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

Perry Watkins

Born in Joplin, Missouri, Watkins was drafted into the military in 1968 during the Vietnam War, despite the fact that he had acknowledged, when he registered for the draft, that he was gay. Watkins was widely known to be gay as he dressed in drag using the stage name of “Simone” and performed at enlisted Army men’s clubs around Europe. Despite this, the Army permitted him to re-enlist three times despite its ban on gay, lesbian, and bisexual military personnel. But, in 1984, after making its anti-gay policies even tighter, the Army officially discharged him. Watkins challenged his discharge and the anti-gay ban in court. In 1989, the U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled in favor of Watkins, citing his “exceptionally outstanding military record.” The Administration of President George Bush appealed this ruling, but in 1990 the Supreme Court gave Watkins the final victory when it sustained the Appellate decision. By then, Watkins chose to settle for full retirement benefits, an honorable discharge, and a promotion. Watkins’ case, though it only applied to him, was an important step in the larger organizing campaign to challenge the military’s anti-gay exclusion policy.