|Rainbow over my neighborhood 6:15 pm Sept. 17th, 2011|
Late yesterday afternoon as I was out in my backyard enjoying the cool breezes and welcome respite from the rain, I noticed that a beautiful rainbow had formed an archway into our development. I quickly ran into the house to get my expensive SLR camera to record this treasure of nature before the rainbow disappeared. I just made it and that is the picture that you see at the beginning got this blog.
This morning as I opened up my neighbor's newspaper (which I am collecting for them while they are away on a short trip), I noticed that the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy was officially ended last night. Was it a just a coincidence that the rainbow presaged the ending of this horrific and stupid policy? I don't think so.
|"Don't Ask, Don't Tell" 1960 Ft. Devens Mass (two gays in this picture, my friend Bob on the left and me on the right)|
As regular readers of this blog know, I am gay (gee, who doesn't know that?) As you may or may not know, I was also in the Army for three years from January of 1960 to January of 1963. I joined the Army to escape the draft and also to get a job because I couldn't afford to go to college and I needed a job. I thought joining the Army was the best way to fulfill my obligation as a citizen of this great country (yes, I did feel it was my obligation to perform a service for my country) and perhaps learn a skill which I could use when I got out. As it turned out, joining the Army was perhaps the best decision I ever made in life life. That decision continues to reap me benefits. In addition to getting a college degree with the help of the G.I. Bill, I have lifetime medical coverage which I have used and continue to use to this day. The Army has literally saved my life.
|Private Ronald Tipton 1960 -right out of Basic Training|
However, when I joined the Army I knew I was gay. I've known I was gay since I was four years old. I know that because that was the age of my first awareness and I knew I was different a full year before I went into first grade in 1946. Of course at that time I was "the only one" in the world. This was the Forties and Fifties folks. No TV, no Internet, no movies. The only "gays" I knew were either swishy queens in the movies or dirty old men hanging around public restrooms for a peek at those men using the urinals. I knew I wasn't either ONE OF THEM, so I didn't know what I was.
Of course by the time I joined the Army at 18 years old I knew I was a "fairy". The word "gay" in those days meant you were having a good time. I know I wasn't having a good time. In fact, I was about as backwards as you could get sexually. I didn't even masturbate. I didn't even know the world. Sorry if I'm grossing out any of my readers here but I'm just telling your like it is.
Me and Bob horse playing during break at our Ft. Deven's ASA schooling April 1960I'm then tall one carrying a guy on my back - Bob tried to piggy back our friend Dick E. but Dick collapsed under Bob's heft.
I could write a whole book about my experiences hiding my gayness during my three years in the Army. In fact I might do that but I'm not going to do it here. What I do want to say is that during my three years in the Army, I was selected for the Army Security Agency. I worked at the National Security Agency at Ft. George G. Meade, Maryland. Yep, I was a spy. I didn't ask for it. I was selected.
|Me (on the left in the back) with my fellow classmates/soldiers Ft. Devens, Mass April 1960|
I had a top secret clearance. I didn't ask for it. It was assigned to me. Of course HOMOSEXUALS were not allowed in. I was a HOMOSEXUAL. Homosexual is what faries like me were called in The Day. If they ever found out I was a HOMOSEXUAL, they would take away my clearance and I would get kicked out of the Army. Of course I didn't want to go that route so I stayed in the closet. However, many of my fellow soldiers were victims of the routine witch hunts that were held at Ft. Meade and NSA. Once you lost your clearance you were restricted to the barracks until the paper work was processed to discharge you from the Army. This process usually took about six weeks.
|Me and my friend Jim H. on the firing range Ft. Meade, MD 1962 - both gay|
When someone lost their clearance and went from a professional job analyzing communications intercept at the NSA to cleaning latrines and moping the barracks floor, we all knew what happened. "He got a Section 8." Surprisingly enough, no one every harassed these guys. But they were a pariah and no one spoke to them. If you did you would also be considered a HOMOSEXUAL and liable to lose your clearance. You see, back in The Day as it is today, many of the old Timers are SCARED TO DEATH of HOMOSEXUALS.
|Me at home weekend pass 1962 - I was promoted to Specialist 5th class and assistant platoon sergeant - imagine that? A gay platoon leader. The world didn't fall apart and the Army survived.|
Why did one lose his clearance once it was established that he was a HOMOSEXUAL? It was because our government, in all it's ignorance, decided that a HOMOSEXUAL would be subject to blackmail and thus divulge state secrets. Of course there has never been a documented case of a gay person ever being blackmailed to divulge a state secret but that didn't affect this lame brain policy of blatant discrimination. Of course on the face of it one can see this is a classic Catch-22. The Army (and all the services) have an official discrimination policy against gays so they by default would be subject to blackmail. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Even back then when I was just a dumb assed 18 year old I knew this was a STUPID POLICY.
I wanted to make a career out of the Army. I didn't because I knew I was gay and I knew sooner or later that would come out. It's hard to keep an 18 year old gay man's hormones in check for twenty years. I liked being in the Army. I liked the regimented lifestyle. I liked my friends. I liked my job. I didn't stay in because I knew I would be living a lie for twenty years.
I could have converted over to civilian status of my NSA job. I was a communications intercept expert. It was a good paying job. I liked the civilians I worked with. It would have been a fabulous career. In fact, if I had stayed with it I could have been one of these rich gay Washington D.C. retirees that populate the Rehoboth Beach/Lewes/Milton area where I live now. I could dining at one of the many expensive Rehoboth Beach gay restaurants like the Sting Ray instead of the Rehoboth Diner. Man, I missed my chance big time. I could have been one of the D.C. In Crowd. But that's another whole story.
Anyway, when my enlistment ran out on January 27th, 1963, I breathed a sigh of relief and departed from the Army and the National Security Agency. I was even offered at job at the Social Security Administration in Baltimore by a straight female friend who met at one of the Service Club dances but I declined that job also because I knew that HOMOSEXUALS were not allowed to work for the government.
On January 27, 1963 I made the one way trip from Ft. Meade to my home in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. Thus began my long Journey which is where I am now. Again, I won't go into the details here (that's for my memoirs if I ever get around to writing them) but basically I left home for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and came out officially as a gay man. Why did I go to Pittsburgh? A gay friend of mine (he was in the Air Force) had left Ft. Meade a few months before me. He lived in Pittsburgh and offered me a place to stay until I could get a job. I got a job at the Pittsburgh Hilton hotel and came out. Yes, I came out in the early spring of 1963, way before it was fashionable to do so. Was it dangerous? You bet. Again, this is material for another time.
So the stupid assed policy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" ended officially last night. It ended with a whimper. Oh I'm sure there are still plenty of dinosaurs in the military that think this country is going to go to hell in a hand basket. Won't they be surprised when they find out that life goes on as usual. Oh sure, there are those who have a legitimate concern that the military will be inundated with swishy, drag queens mincing around the barracks. It won't happen folks. That's for the
The official ending of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" won't affect my me at this time of my life. My "autumn years" so to speak. But hopefully it will affect positively that young man who was much like I was back in the Dark Ages of 1960. He (or she) will have more freedom of choice and can live their life without the fear of being ostracized just for being who they are. Hopefully, we can put behind us the last form of legalized discrimination and move on to what is important in this country, freedom for one and all, including gay men and woman.
Below some of Martin Luther King's quote that apply:
A lie cannot live.
A right delayed is a right denied.
Almost always, the creative dedicated minority has made the world better.
Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent.
Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.
He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.
History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the
strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.
Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
The time is always right to do what is right.
The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that
by the good people.
We have guided missiles and misguided men.
We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.
We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.
We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.
When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative.
Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.
|Me today - can you imagine me wearing this Civilian Drag back in The Day?|