|Reception Company, Ft. Dix, New Jersey - I'm second from the left on the bottom row, my friend Mike Time is first on the left, bottom row - February 1960|
Well folks, there has been more blowback from my audacious decision to confront some of the homophobes on my ASA (Army Security Agency) Facebook group. A few days I had the temerity to respond of a Jon Swayze (a right wing tea bagger) who posted that Hillary Clinton was gay. I responded "So what? I'm gay. Is there something the matter with that?" thus unleashing a hornet's nest of anti-gay vitriol and some support among the members of this Facebook group.
|I'm gay, is that a problem?|
Below are some of the latest conversation and then my stream of consciousness reply (as is my wont, I just let "it" flow from my brain to my fingertips).
My response is below:
One of the main reasons I joined this site was to find out if any other members of the ASA had a similar experience as I did, a gay man forced to hide his true identity because of prejudicial and discriminatory policies towards gay American citizens. For the year or so I’ve been a member of this site I realized than many of my fellow gay soldiers are either not on this site, are dead or still in the closet. I was content to stay on this site even though there was no discussion about what it was like to be a gay man in the Army Security Agency, forced to hide my true identity, in the early Sixties.
|"Spec 5" Ronald Tipton during a visit home 1962|
That all changed last week when I read a post by Jon Swayze that “broke the news” that Hillary Clinton MAY BE GAY. This is the same Jon Swayze that has been posting his Tea Bagger/Far Right Views non-stop, very little if any about his ASA experiences. Of course it is right to post whatever he wants. I don’t question that. However, I did post a comment “So what? I’m gay. Is there something the matter with that?” Of course I realized I would release a firestorm of criticism among some of the more self-righteous and judgmental members of this group. I read the comments “I thought this site was about ASA? What does this have to do (gay) about ASA?” Of course that question was never brought up in response to any of Swayze’s non-ASA posts.
Then I got Swayze cherry picking biblical quotes condemning me as a gay man. No surprise. Heard it all before. Then I see some members stating “I really don’t care who you marry but this isn’t the place to state your sexual preference. Why is it necessary” My response to that is always “I don’t really care who you marry either but I DO CARE who I marry.” What an arrogant statement to make to another human being. And, of course you don’t state your sexual preference as I did not state mine, I simply said I was gay. You’re getting sex mixed up (as the ignorant and uninformed often do) with sexual identity.
|William D. Kelly, Bamberg Germany 1951 - Army - my life partner and now husband for the past 49 years|
|William D. Kelly - Air Force (my husband)|
Bill seved a total of eight years both in the Army and Air Force
Then today I see where Terry Allen Potter brings up the “honesty” question. He asks: “So Ron Tipton my question is have you always been a homosexual, how did you get into the army? When I joined in 1970 that was a sure out of military service. Next is how did you get a clearance for ASA. Did you put down false information when they did your back ground check?”
Of course Terry Allen Potter knows the answer to his question, he’s just being a smart ass from his self appointed moral high ground. However, I’ll give Mr. Potter his answer. I joined the Army in January of 1960. I wanted to join the Army because I felt it was my MORAL obligation as a citizen of this country. My father was unable to join the service but my Uncle John was an Airborne paratrooper during World War II.
My Uncle John Hannum Tipton, 1943 - paratrooper World War II
Prisoner of war of Germans - escaped twice and was recaptured twice -Mother died a few months before he was released, she believed that he had died in the war
He was captured by the Germans in Holland and imprisoned several years. He escaped twice and was recaptured. His mother died a few months before he was released, thinking he had died in the war. For my Uncle John Tipton and those other men and woman who didn’t make it home, I felt it was my MORAL obligation to join.
|401 North Broad Street, Philadelphia, PA - site of my first Army induction physical which I failed|
I tried to join right out of high school. I failed the “cough test.” The folks at the induction center at 401 North Broad Street discovered I was born with a hernia. They said I couldn’t join until I got that fixed. I was devastated. I went home, not knowing what to do. My Mother sent me to a doctor. I had an operation to remove my hernia. Unfortunately from that operation I developed a staph (Staphylococcus aureus) infection which almost resulted in my death because my condition was misdiagnosed. I spent the next five months in and out of the hospital and had two more operations until the infection was brought under control.
|Army induction physicals - I did end up on the table to the right - 1959|
I again applied to join the Army. By the way, I was ASKED to join the Army Security Agency. I did not know of its existence. I only joined because the Army recruiter whose desk was next to the Navy recruiter’s desk at the basement of the post office in Coatesville where I applied to join, asked me why I was joining the Navy. At the time he asked me this my papers to join the Navy were already drawn up, I was just stopping in to sign then. I was waiting for the Navy recruiter who was out to lunch. By the time he came back I had signed up to join the Army because the Army recruiter told me I “could see the world” by joining the Army Security Agency but wouldn’t have to enlist for three years. Sounded good to me. Ironically, I never got off the East Coast during my three year tour of duty (basic training Ft. Dix, N.J., school Ft. Devens, and 2 ½ years at the National Security Agency at Ft. George G. Meade, Maryland). But that’s the Army and another whole story I won’t get into here.
|Me, Ft. Devens - 1960|
Terry Allen Potter questions self righteously asks from his comfortable and straight moral high ground “Did you put down false information when they did your back ground check?” Well actually Mr. Potter as an 18 year old from a small town with NO SEXUAL EXPERIENCE I had NO BACKGROUND TO HIDE. I grew up in the Fifties, in a small town (as I mentioned before). TV was hardly starting. I knew I was “different” but I knew I wasn’t a pervert. I word “gay” then meant happy. The only word I sort of knew was pervert and I knew I wasn’t one of those dirty old men who hung around public washrooms looking to get a peek at guys at the urinals. If there was such a thing as “homosexual” then I thought that was it and I knew that wasn’t me. So Mr. Potter, I wasn’t hiding or lying about some licentious sexual history that I had. I HAD NONE. If there was one place I was less than honest was the question on the initial questionnaire that asked “Do you or have you ever had homosexual tendencies?” Welll……YES. What was I supposed to do? Answer “Yes”? and then live with that shame the rest of my life? Always having to explain why I wasn’t in the service, something that I’ve always wanted to do ever since I could remember. Is that what you so arrogantly and unfeelingly suggest Mr. Potter? You thereon your self appointed moral high ground who pontificates “I always felt my fellow ASA members were held to a higher standard.” Whose BS’ing who now Terry Allen Potter?
|Me (in back row fourth from the right) with my Army buddies at Ft. Devens, Mass 1960|
I answered that question “NO.” And thus I was inducted in the Army, a scared, timid kid raised in the Fifties form a small town. Joining the Army was the best thing that ever happened to me in my lifetime. Ever.
Basic training was rough but I got through it. During basic training I witnessed a fellow “trainee” who was accused of “being a fairy” (the word “gay” still didn’t exits but the word “fag” did and it was thrown around about as much as the other “F” word that I learned in basic – “FUCK.” This guy endured harassment and then one day I came back to the barracks to see his bloodied bunk. I don’t know the details other than some of my fellow recruits decided to “tune him up” and beat the shit out of him. This recruit ended up in the stockade and was eventually discharged from the Army. Thus I had my first “lesson” as to what happens to somebody “different.” I went into Protect Mode. Of course I met other gay men in basic training. Now let me get one thing clear. There was never any sexual activity or even a suggestion of sexual activity. Back then it just wasn’t done and besides, we wouldn’t know what do to anyway. At least that was what I saw from my perspective. But I did make friends with a Mike Tine who I thought was like me. We never discussed homosexuality or anything like that though, we were just friends just as anyone else would make friends with like-minded individuals. You know how that works don’t you Mr. Potter? We’re human too. Being gay (homosexual) and sexually active are two different things. Many straights and all homophobes don’t understand that fact. It is a fact, I know. I am the expert on this aspect of being gay, not some straight person who has been indoctrinated by a straight church.
|Me, fresh out of basic training 1960|
I got through basic training. After a leave at home I was sent to Ft. Devens, Massachusetts. There I went to school for six months and made life-long friends. One of home was my best friend, Bob McCamley. Ironcially I didn’t find out until I left the Army in 1963 and came out to everyone that Bob was also gay. Neither one of us had a clue the other was gay. Neither Bob or I were ever sexually attracted to one another, we were best friends who just happened to be gay. Over the years we’ve joked about this aspect of our friendship. Unfortunately, Bob is now in a nursing home suffering from dementia but for over fifty years we had a very close, platonic friendship. In fact, Bob is the main reason I retired to Delaware. Bob had left his job in Philadelphia many years before and moved to rural Delaware (southern) to live openly as a gay man. He moved to Delaware because he didn’t want to embarrass his family in Pennsylvania.
|Me (far right with hands over my ears) and my friend Bob (far left with hands on mouth) during a break in schooling at Ft. Devens, Mass. 1960 - my idea for this pose I didn't realize at the time how phrohetic it would be|
After schooling at Ft. Devens I was ready to travel the world. Unfortunately, just my luck, when the allocations came down for our class they were almost all stateside. I was 7th in my class. Only three allocations were foreign and they were quickly snapped up. I decided to take Ft. Meade because it was close to my home in Downingtown, a suburb of Philadelphia.
|Me kneeling middle row on left with my friend Bob standing behind me in last row on left with hand in his pocket - during break from class April 1960 at Ft. Devens, Mass.|
For the next 2 and a half years I proudly served my country as a communications intercept specialist at the National Security Agency. I quickly was promoted to Specialist 5th class and assistant platoon leader (mainly to supervise the weekly inspections that the platoon leader didn’t want to bother with because he had a girlfriend off base he spent a lot of time with.) I had my own room which I shared with him but he was never there. One month I even made Soldier of the Month.
|Me, Liberty Pass, Ft. Meade, Maryland 1962|
During my 2 ½ years at the National Security Agency there were frequent witch hunts. I witnessed many of my fellow soldiers, some friends get a Section 8 (undesirable) out of the Army for either engaging in homosexual activity or just being accused of homosexual activity. Yes, even if you were accused and didn’t have a sufficient or believable defense to the accusation you lost your clearance. Such a stupid and idiotic practice because never once has there ever been a case of a homosexual being blackmailed into giving up secrets. But such was the policy at that time and we had to live under that constant threat that we could lose our clearance at any time and often did. Fortunately for me I was so backwards sexually (I didn’t even know where to start) that I didn’t have a problem. However, there was a case of two of my fellow soldiers who committed suicide when they were discovered to be lovers. They found their naked bodies one cold Sunday morning, in their car with the motor running, exhaust pipe stuffed with rags. The car was parked behind “Olga’s”, a local favorite restaurant we all frequented.
|Me (on the right in the helmet) on the firing range September 1962 when I received news of my Uncle John's accident - left right away|
I wanted to make the Army my career. But when my enlistment was up I decided to leave because I knew somewhere down the line that eventually I would be found out. I wasn’t planning on living the next twenty years celibate. I wanted to meet my life partner. I knew that would be next to impossible if I was to stay in the Army. Thus, with great sadness I reluctantly decided to leave when my tour of duty was up on January 27th, 1963.
|National Security Agency, Fort George G. Meade, Maryland - where I was stationed for 2 1/2 years - 1960 to 1963|
The department where I worked at NSA asked me to convert to civilian status. I could have converted to a GS-14 which was pretty damn good. I loved my job and the people I worked with. However, the NSA also had an anti-homosexual policy and if I stayed I would in the same predicament. It was the classic Catch-22. A friend of mine even suggested that I work for the Social Security Administration in Baltimore where she worked. Same problem, they didn’t accept homosexuals. This time I didn’t want to lie on the application when the question came up (which was standard on all government employment applications at that time) “Do you have or ever have homosexual tendencies?” All doors were closed to me as far as government employment so I decided to leave. However, the Army gave me one more chance when they asked if I wanted to extend for a year. They said they would give me a re-up bonus of $1,300 (a lot of money at that time) if I went to Warrant Office School. They wanted to send me to this exotic sounding country that I had never heard of called Viet Nam. I was excited. This was a lot of money and I was finally “going to see the world.” In my naïveté I almost signed up until several of my Army buddies, who were in Viet Nam and had returned, advised me not to. They told me I would be working out of the back of a helicopter with a teletype intercept machine and I better hope to Hell when that helicopter is shot down I die before it hits the ground because if I didn’t I would either be running through the jungle trying to avoid camouflaged pits in the ground with stakes covered in human excrement or, even worse be captured by the Viet Cong who would cut off my private parts and stick them in my mouth as a warning to any other soldiers to entered their territory. Needless to say I was discouraged from extending my stay in the Army via Warrant Office School, even if they were offering me the princely sum of $1,300 (which I had almost already spent).
|Me (tall in back 2nd from left) with my Army buddies (several gay) and our girl friends (yes!) at the weekly Service Club Dance - 1962|
So I left the Army on January 27th, 1963. One of my proudest moments however when I was in the Army was on September 16th, 1961, the day my Uncle John H. Tipton was buried. After having survived as a prisoner of war in German prison camps, having escaped twice and recaptured twice, my uncle John died at 39 years of age in an accident. He was a painter at Gindy Trailer Manufacturing Company in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. He worked with my father and several of his brothers. His overalls, which had turpentine on them, accidently caught fire from a carelessly discarded cigarette and he had burns over half of his body. I remember visiting him at the Crozer Burn Center Hospital in Philadelphia. He was bandaged up like a mummy with only an opening for his fingertips, eyes and mouth. I was with some of my cousins when I visited him. We all loved Uncle John, he was our favorite uncle of our ten uncles. He recognized us but was heavily sedated and didn’t say anything beyond a few grunts. A few days later he died.
|My Uncle John Tipton with my cousin Bud - 1956|
Uncle John was all the Tipton cousins' favorite uncle
My two younger brothers and I were asked to be pallbearers. By this time both of my younger (and straight) brothers had followed their big brother into the Army. They too felt it was their duty to serve their country. And on the day of our Uncle John’s funeral there was never a prouder moment in my life than when my brothers and I, in our full dress green Army uniforms carried our Uncle John’s coffin into St. Josephs’ Church in Downingtown, Pennsylvania to the ethereal, heavenly sounds of the choir at high mass singing, and the multi-faceted colors of light shimmering through the stained glass windows to his widow and three young children and the rest of the family. That day was and always will be the proudest day of my life. The day I paid respect (along with my brothers) to my Uncle John Hannum Tipton, who served this country during World War II, who endured years as a prisoner of war and survived only to be cut down in the prime of his life bay an accident. He was only 39 years old.
|My brother Isaac W. Tipton, Jr. - Army MP 1962|
|My brother John Tipton, - Army military driver - he was in the Kennedy funeral procession - drove the car with General deGaulle - 1962|
And you know folks, when someone like Terry Allen Potter states “I always felt my fellow ASA members were held to a high standard” I say I met that standard that day. No one in that church asked if I was gay or how I answered that question when I joined the Army. And this is what I say to the Terry Allen Potters of the world, who just happened to be born straight, and who all so self- righteously and casually pass judgment on me and men and women like me, who just happen to be born gay….I will use a word that I learned all to well in basic training. A word that I don’t think I heard before basic training but when I got home I had a hard time not using. And that word to Terry Allen Potter and Jon Swayze and all others who deemed to pass judgment on me and the way I have managed to live my live and seek happiness is FUCK YOU. Yes, go FUCK YOURSELF. Now that’s something you understand even if you don’t understand what it is like for a gay man (or woman) to live and function in this country which for most of its history has practiced legalized discrimination against this segment of its citizens.
I have served my country proudly as have many thousands of my fellow gay brothers and sisters. After I left the Army I decided to come out and live my life as a free man. This was in April of 1963, long before coming out was fashionable or safe. And I emphasize safe. Was it easy? No, I lost about half my friends, became estranged from my family when they wanted to forcibly send me to a hospital “for the cure”, (yes, my Mother had my brothers and father pull me out of my apartment physically, I had to fight them off).
|My Army buddy Bob (on the far left) with his partner Jim (middle) and me - 1980|
Over the years I’ve been attacked physically for being gay, I’ve lost two good paying jobs that I love because I was openly gay, I was physically assaulted at a town hall meeting for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, to which I was invited after writing letters to my Congressman urging him to not vote for DADT, I’ve been verbally abused (to which I always fight back). I participated in the first gay rights march to Washington in 1979 and then thirty years later in 2009. I’ve never been to a gay pride parade because I don’t think that is the way to convinced straight people that gay people like myself are just like them except for our sexual orientation.
I’ve lived in a straight neighborhood where neighbors had their kids stand on our common border shouting “Fags get out!” I had to call the local police and ask invoke the Pennsylvania hate crimes law. I received a written apology from the kids and no further repeats of that harassment but life wasn’t pleasant in the neighborhood so we eventually moved.
|My friend Bob and I at my house in Pennsylvania - 1996|
In 2006 I retired and moved to southern Delaware which has the fourth largest same sex couple population in the United States. Even so there is still a significant amount of homophobia in Sussex County, Delaware from the redneck population and tea baggers. We live in the Milton/Lewes/Rehoboth Beach area with has a significant gay population and most of the straights know us and do not discriminate. In fact our neighbors are a former Marine and his wife who are very conservative and no Obama fans. However, they are the best neighbors we have ever had because they know that Bill and I are just two men who have been together 49 years and who only want the same kind of life they have, security, comfort and the right to pursue happiness.
|Friends (gay) Rehoboth Beach - 2010|
Bill and I on purpose do not live in a gay neighborhood. We are both by nature conservative and low key. The only difference we have from our straight neighbors is whom we love. And I might add, our flower presentation around our house is the best in the neighborhood.
|Lunch with my old Army buddy Bob at the Wharf Restaurant in Lewes, DE 2009|
So when I see a comment that “Hillary is a secret homosexual, don’t vote for her” I feel compelled to respond as is my right as an American citizen. After all I did join the Army to protect the freedom of speech for myself as well as all American citizens. I am not to be discounted because I am gay.
|Lunch with my dear (and conservative) neighbor Barbara - 2011|
I first go on this website about Ft. Devens and the ASA because I was interested if any other of my fellow soldiers had similar experiences that I did. Little did I know my response to the “Hillary” post where I said “So what if she’s gay. I’m gay, is that a problem?” would start this conversation but maybe this is a conversation we need to have every now and then. After all, this freedom that the right wingers often proclaim loud and wide should apply to ALL the citizens of this country; black and white, gay and straight, religious and non-religious. Isn’t that what this country is all about Terry Allen Potter. So the next time you state “I always felt my fellow ASA members were held to a higher standard”, know that I have met that standard. And I make no apologies for being gay. I am equal to you. Not better or lesser but equal. And I am staying on this website.
Have a good day.
|Me today Rehoboth Beach Delaware - out and proud|