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.
Coming Out Under Fire DVD
- Additional interviews with four World War II veterans and the author of an official 1940s report criticizing the treatment of gays in the military.
- Extended scenes of the 1993 U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Hearings on gays in the military. Highlights include arguments from former General Norman Schwarzkopf, Senators John Warner and Strom Thurmond, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and formal Colonel and openly lesbian soldier, Margarethe Cammermeyer, whose story was told in an NBC film starring Glen Close.
- Historical Documents Gallery, including details from World War II experiments to detect homosexuality in servicemembers: the “Drawing-A-Man Test” and the “Gag Reflex and Fellatio Test.”
- Production notes from the filmmaker, with photos from the set.
12-page Illustrated Viewer’s Guide:
- Essay by award-winning author/journalist Chris Bull, Washington Correspondence for the Advocate
- Historical Timeline on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, from 1778 to present day
- Resource Guide
- Reading List
- List of other films and videos that deal with homosexuality and the U.S. Military
- Listen to music cues originally composed for Coming Out Under Fire, along with corresponding images from the film. A special feature allows you to hear the tracks singularly or all 11 tracks continuously without stopping.
- Read a short biography on Emmy Award-winning composer, Mark Adler, and his remarks on producing his score for the film.
- Full-Length Theatrical Version
- Scene Selection
- Theatrical Trailer