Category: Pride Month

From the source:An Air Force nurse from Georgia during the…

From the source:

An Air Force nurse from Georgia during the Vietnam War era, Judith Crosby survived an interrogation and investigation into her sexuality at the same time she was coming to oppose the American war in Vietnam. (Photo courtesy of Judith Crosby.)

Judith Crosby began questioning her sexuality during nursing school, but she knew that homosexuality was considered “abnormal” and “deviant” behavior. Not wanting to be branded as such, she partied, had sex with men, and tried to bury her feelings for women.

Check out the interview of Judith completed for the Veteran’s History Project: Interview with Judith Crosby (2/3/2004).

mufi1008 replied to your post “On why telling the stories of LGBT+ service members is important” …

mufi1008
replied to your post
“On why telling the stories of LGBT+ service members is important”

@karagin12 the reason OP and many LGBT people that serve in the military want to show this topic its because historically this group of people have been discharged for their sexuality even in cases were they were honored for their sevices with the military. Also this work serve as a incentive for you LGBT to serve in the army.

Personally, I can’t say that I hope studies of LGBT service members throughout history encourages any LGBT+ youth to serve in the US military.

karagin12 replied to your post “On why telling the stories of LGBT+ service members is important” …

karagin12
replied to your post
“On why telling the stories of LGBT+ service members is important”

Can we stop forcing this on to everything? Who cares about their sexuality? IF they do the job of their MOS and do what needs to be done as a service member WITHOUT putting anyone at risk then who cares what they do in their bedroom, I don’t. So please STOP telling us about their problems, no one cares, no one wants to hear how hard it is to get a date and I can tell you NO ONE in the military is special. Do your job and keep your personal life to yourself. Simple, easy

You just saw the title and decided to go off, didn’t you? Read the post, then come back to me as it addresses exactly what you said here.

I would like to add that plenty of men and women were absolutely keeping their personal lives to themselves, yet were still run out of the military despite stellar service records.

On why telling the stories of LGBT+ service members is important

vietnamwarera:

  • As long as an LGBT+ service member does their job well and can be relied upon when the going gets tough, why does their LGBT+ identity matter?
  • Why focus on the sexuality and gender identities of service members and veterans?

These questions have certainly been asked of me this month as I focus on the experience of LGBT+ service members during the Vietnam War era. In a way, I asked them of myself, though the answer was easy for me to find due to my own life experiences. Being a transgender man affects the way I study history, just as being a historian affects my life as a transgender man. Not everyone feels this way in their own experiences, which is completely valid, however this should not silence those who find importance in these overlapping identities.

Regulation

The Department of Defense in 1949 unified the policies of the branches of service by declaring: “Homosexual personnel, irrespective of sex, should not be permitted to serve in any branch of the Armed Services  in any capacity, and prompt separation of known homosexuals from the Armed Forces me made mandatory.” The Uniform Code of Military Justice, adopted in 1951, maintained the prior criminalization of sodomy under Article 125. Prior to these dates, and indeed back to the Continental Army, gay servicemen were discharged from the military. “Consensual sodomy” committed by service members was deemed a crime in a 1920 revision of the Articles of War (precursor to  the UCMJ).

Actuality

During peacetime, each military branch regularly drummed out suspected gay and lesbian service members. The military maintained they were unfit for service, despite the fact that they were often doing their jobs to the same degree of satisfaction as their heterosexual peers. Their ability was questioned not after any decrease in performance, but rather only after allegations of homosexuality were made and investigations begun.

The number of service members discharged under the anti-gay policies of the military dropped noticeably during wartime. While discharges of gays and lesbians still occurred, it was at a much lower rate. Considering the increase in overall troop numbers during times of war, sometimes massively, percentage-wise this meant even less service members were receiving discharges due to their sexuality. Obviously a larger military meant more people, which meant more gay people. Why a lower number of discharges?

Because they had skills needed. If the military discharged every alleged gay person, they would have lost a startling number of trained and skilled personnel. Clearly, the military only believed that gay service members were unfit for service when it suited them. It would look the other way in times of war, and ask gay service members to die for their country, and then disgrace that service in times of peace by denying them the right to continue serving. The military used and abused LGBT+ service members this way.

Vietnam War context

The 1960s is seen as a decade of great change for the United States. Movements gained incredible strength during these years, or were born into their more modern versions that we recognize today. Many of these movements became intertwined with the Vietnam War and the anti-war movement.

The gay rights movement came into existence during the 1960s and contributed to the anti-war movement. Much like members of the Civil Rights movement, who fought for racial equality and condemned the government’s willingness to let people of color serve in the military and die for their country, abusing them through an inequitable draft, while people of color at home were treated as lesser citizens. Many gay veterans came to see that they were treated similarly.

However the gay rights movement did not quite know where to place gay service members. Often they were seen as contributing to the problem, rather than as gay men and women who needed as much help as their civilian counterparts. Being part of the system should not have excluded them from the aims of the gay rights movement when the system would still gladly eject them and potentially ruin their lives.

Conclusion

The experiences of LGBT+ service members during the Vietnam War era bear historical significance. They highlight the inconsistencies in the carrying out of military policy, as well as the injustices of those policies and how they affected lives even after military service. They show the connections between the gay rights movement, the war, and the anti-war movement during a period of immense social change in the United States. They also provide context for ongoing civil rights issues regarding the military, such as the struggle of transgender service members to continue serving today.

The stories of LGBT+ service members need to be told to understand the struggle of serving in a military that discriminated against them.

*************

Sources:

On why telling the stories of LGBT+ service members is important

  • As long as an LGBT+ service member does their job well and can be relied upon when the going gets tough, why does their LGBT+ identity matter?
  • Why focus on the sexuality and gender identities of service members and veterans?

These questions have certainly been asked of me this month as I focus on the experience of LGBT+ service members during the Vietnam War era. In a way, I asked them of myself, though the answer was easy for me to find due to my own life experiences. Being a transgender man affects the way I study history, just as being a historian affects my life as a transgender man. Not everyone feels this way in their own experiences, which is completely valid, however this should not silence those who find importance in these overlapping identities.

Regulation

The Department of Defense in 1949 unified the policies of the branches of service by declaring: “Homosexual personnel, irrespective of sex, should not be permitted to serve in any branch of the Armed Services  in any capacity, and prompt separation of known homosexuals from the Armed Forces me made mandatory.” The Uniform Code of Military Justice, adopted in 1951, maintained the prior criminalization of sodomy under Article 125. Prior to these dates, and indeed back to the Continental Army, gay servicemen were discharged from the military. “Consensual sodomy” committed by service members was deemed a crime in a 1920 revision of the Articles of War (precursor to  the UCMJ).

Actuality

During peacetime, each military branch regularly drummed out suspected gay and lesbian service members. The military maintained they were unfit for service, despite the fact that they were often doing their jobs to the same degree of satisfaction as their heterosexual peers. Their ability was questioned not after any decrease in performance, but rather only after allegations of homosexuality were made and investigations begun.

The number of service members discharged under the anti-gay policies of the military dropped noticeably during wartime. While discharges of gays and lesbians still occurred, it was at a much lower rate. Considering the increase in overall troop numbers during times of war, sometimes massively, percentage-wise this meant even less service members were receiving discharges due to their sexuality. Obviously a larger military meant more people, which meant more gay people. Why a lower number of discharges?

Because they had skills needed. If the military discharged every alleged gay person, they would have lost a startling number of trained and skilled personnel. Clearly, the military only believed that gay service members were unfit for service when it suited them. It would look the other way in times of war, and ask gay service members to die for their country, and then disgrace that service in times of peace by denying them the right to continue serving. The military used and abused LGBT+ service members this way.

Vietnam War context

The 1960s is seen as a decade of great change for the United States. Movements gained incredible strength during these years, or were born into their more modern versions that we recognize today. Many of these movements became intertwined with the Vietnam War and the anti-war movement.

The gay rights movement came into existence during the 1960s and contributed to the anti-war movement. Much like members of the Civil Rights movement, who fought for racial equality and condemned the government’s willingness to let people of color serve in the military and die for their country, abusing them through an inequitable draft, while people of color at home were treated as lesser citizens. Many gay veterans came to see that they were treated similarly.

However the gay rights movement did not quite know where to place gay service members. Often they were seen as contributing to the problem, rather than as gay men and women who needed as much help as their civilian counterparts. Being part of the system should not have excluded them from the aims of the gay rights movement when the system would still gladly eject them and potentially ruin their lives.

Conclusion

The experiences of LGBT+ service members during the Vietnam War era bear historical significance. They highlight the inconsistencies in the carrying out of military policy, as well as the injustices of those policies and how they affected lives even after military service. They show the connections between the gay rights movement, the war, and the anti-war movement during a period of immense social change in the United States. They also provide context for ongoing civil rights issues regarding the military, such as the struggle of transgender service members to continue serving today.

The stories of LGBT+ service members need to be told to understand the struggle of serving in a military that discriminated against them.

*************

Sources:

Portland gay couple, survivors of Vietnam War, now find peace

Portland gay couple, survivors of Vietnam War, now find peace:

When the Army asked for medevac pilots for Vietnam, Norton volunteered, even as his commanding officer warned it was suicide. During the war, air ambulances rescued more than 900,000 military and civilian casualties, 97.5 percent of whom survived, according to the U.S. Army School of Aviation. The Hueys flew low, just above the jungle canopy, constantly exposed to enemy fire. Thirty-nine medevac crew members died and 210 were wounded over a two-year period.

“The study further found that some 26 percent of those who had received less than honorable…”

“The study further found that some 26 percent of those who had received less than honorable discharges felt ‘guilt and shame,’ while 12 percent reported ‘confusion and collapse’ from the ordeal. More than half said the bad discharges affected their ability to get jobs–it was routine then for prospective employers to check all veterans’ discharge papers. In the long term, most gay GIs managed to weather the significant psychological distress and recover. The researchers found that 58 percent of the veterans who had received less than honorable discharges had considered suicide in the aftermath of their investigations and release from the military. Those who succeeded obviously were not around to be interviewed.”

Conduct Unbecoming: Gays & Lesbians in the U.S. Military by Randy Shilts, page 164.

The study mentioned was conducted by Drs. Colin Williams and Martin Weinberg from the Institute for Sex Research at Indiana University in 1972. It was “one of the first studies conducted on men receiving gay-related discharges from the military.”

“On Organization Day, Simone was onstage and proved such a success that other units invited Perry…”

“On Organization Day, Simone was onstage and proved such a success that other units invited Perry [Watkins] to perform for them. He soon acquired an agent, who booked Simone in NCO and enlisted men’s clubs throughout Europe. Ever since he was a kid with the Tacoma City Ballet, Perry had wanted to be an entertainer. Now he had finally achieved his dream, in the Army. As Simone.”

Conduct Unbecoming: Gays & Lesbians in the U.S. Military by Randy Shilts, page 156.

In between enlistments in the Army, Sgt. Perry Watkins, a gay black man, developed a drag act with the name of Simone, and performed at a gay bar in Tacoma, WA. When he was stationed to a Pershing missile unit near Frankfurt, West Germany, Watkins brought along all the clothes and accessories necessary for his act. In a strange twist, he wound up performing as Simone for his unit’s Organization Day.

For more about Perry Watkins, see these posts: [1], [2], [3].

“Libidinous GIs hardly had to leave the base for their adventures. The swimming pool at Tan Son Nhut,…”

“Libidinous GIs hardly had to leave the base for their adventures. The swimming pool at Tan Son Nhut, for example, had a reputation as one of the most active gay cruising areas that side of Fire Island. There were usually gay men available for dating among civilian personnel at the USO libraries. For gay soldiers, Sydney became a favorite R and R [rest and recuperation] site–with those cheerful guys who could not seem to get enough of American men. Singapore also featured a rousing gay scene, although this tended  to attract more gay Australian and New Zealand soldiers, who were in Vietnam as part of a multinational alliance. The in-country R and R center at Vung Tau was also known for wild gay partying. Discharges on the grounds of homosexuality still occurred in Vietnam, but there was growing tolerance of gay servicemen there, unmatched at stateside duty stations.”

Conduct Unbecoming: Gays & Lesbians in the U.S. Military by Randy Shilts, page 149-150.

See this quote for what life was like in rear areas of Vietnam.

“By the time Air Force Captain Bill Oyler made it to Nha Trang Air Base above Cam Rahn Bay to fly…”

“By the time Air Force Captain Bill Oyler made it to Nha Trang Air Base above Cam Rahn Bay to fly with the Ninetieth Operations Squadron, gay airmen in the States had filled his address book with the names of scores of other gay pilots stationed there. Between Nha Trang and the larger Tan Son Nhut base near Saigon, Oyler knew about one hundred gay pilots. When he transferred to Thailand, he met between 150 and 200 more gay Air Force personnel.”

Conduct Unbecoming: Gays & Lesbians in the U.S. Military by Randy Shilts, page 149.

Capt. Bill Oyler arrived in Vietnam in 1971.

See this quote for what life was like in the rear areas of Vietnam during the early years of the war.