paris peace accords

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January 27th 1973: Paris Peace Accords

On this day in 1973, the Paris Peace Accords were signed in the French capital, ending U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. American involvement in the country went back to the 1950s, with Cold War fears of the region falling to communism leading a series of presidents to steadily increase the presence of American advisers in Vietnam. Vietnam successfully achieved independence from the colonial French in 1954, which also resulted in the division of the country between the communist North under Ho Chi Minh, and the South under U.S.-backed Ngo Dinh Diem. The two sections soon broke out in fighting, and in August 1964 the United States fully committed to the war after the Gulf of Tonkin incident. This was when the North Vietnamese allegedly fired on American ships in the gulf, which resulted in Congress passing a resolution allowing the President to intervene in the war to counter the communists. The high casualty rates of American soldiers, and tales of horrific acts of violence like the My Lai massacre in 1968, prompted mass protests against the war in the United States. This increased opposition to the presidency of Lyndon Johnson, who declined to run for another term in 1968 and was succeeded by Richard Nixon. Nixon initially expanded the war into neighboring Laos and Cambodia, but then began to gradually withdraw troops from the war that had reached an unwinnable and bloody stalemate. The 1973 settlement, known as ‘An Agreement Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam’, included a cease-fire throughout Vietnam, as well as the withdrawal of U.S. forces. U.S. Representative Henry Kissinger and North Vietnamese Le Duc Tho were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in Paris, though the latter refused the award. However, the fighting in Vietnam continued until 1975, when Saigon fell to the North Vietnamese Army, and the nation was united under communist rule.

Consider, for example, how the course of the war in Vietnam affected gay male and transgender community dynamics. (…) The countercultural hippie style popular among both gays and straights–with its bright, flowing fabrics, long hair, and love beads–represented a deliberate reversal of the gender conventions of militaristic masculinity and signaled political opposition to the war. (…) It should not be surprising that the period when male-to-female transgender people made their most significant political gains overlapped with a period in which public gender transgression by nontransgendered men had the broadest and deepest sense of political urgency. Significantly, however, when major U.S. involvement in Vietnam began to wind down, after the 1973 Paris Peace Accords, the gender coding of men’s clothing styles simultaneously began to shift. In gay male culture, 1973 was the year that the masculine “clone look” of denim, plaid, and short haircuts replaced radical hippie/fairy chic, signaling the return of a more gender-normative expression of male homosexuality. At the cultural level, it is possible to trace the current “homonormativity” of mainstream gay culture (an emphasis on being “straight-looking and straight-acting”), as well as the perceived lack of meaningful connection to transgender communities among mainstream gays and lesbians, to the shifts of 1973.
—  Susan Stryker, Transgender History (p. 95)