Section 8 (military)

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Section 8 is a category of discharge from the United States military, used for a service member judged mentally unfit for service. Section 8 was also often given to cross-dressers, homosexual, bisexual and transgender people.[1]


The term Section 8 eventually came to mean any service member given such a discharge or behaving as if deserving such a discharge, as in the expression, "he's a Section 8". The term comes from Section VIII of the World War II-era United States Army Regulation 615-360, which provided for the discharge of those deemed unfit for military service.[2]

Section 8 discharge was often given to homosexuals, bisexuals, cross-dressers and transgender people as they were deemed mentally unfit to serve in the military. A Section 8 discharge often made it difficult for people to find work in civilian life and did not allow veterans benefits.[3]

Discharge under Section 8 is no longer practiced, as medical discharges for psychological/psychiatric reasons are now covered by a number of regulations. In the Army, such discharges are handled under the provisions of AR 635-200, Active Duty Enlisted Administrative Separations. Chapter 5, paragraph 13 governs the separation of personnel medically diagnosed with a personality disorder.[4]

In culture[edit]

Section 8 became a household phrase when used in the 1970s TV series M*A*S*H, in which the character Corporal Klinger was continually seeking one (until he eventually abandoned his efforts).[5] His preferred method of doing so was cross-dressing.[6][7] In the 2003 movie Basic, a DEA agent Tom Hardy (played by John Travolta) investigates a group of apparently insane mercenary Rangers turned drug dealers calling themselves Section 8.[citation needed] In Stanley Kubrick's 1987 film Full Metal Jacket Pvt Leonard "Gomer Pyle" Lawrence is described as potentially being a Section 8 when it is noticed that he talks to his rifle.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Michael Bronski; A Queer History of the United States
  2. ^ "Office of Medical History - Neuropsychiatry in WWII, Chapter 16". United States Department of the Army. 1963. Retrieved 2012-01-04.
  3. ^ Michael Bronski; A Queer History of the United States;
  4. ^ "Active Duty Enlisted Administrative Separations" (PDF). United States Department of the Army. 2005-06-05. Retrieved 2009-01-03.
  5. ^ "M*A*S*H Episode Guide - Radar's Report". The editors of 1973-09-02. Retrieved 2011-02-02.
  6. ^ Nicole Markotic; Disability in Film and Literature; 37
  7. ^ Douglas L. Howard, David Bianculli; Television Finales: From Howdy Doody to Girls; 238
  8. ^ Kubrick, Stanley (Director) (1987). Full Metal Jacket (Motion picture). Warner Bros. Event occurs at 0:35:18.