What’s in a Name?
At Washington University in St. Louis, a yearly ceremony honors “students, staff and faculty, and St. Louis community members who live and lead authentically and perform direct advocacy and service to LGBTQIA* communities.” This award is named the Holobaugh Honors in recognition of James M. Holobaugh (BS Engineering 1990), who faced discrimination by the ROTC when he revealed he was gay.
When I searched for more information about the history of this award, at first I found little new information. I eventually uncovered in the library catalog a short book by Jim Holobaugh titled Torn Allegiances: The Story of A Gay Cadet. The name and subject were so close, I had to check — and yes, this was the same person.
Memories and Memoir
Reading Torn Allegiances, I was thrilled to discover a brief memoir of not only this young man’s time as a transfer ROTC student at WashU but also a reflection on his life growing up in rural southwest Missouri in the 1960s and 1970s.
Written from several perspectives, the dialogue is lightly edited by author Keith Hale. It mostly is told through interviews with Jim, his father, friends, and devoted partner, Brent.
Jim’s story offers a brief but detailed window into the life of a young gay man in St. Louis. The story is one of struggle, of wrestling with what it means to live authentically as oneself. Of how Jim came to understand his sexuality, how his family and friends back in rural Missouri reacted. Of how his life changed after entering college in the mid-1980s. And then changed again with discrimination by the ROTC program as he approached graduation (and commission in the U.S. Army).
Along the way there are challenges, heartbreak, and love. I won’t spoil the details for you but encourage you to read this story yourself. You can borrow a free ebook copy from the Internet Archive lending collection.
For more LGBTQ+ St. Louis history sources, see the LGBTQ History Archive Sources Libguide.
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