This 90-year-old was expelled from the airforce for being a lesbian, so 60 years later she’s suing them
A 90-year-old woman who was dishonourably discharged from the air force in 1955 for being a lesbian is suing them, 60 years later.
Helen Grace James grew up on a farm in a small community in northeastern Pennsylvania.
She had always held the military in an important place – her great-grandfather had been a soldier in the Union Army in the civil war, her father fought in WWI, and had cousins and uncles fight in WWII.
Although she didn’t know what a lesbian was, James said had known about her sexuality in a sense since a very young age. She = always preferred trucks and basketball to dolls, and asked to be called Jim. She released when she found herself falling in love with the women she saw in movies.
“I didn’t even know what a lesbian was. I didn’t know that term until later,” she told the Washington Post. “You just didn’t talk about it.”
James signed up for the airforce when she was 25, in 1952, and loved the excitement of it, and meeting people from all over the country. She was stationed as a radio operator at Roslyn Air Force base in Long Island, and rose through the ranks.
But during the mid-50s alongside fears of Communism and McCarthy’s Red Scare, there was a witch-hunt for homosexuals infiltrators who they believed may pose a security risk in what became known as the “Lavender scare.”
Service members were told to report anyone they believed may be gay, and experts believe that between 1950 and 1956 as many as 5000 people were removed from the armed forces as suspected homosexuals, at a rate much higher for women than men.
The Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations was searching for gay and lesbian service members and James and two other lesbians on the base suspected their rooms were being searched and they were being followed.
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