Lavender scare

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Joseph McCarthy and Roy Cohn during the Army-McCarthy hearings

The Lavender Scare refers to the fear and persecution of homosexuals in the 1950s in the United States, which paralleled the anti-communist campaign known as McCarthyism. Because social attitudes toward homosexuality were overwhelmingly negative and the psychiatric community regarded homosexuality as a mental illness, gay men and lesbians were considered susceptible to blackmail, thus constituting a security risk. U.S. government officials assumed that communists would blackmail homosexual employees of the federal government to provide them classified information rather than risk exposure.[1] Former U.S. Senator Alan K. Simpson has written: "The so-called 'Red Scare' has been the main focus of most historians of that period of time. A lesser-known element ... and one that harmed far more people was the witch-hunt McCarthy and others conducted against homosexuals."[2]

The term for this persecution was popularized by David K. Johnson's 2004 study of this anti-homosexual campaign, The Lavender Scare, which drew its title from the term "lavender lads", used repeatedly by Senator Everett Dirksen as a synonym for homosexuals. In 1952 Dirksen said that a Republican victory in the November elections would mean the removal of "the lavender lads" from the State Department.[3] The phrase was also used by Confidential magazine, a periodical known for gossiping about the sexuality of politicians and prominent Hollywood stars.[4]

In 1950, the same year that Senator Joseph McCarthy claimed 205 communists were working in the State Department, Undersecretary of State John Peurifoy said that the State Department had allowed 91 homosexuals to resign.[5][6] On April 19, 1950, the Republican National Chairman Guy George Gabrielson said that "sexual perverts who have infiltrated our Government in recent years" were "perhaps as dangerous as the actual Communists".[7] McCarthy hired Roy Cohn–later widely believed to be a closeted homosexual–as chief counsel of his Congressional subcommittee. Together, McCarthy and Cohn were responsible for the firing of scores of gay men from government employment and strong-armed many opponents into silence using rumors of their homosexuality.[8][9][10] In 1953, during the final months of the Truman administration, the State Department reported that it had fired 425 employees for allegations of homosexuality.[11][12][13]

A feature-length documentary film by producer-director Josh Howard, The Lavender Scare, based on Johnson's book of the same name, was released in the summer of 2013.[14][15]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ayyar, Raj. "Historian David K. Johnson: Exposes the U.S. Government's Anti-Gay Crusades". Gay Today. 
  2. ^ Simpson, Alan K. "Prologue" to Dying for Joe McCarthy's Sins, Rodger McDaniel, WordsWorth Press, 2013 - pg. x. ISBN 978-0983027591
  3. ^ Stephen J. Whitfield, The Culture of the Cold War, 2nd ed. (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), p. 44; Byron C. Hulsey, Everett Dirksen and his Presidents: How a Senate Giant Shaped American Politics (University Press of Kansas, 2000), 48–9
  4. ^ Samuel Bernstein, "Lavender Lads Bartone Babes", The Advocate, February 27, 2007. On the association of a variety colors with homosexuality, see Venetia Newall, "Folklore and Male Homosexuality", Folklore, vol. 97, no. 2, 1986, 126
  5. ^ Representative Miller (NE). "Homosexuals in Government." Congressional Record 96:4 (March 29, 1950), H4527
  6. ^ "Smiling Jack". Time. August 22, 1955. 
  7. ^ "Perverts Called Government peril". April 19, 1950. 
  8. ^ Johnson, David K. (2004). The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government. University of Chicago Press.[page needed]. ISBN 0-226-40190-1. 
  9. ^ Rodger McDaniel, Dying for Joe McCarthy's Sins: The Suicide of Wyoming Senator Lester Hunt (WordsWorth, 2013), ISBN 978-0983027591
  10. ^ White, William S. (May 20, 1950). "Inquiry by Senate on Perverts Asked". New York Times. Retrieved December 29, 2014. 
  11. ^ "The Legacy of Discriminatory State Laws, Policies, and Practices, 1945-Present". Williams Institute, UCLA. 
  12. ^ "126 Perverts Discharged". New York Times. March 26, 1952. Retrieved December 29, 2014. 
  13. ^ Berard, Lauren B., "Something Changed: The Social and Legal Status of Homosexuality in America as Reported by the New York Times" (2014). Honors Theses. Paper 357.
  14. ^ Melendez, Barbara (June 9, 2010). "Book Lavender Scare To Be Documentary". University of South Florida News. 
  15. ^ "Film Documents Antigay Witch Hunt". The Advocate. March 5, 2012. Retrieved June 15, 2012. 

Additional sources[edit]

  • Robert D. Dean, Imperial Brotherhood: Gender and the Making of Cold War Foreign Policy (University of Massachusetts Press, 2003), ISBN 978-1-55849-414-5
  • Rodger McDaniel, Dying for Joe McCarthy's Sins: The Suicide of Wyoming Senator Lester Hunt. (WordsWorth, 2013), ISBN 978-0983027591

External links[edit]