Sunday, 8 September 2019


On this day in 1975, the cover of TIME magazine featured decorated Vietnam War veteran TSgt Leonard Matlovich (*1943 – †1988, see below), the first service member to out himself to protest the US military’s ban on gay and lesbian soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen.
The first time in the American press that the topic was seriously addressed in a national publication, Matlovich’s struggle to continue to serve in the Air Force openly was a very public battle and Matlovich along with Harvey Milk were likely the only openly gay men known to the American public during the decade. The branch secretary refused to relent, despite his record and reputation, and confirmed his general (though not other-than-honourable, given that the Air Force and other branches had fairly ill-defined regulations on the matter and considered extenuating circumstances common enough to recognise, like maturity, drunkenness or one-off experimentation—known as the “Queen for a Day” exception) discharge in October. Unrelenting, Matlovich fought the decision and five years later on appeal had his separation upgraded to honourable and received compensation and back-pay. Fellow Air Woman Reservist Fannie Mae Clackum (*1929 – †2014) had previously successfully sued for lost pay back in 1960.  A lifelong activist, he campaigned for equal rights until overcoming himself due to complications from AIDS/HIV and was interred in a special corner of Washington, DC’s Congressional Cemetery that he had helped establish.