Lesbian Outed by Air Force in 1950s Files Lawsuit

Photo courtesy of Helen James.

A 90-year-old lesbian woman who was kicked out of the Air Force in the 1950s is suing the military branch to change her discharge status.

Helen Grace James first enlisted in the Air Force in 1952, but was “undesirably” discharged in 1955 because she was outed as a lesbian, according to the Washington Post. Despite the change to a lesser discharge in the 1960s, she was unable to use the G.I. Bill and was denied insurance by the United States Automobile Association.

“It has crippled her throughout her life,” James’s attorney J. Cacilia Kim said to the Post. “This is really so she’s not treated as a second-class citizen anymore.”

James, who taught physical therapy college courses and later had her own private practice after the Air Force, said she felt like she couldn't go back home because of the discharge. If she wins her case, she can be buried in a national cemetery and have a color guard there for her service.

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