1968: draft dodgers told how to play gay card

conscription vietnam war draft dodgers gay card

In 1968, with the Liberal government conscripting 20-year-old males to fight in the Vietnam War, student publications advised would-be Aussie draft dodgers how to play the gay card and gain an exemption.

Another snippet of queercentric news from Australian media history.

Conscription – the Vietnam War

The Menzies Liberal government committed troops to Vietnam in the early 1960s. In 1965, the government introduced conscription — compulsory military service — to bolster army numbers. Over 15,000 Aussie lads were conscripted in the years 1965 – 1972. 200 died and at least 1200 were wounded on active duty.

The government called conscription ‘National Service’. That no doubt sounded better than ‘Compelling Australian youth to travel to Asia and attack people who never did anything to them’.

There were a few ways of escaping the draft. Married men and those with criminal records could apply for indefinite deferments. The Liberal’s coalition partner, the Country (now National) Party, was all for conscription. Except for the sons of their members, negotiating an exemption for youths working on family farms.

So, would-be draft dodgers either found a bride real quick, robbed a bank, asked dad to buy a farm, or went to jail as conscientious objectors unless…

The government required conscripts to be:

  • literate.
  • physically and mentally fit.
  • taller than 5 feet 2 inches (157 cm).
  • heterosexual.

Well, well, well…

The draft dodgers manual – playing the gay card

An eight-page booklet called How Not to Join the Army — Advice for 20-year-olds soon began to circulate on Australian university campuses.

The pamphlet offered advice on how to avoid conscription including by playing the gay card.

Don’t answer any questions on homosexuality, just smile. Wear white slacks, and have your hair cut rather kamp, wear a charm, don’t overact.

Don’t overact! Did they never watch Bewitched? Uncle Arthur was the kampest thing on 1960s television (aside from Endora) and he always overacted.

Student newspapers around the country offered similar suggestions.

Homosexuals are not wanted in a man’s army. A confession of some homosexual acts with unnamed parties might be valuable – what if you grabbed the doctor at the medical examination? Treatment from a psychiatrist for your ‘problem’ prior to the call-up would also support your case.

Conscription ended following the election of the Whitlam Labor Government in 1972.

Read Also:

1973: A pivotal year for Gay Liberation.

Australia’s 20th Prime Minister, Sir William (Silly Billy) McMahon.

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