Gil Dawson Interview

As Interviewed by Sam Eccles, March 9, 2018
"It was such a relief -- my grandmother had died."
Gil Dawson Interview

Introductory Profile: About Gil Dawson

For my interview project I interviewed a man named Gilbert Edward Dawson II (Uncle Gil). He was in California at the time, but I was in Austin in a law firm conference room. The interview took place by phone, and the full interview lasted around 45 minutes. Gil is a cheerful and thoughtful 72 year-old man, who was generous with his time and honest about his life experiences as an Air Force officer, scientist, and gay man.

The interview started slowly, and the group of people listening in made frequent reminders to note what year the events being described.took place. The mood stayed very serious for most of the interview, though there were still some happy moments. The story I used for the podcast is about the time when he was a Captain in the Air Force and was stationed in the Seychelles in the early 1970s. He had the flu, so he couldn't pick up the mail from the airplane drop off, and he had been using a loophole in the system to get his mail from home through a diplomatic pouch so it wouldn't be searched. His commanding officer opened the package and found letters and other materials that indicated he was gay. They brought him in while he was still sick and immediately sent him back to the United States to be court-martialed.

It then goes on to where he is in the Los Angeles airport, and an announcement in the terminal tells him that he needs to pick up the courtesy phone. Hours before, while waiting for a connecting flight, he had combined all the evidence against him that he was gay into one checked bag and put the claim check in an stamped envelope addressed to his parents so he wouldn't be caught with it. When he finally picked up the phone, it was the Air Force calling to tell him that his grandmother had died. He thought they were getting him to pick up a designated phone so they could arrest him, with the awful effect that the news of his grandmother's death made him feel a tremendous sense of relief. This shows how cruel and ignorant people and institutions used to be toward gay people.