By Luke Good
The ceremonial first homecoming kiss is Navy tradition, and until last September, so were closeted lesbian relationships. But last week, Petty Officer Marissa Gaeta bought 50 raffle tickets and won the honor of kissing her bride to be, 22-year-old Citlalic Snell. Gaeta walked down the gangplank after a three-month deployment to Central America, kissed Snell and became the first gay ceremonial kissers in Navy history.
This is the first time we can actually show who we are,” said Snell.
What is perhaps most interesting about the photograph is the likeness it bares in composition to a famous photograph that can forever be found swimming in the retina of 20th century America with its celebrations of wartime victories, its nostalgic yearning for yesteryear, and its tendency toward heteronormativity. Considering Alfred Eisenstaedt’s V-J day in Times Square, Gaeta breathes life back into the staunch and desirous naval officer and Snell is the happily overtaken and cradled woman; ultimately, Gaeta and Snell are similarly young, attractive, and gendered as the still not positively identified couple of 1945 that upheld, above all else, the significance of gender conformity.
The diamond ring, too, is a highlight of gender roles, as it is worn by Snell on her left hand. Gaeta doesn’t need to wear an engagement ring (or at least be shown to wear one) as she is presumably the one that proposed because she is the one doing the dipping in the photograph. It truly is good to be a uniformed figure of American masculinity, whether staged that way or spontaneously expressed, even for women.
But what if the two were men? The one dipping would appear natural as he fulfills his innate (as some would unfortunately still argue) sense of entitlement, but it would ultimately mean that the other man would need to be dipped and swooned, standing-in for the flirtatiously kicking and submissive woman in order to recreate the iconic composition.
And that is what would offend the aforementioned conservative mindset the most. Replacing Gaeta and Snell with men would have meant blatantly undermining the masculine, testosterone driven ego that is still believed essential to fighting battles and winning wars, whether in distant lands or here at home. With all ten of our fingers seemingly dipped in wars around the world, we can’t have swooned and subservient men defending our country, but we can have virile and dominating women doing the dirty work.