A modern twist on an old tradition played out this week in Virginia Beach, Virginia, when two female sailors kissed to celebrate the homecoming of the U.S. Navy ship Oak Hill, which returned after eighty days at sea.
The coveted “first kiss” is part of a Navy custom inspired by the famous photograph “V-J Day in Times Square,” that captured a sailor kissing a nurse on “Victory over Japan Day” in 1945. According to convention, sailors on ships buy raffle tickets with the hope of winning the chance to be the first one off the ship to kiss their loved one. This week, the winner of the drawing happened to be 23-year-old Petty Officer 2nd Class Marissa Gaeta. When she kissed her girlfriend, 22-year-old Citlalic Snell, the crowd of on-lookers cheered. Navy officials said it was the first time on record that a same-sex couple was chosen for the first kiss upon a ship's return. The two women reportedly met at a Naval training school and have been dating for two years, which they said was difficult under the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. Regarding the historical implication of the kiss, Gaeta acknowledged, "It's a big deal. It's been a long time coming."
What is the significance of this kiss in the context of the U.S. military and society in general? How far has the LGBT community come in terms of gaining acceptance in mainstream society?
Jennifer Hogg, co-founder, Service Women’s Action Network; National Guard veteran