16mm • Theatrical Version: 71 minutes
Broadcast Versions: 57 or 59 minutes
Black & White • U.S.A. • English
George Foster Peabody Award
Special Jury Award
Sundance Film Festival
Berlin International Film Festival
GLAAD Media Award
Coming Out Under Fire features nine gay and lesbian veterans who recount how they joined the patriotic war against fascism in the 1940s only to find themselves fighting two battles: one for their country and another for their right to serve. They first remember warm and entertaining stories of finding each other in a compulsory heterosexual environment and reminisce over tales of first love and deep friendships. Their good times were short-lived, however, as they became targets of newly created anti-homosexual policies which called for witch hunts, dehumanizing interrogations, involuntary psychiatric treatments, and the incarceration of suspected homosexuals into "queer stockades." The final humiliation was a dishonorable discharge which stripped a soldier of all veterans benefits as well as being officially branded a "sex pervert" for life.
Coming Out Under Fire is based on the ground-breaking book by MacArthur "Genius Grant" recipient, Allan Bérubé, and integrates compelling on-camera interviews with declassified military documents and archival footage on sex education, mental health, prison compounds, and court martial hearings. It probes the origins of the military's anti-homosexual policy to document how pseudo-psychiatry, erroneous medical theory, and misplaced ethics masked a policy based on nothing short of prejudice. Coming Out Under Fire concludes with riveting scenes from 1993 U.S. Senate hearings which expose how the American government continues to justify and reaffirm it's 50-year-old system for persecuting homosexual service personnel. The final outcome: today's Congressionally mandated "don't ask, don't tell" compromise only serves to perpetuate the real problem -- bigotry and the continued violation of gay and lesbian civil rights.
Major funding for Coming Out Under Fire was provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting through the Independent Television Service. Additional funding was provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department and the Edelman Family Fund.