlation between rank, education, and training on awareness of harassment: that is, the higher rank, education, and training, thw lower their awareness of harassment was.
This source references another study, conducted in 2013, in which, 38 lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) veterans and current service members felt much relief when meeting others. They also described their discomfort at VA services due to a lack of trust in some staff questioning sexual orientation. Many veterans keep their sexual orientation hidden after being discharged due to “a heteronormative culture that rejected their true identity.”
Risky sexual behavior
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are a globally common cause of illness that affects economic, health, and social aspects of one’s life. STI prevention, such as usage of a condom, are important in preventing HIV. Knowledge-based programs in STD clinics have not shown to be an effective prevention intervention. Understanding specific risk behaviors have greater potential to yield behavior changes with effective intervention.
The U.S. has underscored the importance of STD care and prevention. Military service members tend to have higher STD rates than their civilian counterparts, notably during deployment or wartime. The military also tries to do a knowledge-based approach, rather than changing risk behavior or focus on persons at risk for increased HIV infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that STIs have been increasing for men who have sex with men (MSM). MSM are 17 times more likely to develop anal cancer than heterosexual men, which is likely caused by HPV.
Because of the military’s historically negative view on homosexuality, there is a large chunk of information on the sexual health of LGB service members that is missing. Many LGB service members sought out civilian medical practitioners. Because of ethical dilemmas in providing care to LGB service members, medical professionals avoided documentation of the LGB’s identities and medical history.
Negative health behavior
This source gives a paragraph of information on the nation’s statistics for alcohol and drug substances. Heavy drinking can lead to cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, strokes, and liver disease, along with psychological ailments such as depression, anxiety, antisocial personality disorder, and sociopathy.
This source states that the policy makers over the U.S. military underscore prevention in heavy drinking and tobacco use, and argues that it contradicts the DOD’s goal to maintain military readiness. The DOD desires to “prevent and minimize the effects of heavy alcohol, other drug, and tobacco use on military performance and promote behaviors that contribute to health and fitness.” However, norms tended to encourage alcohol and tobacco usage. Alcohol is used in many ways: to prove masculinity, celebrate, reward, let loose, etc. Similarly, tobacco is used as a way of unwinding and socializing. Both of these detrimental substances are available to the military at reduced prices.
In 1986 the DOD pushed for health promotion. Smoking programs used social support to discourage tobacco use, in addition to prohibited smoking areas. Knowledge-based presentations on tobacco became required for incoming personnel, whereas alcohol, and other drugs had counseling and education for at-risk populations. The DOD directive included nongovernmental agencies, education, and drug urinalyses. There is a gap, as aforementioned, on the health of LGB service members, but there are numerous studies on drug and alcohol usage of LGB civilians.
Numerous studies have shown that sexual minorities have higher risk of smoking tobacco and marijuana than heterosexuals. This source again acknowledges the lack of research in current military climates after DADT’s repeal, and that hypotheses were generated based on literature on discrimination for LGBT civilians and reports from LGBT veterans.
The purpose of this study is to increase the knowledge about sexual and behavioral health of gay and bisexual servicemen, investigating if these individuals experienced discrimination and psychological stress. Further, to see if discrimination and stress would affect negative health behaviors (tobacco and/or alcohol usage) and risky sexual behavior (having casual sexual partners). This source claims that the data is an important first step to see if heteronormative roles still exist in the military. The source defines the possibilities of sexual minorities experiencing discrimination or not, engaging in more negative behaviors or not, and engaging in more risky sexual behavior or not.
85 males, ranging from 20 to 68 (with a median of 32.17) volunteered to participate. Participants were recruited either by email or web postings on social media, which then directed them to a questionnaire survey entitled, “The Effects of Discrimination and Stress on Sexual & Behavioral Health among Sexual Minority Servicemen.” 51 (60%) respondents were heterosexual, 25 (29%) were gay, and 9 (11%) were bisexual. Majority of respondents were white, followed by 24% Hispanic, 7% Black, 5% Asian, and 2% classified as “other.” Nearly two-thirds of respondents were veterans. 40% were Army, followed by 13% Air Force, 12% Marine Corps, 11% Navy, and 2% each for Coast Guard and National Guard. More than half had some college or associates degree, were currently enrolled, or had a four-year degree.
The study had criteria to ensure that the sample represented only gay, bisexual, and straight servicemen for accurate data. A separate study was done for transgender populations because of their unique experiences. For simplicity, this study focuses on men.
Participant recruitment and data collection
The study used a cross-sectional design, using a convenience sample conducted by aforementioned methods. They were given a consent form to complete before answering the 10-15-minute survey. When the survey was over, participants were shown links to counseling services in the case that they felt uncomfortable.
The demographics of sexual orientation, military status, and ethnicity were assigned numerical values. The survey gathered information on questions about condom use (1 = yes, 2 = no) and behavioral factors, such as “Where you under the influence of alcohol when you last had sex” (1 = yes, 2 = no) and “In the past 3 months, how many casual partner(s) have you engaged in sexual activity with, not counting a main partner?” These questions were to evaluate the risky sexual behavior.
Participants also took The Everyday Discrimination Scale and The Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS). The negative health behavior levels were measured using the Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test (ASSIST).
Depression and Anxiety, Alcohol and substance abuse, and Discrimination
DASS includes 3 scales with 4 point measurements to measure the negative emotional states of depression, anxiety, and stress over the participant’s past week. A sum is calculated based on each respondent’s experience and compared to the norms. Scale-level correlations were strongly correlated for each scale.
ASSIST measures substance use, including alcohol, and has a 0-38 rating for a 6 item scale. Higher numbers indicate higher probability of severe health, social, financial, and legal issues.
The Everyday Discrimination Scale, an 11-item scale using 6 points, measures day to day acts of discrimination. Correlation reports that scores are significantly correlated to internalizing and externalizing symptoms.
Discussion and Results
The purpose of the study was to understand if gay and bisexual servicemen had experienced more discrimination and stress compared to heterosexual counterparts. The study also assessed what factors contributed to increased negative health and sexual behaviors. Though the study had limitations, it is the first attempt to gain insight and ignite further research in this topic.
Gay and bisexual (GB) servicemen reported to experience more discrimination than their heterosexual counterparts. 35% of respondents experienced discrimination at their workplace. Even though DADT has been repealed, the source explores 3 possible reasons for this fact. First, the sample’s majority included GB servicemen that were enlisted during DADT, thus, they experienced the discriminatory policies before and during DADT. Second, at the time of this study, DADT had only been repealed for 3 years, so it is likely that those enlisted at the time of the study enlisted before DADT was repealed and experienced discrimination due to the policy. Lastly, this could simply indicate the prominent heteronormative tradition and military culture.
The source says that DOD has taken steps to remove inequality, but some policies still pose a threat toward equality for all sexual orientations. For example, the Uniform Code of Military Justice or the fact that any LGBT is prohibited from donating blood.
Fortunately, there was no difference in stress levels of GB and heterosexual men. This is likely because the military has much standardization in jobs and financials. Previous studies have revealed sexual minorities to experience more discrimination and stress, as this source recognizes, but it did not appear in this study. The source indicates it may be easy to recall a discriminatory event, but not the stress one experienced. It can be interpreted that this similar level of stress shows that the military and VA have done well to make sure service members aren’t under great levels of stress.
Research proved that sexual orientation was a predictor to use alcohol, use tobacco, and have casual sex partners. Contrary to hypotheses based on studies of GB civilians and veterans, GB servicemen had lower likelihoods of all three considerations. Possible explanations include being a GB serviceman reduces the propensity of engaging in such behaviors. Despise the known and displayed negativity towards homosexuality, many GB men still enlisted, indicating initial resilience. This resilience may be an explanation for why GB had lower rates, as they’ve already learned to be resilient in hardships. Another possibility for lower rates could be the consequences if caught. Given that the sample was largely veterans, it’s possible that they’d be careful in their behaviors for the sake of the secrecy of their sexual orientation.
The source recognizes the limitations, included the cross-sectional design that limited the range of respondents, cluster analyses, as this limits the individuals’ specific experiences, and the small size itself makes it hard to generalize. The source also recognizes that it may not be representative considering the recruitment was online and directed towards sites that focused on GB servicemen.
After recognizing the several limitations, the source explains how, to their knowledge at the time, this was one of the first studies to explore “how discrimination and stress affect gay and bisexual servicemen, identify whether discrimination is still prevalent in the military, and de ne how stress affects psychological functioning across servicemen.” These findings will help identify protective factors against discrimination and negative health behaviors in future studies, which will thus help with culturally tailored interventions.
I chose this as one of my sources because I found it necessary to consider the mental health of gay and bisexual servicemen when considering the bisexuals and gays in the military and how their treatment and experience has changed over time. This study, which was more detailed and had more evidence than others, included a convenience sample of 85 men in the military that were recruited through social media posts. The data collected showed a strong correlation with sexual orientation and discrimination, but not for negative health behaviors, physically or psychologically. This is relevant to understand the social and cultural effects in the military for the AIDS/HIV community because a major concern was gay nd bisexual men contracting STIs or STDs. These results push for studies to further explore this and fix the discrimination and negative health behaviors. However, we must recognize that this sample does likely contain bias, since the servicemen studied were volunteers. This resource works in conjunction with research on homosexuals in the military, but this delves deeper into the subject by examining their personal mental and sexual health, or lack thereof, because of certain laws. It also shows how DADT caused such a gap in research and information on GB servicemen and gave many possible explanations for results, such as the fear of consequences. DADT and this source reveal the political aspect of the AIDS community because of its effect on GB men being discharged or hidden in the military.
Ideally each annotation should briefly and concisely answer the following five questions about each source:
- What is this source about? When summarizing, keep in mind for whom the source was intended and why this source is relevant to your project.
- What information or evidence have you drawn from this source that helps you to understand better the social, political, cultural effects of AIDS/HIV and community and individual responses to the crisis as documented by the AIDS Quilt?
- Why did you choose this source? Your reasons might include one or more of the following: It is more comprehensive or detailed than other available sources. It specifically mentions or responds to one of our other readings for class. It is the only available source on the particular topic for which you are using it. The author seems to have views sympathetic to those of some of the other readings, or he/she offers an alternative viewpoint from those we have considered in our class discussions.
- Does this source have any flaws or weaknesses that you have had to take into consideration while using it? When answering this question, you should consider when and in what venue this source was published, and whether it shows the influence of bias or outdated/disfavored ideas, political views, research methods, etc.
- What is the relationship between this source and the other sources you’ve uncovered in your research? For example, does it offer an alternative viewpoint? Is the author in conversation with or does he/she draw upon the work of another author relevant to your project?
The AIDS Quilt, apart of the Names Project Foundation, features over 48,000 panels of quilts to memorialize those lost to AIDS.
The specific panel examined in this description is in block 5873 at the top left of the block. It starts under one horizontal panel, but remains on the left edge of the block. It is a vertical panel that is about 6 feet by 3 feet, according to AIDS Quilt staff, Roddy Williams.
At first glance, this panel seems to have memorials for numerous people, contrary to the general norm of one panel per person. The only uniform aspect in the entire panel is the 2 inches black borders around each section. The panel is divided into 4 unequal sections, 2 squares at the top, a square section in center, and a rectangular horizontal section at the bottom. The overarching theme is not apparent in color or ideas shown on the panel, however, this panel is very much all for one person, Laurenda Rose Doucet.
Starting at the top left square of the panel lies a dark brown acoustic guitar over a suede, deep green base. The suede backing of this section creates slight alterations in color, showing where the suede has last been brushed or touched and places that the suede remains untouched. The guitar is a simple 2D graphic sewn into the base and is slanted across the square towards the right, with the body of the guitar towards the bottom left of the square. The guitar gives the impression of a handmade detail due to its slight uneven neck. At the base of the guitar is the start of its strings. The strings start on top of a black patch that looks similar to an upside down bell-shaped distribution. Here, golden strings, attached by clear circular buttons, are strung up the guitar graphic, with one string having one clear button and going up the neck of the guitar to create chords. Each of these six strings, which are actually a group of 4-6 thin strings grouped together for thickness, runs up the guitar and connects to the tuning pegs like a guitar does in reality, except these are golden strings leading into sequined tuning pegs. These sequins are artificial, clear pyramidal studs with a flat bottom
sewn on the outside of the headstock with white thread. The entire guitar is outlined in black thread, with significantly darker and 10 thicker black threads going horizontally along the neck of the guitar, to separate the frets. On the top left of this section is a quote stitched in round yellow letters that reads:
“We go round and round
and round in the
After some research, these lyrics are by Joni Mitchell in The Circle Game. Assumably, this was Laurenda’s favorite song. If that is the case, this gives us details to the type of music she listened to and the time period she was alive in. In the same yellow stitched thread on the bottom right of this section is a cursive “Love always and forever!” Following underneath is the same round stitching that was in the top left, “Your daughter,” and back to the cursive stitching “Laurenda Rose”.
The Apple Orchard
Moving to the top right of the panel, the second square that’s bordered by a 1 inch thick black panel all around is a twine base with hand drawn trees, all ranging from 4.5 to 8.5 inches in height and about 1 to 2 inches in bases. The lines seem to be made from fabric markers, allowing some of the twine to show through the mostly filled-in brown bases of the drawn trees. The crowns of the trees are left open, but they are created with curvaceous green lines to give the trees a full and healthy appearance. Randomly scattered in the green tree bushes are small red circles, likely representing apples. A few of those same red circles, also drawn in fabric marker, rest on the roots of the brown trees. There are three apple trees in the top left of this section that progress diagonally to the center of the square, two in the top right that seem to be attracted to the center as well, and a row of 8 apple trees at the bottom. Collectively, these trees all create an open space in the twine square. Where there is open space, a message written in round black stitching reads:
We will meet you
in the Apple Orchard
You Love so much
WE Love You!
Dad + Mom II
Underneath these two squares is the longer and main section of the panel. This square is about 3 feet each side, and has the common thick 2 inch black border on the top and bottom of this square. This section contains differing color borders until it gets to the bright colored centerpiece.
The first border is about 4 or 5 inches thick and is made of a blue cotton fabric with navy blue, ink-like flower details consisting of leaves and flowers. Inside of the first border is a magenta cotton border, also about 4 or 5 inches thick, with small dark dots scattered all throughout this pattern. The dots look similar to baby’s breath flowers, which are depicted, and are all about a quarter of an inch each. The border inside that is about 2 inches thick all around and made of a bright red cotton. The border inside of the red is also about 2 inches and is a bright yellow. Both of these borders are completely plain and made of cotton fabric. The centerpiece inside of all of these borders is a reflective auburn vinyl square, containing many more details than the borders. At the bottom right, in a cursive stitching, reads “Love, Mama 1996”.
The main piece looks like a silhouette of a person in the common meditation pose, the lotus position, also depicted, colored in night blues and opaque whites scattered give the impression of clouds and stars located on the head, heart, left arm, and across the lower body. It can be assumed this graphic was sewn to show the importance of meditation in Laurenda’s life. Perhaps she was a buddhist, or just strongly believed in spirituality and enlightenment.
This is sewn in black thread on top of a yellow triangle, the same yellow as the yellow border, following the shape of the meditative silhouette, also sewn in black thread. Underneath the yellow triangle is a red triangle, matching the red border, in an altered position to create a 6 point star. This star is important in Hinduism and Buddhism and is associated with chakras often.
This is also sewn with black thread, onto a dark purple circle underlying the center graphic described. Surrounding the circle, to give this piece the appearance of a flower, are ‘petals’ of another fabric. The fabric contains bright yellow and variant shades of purple flowers, sewn in with black thread.
Finally, the rectangular section that takes up the bottom and remaining part of the panel is very simple and provides the information of the person being memorialized. It is surrounded by the thick 4 inch border on the top and approximately a 2 inch border along the other 3 sides. Within that is a 2.5 inch dark blue cotton fabric with hollow white stars, varying in sizes of 1 to 3 centimeters, scattered along the fabric. Inside the dark blue border is a large piece of the aforementioned auburn vinyl fabric as the base of the information. In large yellow cursive letters is sewn professionally “Laurenda ‘Lori’ Rose Doucet” about 2 inches in size. On the next line, in smaller sizing but the same font is, “January 20, 1958- March 31, 1996” and on the last line in the same yellow font is, “Conway, NH”.
It becomes apparent that every detail in this one panel was intentional and specific: the sizes, colors, graphics, etc. The panel, like the other 48,000, are meant to memorialize those that have passed due to AIDS, but these panels also give identity to the innumerable people that were taken from this disease. Laurenda “Lori” Rose Doucet, pictured, was a
mother and daughter. According to her daughter, who shares the same name as her mother, Lori enjoyed traveling, motorcycle rides, Tai Chi, quilting, playing guitar, and other activities. This panel was meant to give life to the woman who lived her life to the fullest and capture a segment of the multi-dimensional personality that Laurenda Doucet had. Roddy Williams
supplied me with these pictures to give a face to the woman that was loved dearly by her children and parents. At first glance, this panel is just another quilt piece memorializing someone that has passed, but with inspection and more information, you can almost feel the love that was shared for Laurenda and the identity that she had.
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