CRAWLING TOWARD EMPATHY
JIM WOODWARD DIDN'T FLINCH in 1972 when his low draft lottery number meant that Uncle Sam wanted him in the military. A college Republican who backed the Vietnam War, "I felt that stopping communism in Southeast Asia was the right thing to do," he says. After graduation, the handsome 20-year-old signed up to become a Navy flight communications officer.
Woodward, who as a college senior had fallen in love with a male classmate, told the truth on his enlistment questionnaire: "Are you attracted sexually or do you desire any sexual activity with persons of the same sex as yourself?" "Yes." "Have you ever engaged in sexual activity with another person who is the same sex as yourself?" "No." Despite its policy of barring homosexuals, the Navy commissioned Ensign Woodward and, after flight school, assigned him to a squadron in the Philippines.
In September 1974, trying to bolster the self-esteem of a suicidal "19-year-old kid" being discharged for being gay, Woodward took an enlisted man to the Subic Bay Officers' Club. In explaining why he'd broken the club's rules, Woodward said he was gay himself, naïvely thinking honesty would be appreciated. His commander promptly recommended his discharge. The Navy transferred him to its unpaid, inactive reserve.
Woodward, 24, fought for reinstatement. The Navy said he would have been ousted even if he had not been homosexual. That claim was weakened by the fact that Woodward's above-average performance ratings had been downgraded based on his sexual orientation.