Profiles of LGBT people, from the past and today – and celebrating their birthdays! All Birthdays →

Leonard Matlovich

Born in Savannah, Georgia into a military family, Matlovich enlisted in the Air Force at the age of 19. He served three tours of duty in Vietnam, receiving a Bronze Star and Purple Heart. In March 1975, he wrote a letter to his commanding officer acknowledging his homosexuality but asking to remain in the service. Matlovich was discharged, but challenged his discharge in court and went public about the issue. He was featured on the cover of the national newsweekly, Time Magazine, on September 8, 1975, in military attire and wearing all his medals, with the dramatic headline “I Am a Homosexual.” The publicity his case received helped build a movement to change the military’s exclusion policy, and it encouraged other servicemembers to come out as well. In November 1980, U.S. District Judge Gerhard Gessell ordered him reinstated, but an Appeals Court later vacated the ruling, though Matlovich’s discharge was upgraded to honorable. Matlovich remained an activist for the rest of his life. He died of complications related to AIDS on June 22, 1988.