Pages Past Tense #15

Charles Alexander
By | 2012-07-05T09:00:00-04:00 July 5th, 2012|Opinions|

Parting Glances

There’s a gay/lesbian history story told about former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower when he was Commander-in-Chief of the European Theater during World War ll.
It was brought to Ike’s attention that dykes were serving in the Women’s Army Corps. These butch WACS weren’t that many in number – or, just maybe they were – but Eisenhower felt they should be discharged from service as distracting to men in the war effort.
One of Eisenhower’s staff sergeants – his closeted lesbian jeep driver or staff secretary – heard about his across-the-board intention, and spoke up to the five-star general, “Sir, in all due respect, may I tell you: if you dismiss these women, you’ll have to start with me.” Eisenhower abruptly changed his mind.
Now that gays and lesbians may serve openly in the armed services, the light at the end of the military recruitment tunnel has day-glo’d a rainbow hue. (The Air Force was present at the Affirmation’s Job Opportunities last month.)
Gone are the days of the option of checking the Homosexual Tendencies box for U.S. government mandated examination of 18 and 19 years olds for Selective Service duty of four years. At 19, I nervously reported, as thousands of other males had done, to the draft induction center at down river historic Fort Wayne.
I stripped, stood in line, had my heart checked, my eyes charted, my arches tapped to see if I were flatfooted (I wasn’t), my respiration monitored (yes, I was a living, breathing body), answered overall health questions, and then quizzically passed on to a psychiatrist.
“Mr. Alexander,” says he, looking psychoanalytically intent at introverted me, “you’ve checked the Homosexual Tendencies box. Question One: Does seeing all these guys here today prove sexually stimulating for you?”
“No, sir,” I hesitate (for standing in front of a battery of induction staff doctors, is hardly – no pun intended – conducive to erotic flights of fancy, air force, or otherwise). “Simply put, sir; I’m not at all turned on.”
“I see, Charles. Question Two. Can you prove you’re homosexual?” Looking as sensitively thoughtful as I possibly can at the long-awaited psychological moment, I reply. “No sir, I can’t prove it by personal references or by court record, but I can talk about some of my, er, guy-guy experiences in the past, say perhaps five years.”
I then share about early contacts with same-age friends in the neighborhood where I grew up. I end by telling him about my new, happily committed relationship with Ernie. The psychiatrist abruptly says thank you, get dressed, and two weeks later I received my draft card. I’m classified 4F. Unacceptable for military service.
When I share my 4F status with my folks, my mom seems pleased. My father, who never served during World War ll, doesn’t care one way or the other. As for myself, I’m happy to be able to stay uninterruptedly with Ernie. (Looking back now, as a former OR Tech I probably would have had it made in service then. An occasional regret.)
My draft status changed from 4F to 1Y in 1961, during the Cuban Crisis when John F. Kennedy was president. In the event that America went to war with Soviet Russia over A-bombs in Cuba, I will be called up to serve.
(“When it comes down to it Mr. Homo Tendencies Checker: Now here this! Don’t ask. We tell.)

About the Author:

Charles Alexander