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"I really wanted to be a soldier, I was proud to be a soldier, but I couldn’t live with a lie." (Audio interview, 43:26).

   Clifton Francis Arnesen, Jr.
Image of Clifton Francis Arnesen, Jr.
Clifton Arnesen in uniform
War: Cold War
Branch: Army
Unit: Company N, 1st Advanced Individual Training (AIT) Brigade
Service Location: Fort Dix, New Jersey
Rank: Private
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Clifton Francis Arnesen was 17 years old when he enlisted in the Army in 1965 to escape an abusive father. Moving through basic and advanced infantry training, he found that the military life provided a sense of discipline and self-esteem--but it also required him to live a lie. When he found himself under investigation, he admitted he was gay, only to be accused of lying in order to avoid service in Vietnam. Dishonorably discharged in January 1967, he went on to become an activist for LGBT veterans, eventually becoming president of the New England Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Veterans in 1988. In 1989, he testified in front of Congress about his experiences as a bisexual veteran.

Interview (Audio)
»Interview Highlights  (7 clips)
»Complete Interview 
Download: audio (72 min.)
»Transcript
  Photos
»Photo Album  (2 photos)
 Memoir
»Autobiography of Clifton Arnesen, Jr.
[PDF: 0 MB / 48 p.]
 Audio (Interview Excerpts) (7 items)
Leaving school at 16; joining the military to escape abusive father. (03:07) Being aware of the war in Vietnam when he joined the military; being asked if he was gay when he joined; lying on the paperwork about his homosexual status. (06:52) Difficulties of boot camp; basic training gave him self-esteem but it was hard to live a lie; gays and lesbians have always served in the military (03:34)
Forced into committing an illegal act that would cause him to be discharged from the Army. (02:57) Discharged at the age of 18; turned to drugs and alcohol to cope; thoughts on military discrimination against homosexuals. (01:02) Becoming active in a group called the New England Gay Veterans; testifying before Congress. (04:02)
Marching in Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 1992; receiving hateful treatment. (02:29)  
  
 

Home » Clifton Francis Arnesen, Jr.
  The Library of Congress  >> American Folklife Center
  October 26, 2011
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