Welcome to the LGBTQ Stories page. Read about the memories and experiences of CHV members, younger LGBTQ folks, and allies of the LGBTQ community.
In 1960–61, I was a Russian linguist in the Air Force, stationed in Turkey. I was accused of being homosexual (“gay” was not a term used back then). My former roommate at Syracuse University’s Russian language school revealed to me halfway through the 11-month course that he was gay. This news terrified me, because I did not want to admit my own gayness, and back then homosexuality was clearly a crime, legally and morally. The Service authorities’ purview covered only my time in the Service—January 1958 to January 1962. Earlier, I was happy to be in the Service—a major part of my family history going back to the Revolutionary War.
Truth was, I knew from age five that I was different. I was interrogated more than 30 times. I returned to the DC area, as did my two interrogators, playing good cop/bad cop with my constant sense of terror. Then I was stationed at Fort Meade. My top secret clearance was revoked, and I was put to work cleaning the dayroom, particularly when my buddies would be off work watching TV there. Of course, everyone knew what had happened to me. I was determined to make that dayroom the cleanest place on the base, just as a survival device!
They gave me an attorney as they prepared to put me on trial with the intention of kicking me out with a dishonorable discharge. I was a basket case. Previously, during World War II, I lived in a series of unregulated foster homes where I learned how to protect myself. Those experiences made me clam up tight as a drum, keep my mouth shut, and try to be as good as possible to avoid the bad times. On and on and on—a classic case of survival for gay people. The trial (not the technical term) took a day and a half. My fiancée, later my wife of 35 years, testified at the trial. The jurors, three Air Force officers, were extremely uncomfortable because they didn’t even possess a vocabulary to discuss or listen to the accusations and testimony. So, at the end they told me what I wanted to hear, that I was not a homosexual and that “I should be careful of the company I kept!”
And thus began three and a half decades of agony, interlaced with marriage to a fine woman whose father was gay, our life as parents of two sons, a relentless urge to come out, and endless hell for her—until the Gay March on Washington in 1993 and my near suicide!
It took me many years to understand that suicidal moment in Metro Center. I had built my “straight“ life around the assumption that gay people could never be happy; e.g., the family’s cruel treatment of my father-in-law and my classic gay teenage years. So, one evening, when I got into a Red Line train to Bethesda where I lived, and the car filled up with dozens and dozens of very happy young people, I was truly puzzled. It was a sledge hammer to my head: these people were coming for the ‘93 March on Washington on April 25, my 55th birthday, and, guess what, they all got off at Dupont Circle—Duh! I found myself almost entirely alone in the subway car.
That was four days before the March. My carefully self-constructed five-decade-old cage began to come apart. The next morning, I had to Metro back to work, changing at Metro Center for the Blue line to the Old Post Office where I was an NEA staffer. The thought of my three-year-old grandson, really, actually saved me from jumping into an oncoming train. Or maybe it was my male ego, not wanting to do damage to the youngest generation carrying on my family name! He is now 30!
So, I had hit bottom and it has been all up since then.
You ask what my finest gay moment was—my marriage to my husband, Mark, at the Washington Ethical Society, two days after same-sex marriage became legal in DC. We have commissioned a memorial bench, the cat lovers’ bench at the gay corner of Congressional Cemetery right in front of Frank Kameny’s Veterans Administration headstone and Sgt. Leonard Matlovich’s grave site. Mark and I have four children and nine grandchildren. We are helping each other to live as happily as possible during these dreadful political and health-threatening days.
Thank you for requesting my story. Each time I share even part of my story, the old pain is lessened! It never, never was anyone’s business whom I chose to love. I pray that younger generations of gay women and men, and all other marvelous mixtures of folks, will never have to suffer through what I have endured. But the agony continues. So many of us are still being taught from childhood that we are inherently evil.
I am glad to be 82!!
"When I was 14 my sister casually outed me to my mom. My mother responded that it was unnatural and referenced the Bible repeatedly until I ran into the bathroom and cried. I didn’t come out again until college. It was so liberating. By then I decided I didn’t care what my mother thought. I had to live my truth. When I returned home after my first semester I mentioned to my mother that I was interested in dating women. It was as if she’d done a 180. Apparently she’d been watching the news and listening to more stories about the lgbtq+ community. On the one hand, I was angry. Why couldn’t she have had this reaction 4 years ago? When I needed it the most? But on the other hand I was grateful. I could be myself not only off at school in NY, but right there in my DC home. After spending 7 years up in NY guess where I am now? Yep. Living at home with my Mama." —Anonymous, Washington, DC
"My memorable moment of Pride is in San Francisco. That was my first Pride Festival. Everyone looks happy and colorfully cheerful. I watched Hayley Kiyoko, the famous queer singer and one of the audience started throwing a bra for her. I laughed and was disgusted. That bra all day must smell. While enjoying all of that, I was thinking of being a volunteer, so I realized that in the DC Pride and Phoenix Pride 2019. There was no special impression but I felt everything start being normal because this part of my life now." —Anonymous, Takoma Park, MD
"I never knew how strong I was before I started reflecting on all I overcame, being queer was so engrained in who I was I didn’t understand just how much my inability to conform to societal views and perceptions was really going against the grain. I feel a sense of light and energy during Pride season, seeing all the unity and love within the community that isn’t always put on display. Being a black queer person, I possess a sense of pride, strength and power that is unparalleled to anything else I’ve ever experienced." —Anonymous, Baltimore, MD
"I came out in the late 1970s in a small town in the midwest. There was little community where I lived, so the only other lesbian I knew and I would take a long drive to Chicago on the weekends and go to a women's bar. Even in Chicago, it was a time when it didn't feel safe to hold hands in public with a person of the same sex, let alone kiss or hold each other. Gay/lesbian bars and private house parties were the only safe places to meet other women and dance. But, if you're in love with someone and out in the world, it's hard to hide it. To this day the memory of the verbal abuse I experienced back then makes it hard for me to hold hands in public with my partner of 32 years.
"In 2020 in DC, it fills me with joy to see two people of the same sex walking down the street holding hands and enjoying each other's company. There's hardly a week goes by that I don't see at least one LGBTQ couple on Capitol Hill. What a long way we've come in 40-odd years! May the progress continue." —Anonymous, CHV Member, Washington, DC