One of oral history’s strengths is to document and preserve experiences that are not represented in traditional historical records. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the military service of LGBT individuals. Despite evidence of LGBT communities inside our nation’s armed forces as far back as World War II, there is very little documentation of their service experiences due to discrimination. For decades, LGBT individuals lived underground lives, forced into secrecy by persecution that made even publicly declaring one’s homosexuality a crime. This secrecy was compounded for LGBT servicepeople, who risked ridicule, abuse, discharge from service and loss of veteran’s benefits if exposed. While the recent repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” has changed many of the discriminatory practices faced by LGBT service members, their personal experiences remain undocumented and unknown.
To address this unfortunate gap in the historical record, the Ohio History Connection has begun conducting interviews with LGBT veterans in Ohio. This effort is a continuation of our larger efforts to preserve and share LGBT history through the Gay Ohio History Initiative (GOHI), a partnership formed in 2006 between the Ohio History Connection and Outlook Media. While this collection will explore topics that are common to each subject (life in the armed forces, LGBT culture, and others), it will ideally reinforce the idea that each of these individuals are exactly that – they are not just veterans, not just LGBT people, but they are complex, human individuals, each with an important story to tell.
To grow the collection further, the Oral History Program is interviewing LGBT veterans as part of the larger Ohio Veterans Oral History Project. In addition, OHC is currently seeking funds to create a set of interactive timelines that combine oral history interviews, photos, documents and objects into multimedia experiences that document the stories of LGBT veterans.
Please Note: Oral histories are to be considered historical materials. As such, they may contain offensive language, ideas or negative stereotypes reflecting the culture or language of a person, period or place. The Ohio History Connection is presenting these items as part of the historical record.
Christina Goddard-Graves enlisted in the Air Force and was deployed to Saudi Arabia in the Security Services. As a lesbian serving during the United States military’s enforcement of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, it came to her attention that a fellow airmen had begun to inquire about her sexual orientation. She became fearful of disciplinary action if her orientation was discovered, and ultimately submitted a letter of admission in the hopes of receiving an honorable discharge. She was honorably discharged, and in the years since has become an activist for LGBT veterans.
Research Interactive |
Stephen Snyder-Hill grew up in Upper Sandusky, Ohio, and enlisted in the U.S. Army. He deployed to Iraq and served on the crew of an M113 armored personnel carrier. During that deployment, Snyder-Hill’s vehicle came under attack by artillery fire, and during the near-death experience he came to the realization that he was gay. He later re-enlisted in 2010 while “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was still in effect and was deployed to Iraq a second time. His submission of a video question to a primary debate by Republican Party candidate catapulted his service into the national spotlight and solidified his position as an activist for LGBT service members.
Research Interactive |