LGBTQ* Quick Queer History
Homosexuality in the American Military FYI Moment
(Note: Since so many politicians are throwing around Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and (INCORRECT) phrases about how homosexuality has been banned from the ranks since the beginning of the USA’s military forces, here’s a bit of information to explain its true history. —Rebecca)
Prior to WORLD WAR II there was no formal method/practice of excluding homosexuals from the armed forces in the United States of America. Acts of sodomy were punishable as a criminal act and soldiers could face court-martial or expulsion from the service.
During WWII, the American Selective Service System began to hire and rely on psychiatrists more heavily during routine recruitment screenings. It was during this time that homosexuality was noted as unfit for duty and service within the armed forces. During initial screenings, psychiatrists would ask male recruits if “they liked girls” and questions about their last relationships all the while watching for effeminate looks or behavior. Psychiatrists would also drop code phrases and gay slang and document if the soldier reacted or knew the meaning/understood the phrase.
When need for troops in WWII grew to a desperate level, the government told psychiatrists to let everyone through. The government would go on to say that the entire screening process was ineffective and very costly to the military budget. It is believed that for every ONE person banned from joining the service, ten gay men would enter following evaluations.
Following WWII, men who were discharged where given a Blue Slip/Blue Discharge, named because of the paper color they were printed on. These Blue Slips DISHONORABLY discharged men and were a permanent marker of homosexual charges. The names of these men were supplied to employers by the military, making it nearly impossible for some to find work after being released.
This policy remained in effect until Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.
For more information read: Conduct Unbecoming by Randy Shilts