When Greg Cope White first visited a Marine Corps recruiter in 1979, he had what was then a disqualifying secret: He was (and still is) a homosexual man. Back then, that fact was still a closely guarded secret. The U.S. military faced a number of high-profile lawsuits from those accused of homosexuality who were forcibly drummed out, often given an "undesirable" discharge.
While he was serving, the Department of Defense codified the regulation that homosexuality was "incompatible with military service." That rule came in 1982, but White spent six years in the Corps as a communications specialist anyway, earning a meritorious promotion and leaving with an honorable discharge.
He credits the Marine Corps and its camaraderie with instilling in him the self-confidence to do what he does today.
Today, he's a film and television screenwriter whose credits include the HBO series "Dream On," as well as films produced by Fox, Disney and others. He also wrote a memoir of his time serving in the Marines as a gay man, called "The Pink Marine: One Boy's Journey Through Boot Camp to Manhood."
Netflix purchased the rights to develop Cope's book for the screen in 2021. Variety reports the streaming service just ordered 10 episodes of a new series, produced by TV legend Norman Lear ("All in the Family," "The Jeffersons"), inspired by the book, rather than a direct adaptation.
Called "The Corps," the show centers on Cameron Cope, "a bullied, gay high school student who joins the Marines with his straight best friend, Ray -- a dangerous move when being gay in the military meant jail time or worse. As these two friends plunge into Marine Corps boot camp, where the landmines are both literal and metaphorical, they join a platoon of young men on a harrowing journey of transformation."
Actor Miles Heizer ("13 Reasons Why") stars as Cope, "a charming underdog -- a gay, bullied teenager living in a chaotic home with his narcissistic mom -- he impulsively joins the Marines with his straight best friend in hopes that he'll finally be made into a 'real man.'"
Vera Farmiga ("The Departed") will play his mother, Barbara, and Liam Oh will portray his friend Ray McCaffey, the son of a Marine Corps veteran. Max Parker ("Vampire Academy") was cast as Sgt. Sullivan, a decorated Recon Marine with secrets of his own, who will try to prepare Cope for "the same personal war he'll face beyond boot camp."
"The Corps" takes place in 1990, three years before the administration of President Bill Clinton would enact the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Often called DADT, the policy barred openly gay, lesbian or bisexual people from serving, but also prohibited discriminating against closeted individuals.
In practice, however, the anti-discrimination part of the policy was ignored. Anti-homosexual bias and harassment were rampant in the armed forces, and DADT was not implemented as promised or intended. President Clinton was eventually forced to admit the policy was a failure.
DADT was repealed in 2010.
-- Blake Stilwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He can also be found on Twitter @blakestilwell or on LinkedIn.
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