Salute to Perry Watkins in honor of Veterans Day 2018
Introduction to Perry Watkins
Perry Watkins never thought he would be drafted into the military in 1968. Why? Because being homosexual would have disqualified him from military service. But Perry Watkins was drafted anyway, and 16 years later became an incidental civil rights champion when he sued the U.S. Army for denying him a security clearance because he was an admitted homosexual. Press "play" below and listen to the Give Voice to History Project featuring Perry Watkins, produced in partnership with Making Gay History - The Podcast.
There was no formal policy barring "homosexuals" from serving in the military until 1941, but same sex relationships were cause for military discharge throughout United States military history. Still, LGBT+ people enlisted or were drafted into the military, and during both World Wars, LGBT+ people served the country bravely. This restriction on homosexuals serving in the military was implemented more forcefully in the 1950s, when domestic anti-communism was inextricably connected to the fear of homosexuals, and their perceived risk to national security. During the war in Vietnam, the policy became more lax as the need for combat troops increased. In 1993, under President Clinton, military policy was amended to allow homosexuals who did not reveal their sexual orientation to serve in the military. This "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy was repealed in 2011. (Read Key Dates in U.S. Military LGBT Policy from the U.S. Naval Institute here.)
Access the Perry Watkins Give Voice to History Project mini-guide for educators here (recommended for grades 10+). Please submit the form below if you would like us to contact you when SALUTE TO PERRY WATKINS 36" x 24" poster (above) is available for purchase. Coming soon!
Important Note: The language introduced in this post and the Give Voice to History Project mini-guide mirrors language in the primary and secondary source materials. Using historically accurate language is necessary to understand the social, political, and cultural perceptions of those we label and understand today as LGBT+.