Gays: A Struggle for Acceptance


"When the dust settles and the pages of history are written, it will not be the
angry defenders of intolerance who have made the difference, that reward will
go to those who dared to step outside the safety of their privacy in order to
expose and rout the prevailing prejudice."

- John Shelby Spong

Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Newark, NJ

November 21, 1996

During World War II and especially the twenty years after brought great
political and social changes to the U.S.. Undoubtedly, one of the major changes
was the new awareness of homosexuality. If this new awareness was to the
advantage or if it was really wanted by the gay and lesbian population is a
question that arises; if they really had a choice in the matter is another. I
think gays\' relentless struggle for acceptance into mainstream society came from
the American constitution itself. After all, the gay liberation movement started
in America, the land of the free, where all men are created equal and with an
inalienable right to pursue their own happiness. No one should be able to take
these rights away from anyone. Also, in the 1950s, the civil rights movement
became active and words like desegregation and equal rights for all became
synonymous with the American way of life. Stand up and fight against those who
have done you wrong! This is what gave homosexuals such a conviction to start
fighting for their own cause. This paper will follow the progress of gay and
lesbians in the twentieth century before, during and after World War II. What
was their position in the armed forces during the war and what was government
and military policy during and after the war on gays in the army and in
government positions? How did gay and lesbians respond to the new policies after
the war and why were organizations like the Mattachine Society and the Daughters
of Bilitis founded? On December 7, 1941 at 7:55 a.m. local time, Japan attacked
Pearl Harbor. The Unites States declared war on Japan and was suddenly a
participant in the largest war in the history of mankind. A massive military
force of 12 million men was assembled. American soldiers were sent to Europe and
Japan to participate and win the Big One. The military bureaucracy grew
accordingly and thousands of new jobs were created. With the military\'s enormous
demand for personnel, drafted American men found themselves in isolated gender
segregated environments. All the big war movies depict this with the GI\'s
longing for leave so he could go downtown and find himself a prostitute. What
these movies do not show is a new community, within the military, of homosexuals
who until now lived socially isolated lives because they were either unsure of
what they were or of their sexual preferences or just plain scared of what
people would think if they found out their secret. In the military, these people
found other gay men who were in the same predicament. They weren\'t alone.

Before the war, gays and lesbians were almost invisible from society. They were
not mentioned in the popular media and the general population was oblivious to
their existence. An occasional arrest or school expulsion of a Asexual
psychopath@ were the only vague signs that the public would hear about. Now that
the military accepted or at least needed the cooperation of all men, including
homosexuals, an important page had been turned in the progress of gay rights,
however, it also set the scene for discrimination and prejudice. Homosexuals
were in all branches of the armed forces, from paper pushing to front line
combat. Before enlisting, interrogators had forced them to describe their
lifestyle, which in turn made it impossible for homosexuals to continue hiding
in the closet but instead had to take the first step in living a new open
lifestyle. They were classified as Asexual psychopaths@ on their military
records, however, they were not being discriminated by the military at this
point in time. An apparatus was even set up to accommodate gay personnel.
Through this apparatus, the military ended up with quite an extensive record of
homosexual behavior and was considered an expert on the subject. Military
scientists much later said that through studying homosexuals\' behavior could
find nothing to support evidence that gay and lesbians were in any way
psychopaths or had any form of mental disorder. This report came out after the
1940s and 1950s; until then, the military denied having made any research on
homosexuals. After World War II, the military suddenly made a decision not to
have gay or lesbians in