Former Airman Second Class Helen Grace James is suing the United States Air Force for getting kicked out more than 60 years ago, because she is a lesbian.
Air base police caught James with another female officer alone in a car with the engine off in March 1955. After being arrested and interrogated, James claims that the military threatened to go to her family if she didn’t agree to a “undesirable” discharge, she told The Washington Post.
At 90 years old, James is now asking the courts to change her “undesirable” discharge to an “honorable” one.
“It has crippled her throughout her life,” James’s attorney, J. Cacilia Kim, told WaPo. “This is really so she’s not treated as a second-class citizen anymore.”
James said she became aware she was a lesbian at the age of 2 and asked to be called “Jim,” according to WaPo.
“I didn’t even know what a lesbian was. I didn’t know that term until later,” James said. “You just didn’t talk about it.”
Several years after James enlisted in the Air Force, rumors began circulating about her sexual orientation and the military began investigating.
James told WaPo that after she appealed the “undesirable” discharge decision, the Air Force claimed that her military records were lost in a fire and delayed the ruling. The board handling her claim finally told James they had reached a final decision, but said it had to be authorized by their executive director. When she didn’t hear back, she sued.
“I’ve done this all because I’ve been pushed. I need to do as much as I can to prove I’m a good person,” James concluded.
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