Uncle Sam wants youBill's Briefs Thursday, June 23rd, 2011
I was reminded of this by Diversionary Theatre’s recent production about Dr. Tom Dooley the ’60s superhero. He was lauded by all including three presidents as the finest example of America’s manhood. His sudden abandonment of his sky-rocketing naval career was explained as it was the only way he could continue serving the orphanages and hospitals in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia since those governments didn’t want U.S. military personnel there anymore. This widely reported personal sacrifice only upgraded the adulation, praise and honors which continued long after his death at 34 from cancer.
The truth was he was kicked out of the Navy because he was (hold on to your hats) gay. Until 1973 this was a well-known mental disorder making those so tainted unfit to serve and often put in mental institutions. Only Dr. Dooley’s fame kept him from possible prison and a dishonorable discharge. He was quietly given a “less than honorable” discharge and all involved kept the secret for decades lest it be known that this paragon was “one of them.”
I think with heartbreak of my gay brothers and sisters whose lives and careers were ruined by the military policies. I think with pride of those who gallantly served our country while under the constant stress and fear of discovery. Anti-gay brainwashing was so intense many have continued to stay in the closet. I hope someday they come out, speak up and support the many coming changes that will make gays in the service a non-issue.
For myself, I remember finishing grad school in NYC and being ordered to Brooklyn for my induction physical. Terrified of being bullied in the service or worse being found out and disgraced, I was in a panic whether to “check the box” as it was called about “homosexual tendencies.” Amazingly the first person I ran into among the 300 there was a gay guy I knew from Maine. Surely a sign; so we agreed, “I will, if you will.” And we did. After seeing a smirking official and answering a series of exceedingly embarrassing questions, I received a form declaring I was “unfit for military service due to a personality maladjustment due to a gonadal deficiency.” Wow, and all the time I thought I was gay.
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