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The Lavender Scare

Description: The expansion of the Federal government in the 1930s and 1940s created a huge influx of office type jobs for young people. These jobs, mostly located in the DC metro area, allowed gay men and women and bisexuals who were unwelcome in traditional working class environments to work in more accepting environments. With the passage of the Miller Sexual Psychopath Law, the mental health (DSM) classification of gay men and women and bisexuals as sexual perverts, and J. Edgar Hoover’s comments making homosexuality synonymous with sexual perversion and deviance, beginning in the early 1950s, Washington, DC and the nation became much less welcoming to gay men and women and bisexuals. As McCarthyism spread, increasing pressure was placed upon the government to investigate gay men and women and bisexuals in the federal government as both potential spies and well as their general unsuitability as representatives of the federal government. This led to a Senate investigation, which concluded that gay men and women and bisexuals were unfit to work in federal government due to their likelihood to be blackmailed, their inability to keep secrets, and their general moral perversions. The committee’s recommendation to prevent gay men and women and bisexuals from working in the federal government was codified in 1953 through Executive Order 10450. Through this process of criminalization, those who were known or even suspected to be homosexual or bisexual were investigated. Many individuals subsequently lost their jobs, their community, and for some, even their lives.

Grade Level: 11th Grade

LinkThe Lavender Scare

More Resources: Cold War Context Maps

Source: Berkeley History-Social Science Project

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