"Gay Panic: The Lavender Scare" on Lisa Ling's "This Is Life" on CNN

Tonight, Lisa Ling's 'This Is Life' presented the episode Gay Panic: The Lavender Scare.

In the late 1940s, as the Soviet Union joined the race for nuclear weapons, a perfect storm developed in American politics, even the Truman administration, looking for supposed Communist spies and sympathizers, targeting any 'group' that the public disliked. "Tall Gunner Joe" McCarthy led the charge.

So people even suspected of homosexuality by the flimsiest of rumors (like being seen entering a gay bar) could be driven out of federal employment, a policy not reversed until 1973 (after Stonewall). The civilian security clearance issue would not be resolved until 1995.

This also applied to the military. After the Korean War, Helen James, now 94, was railroaded out of the Air Force on mere suspicion of lesbianism recently (post repeal of DADT) she finally had her discharge upgraded.

People were railroaded out over suspicion of their mere proclivities or propensities, not for actual provable acts. That is one reason the 'suspect class' idea became important.

The documentary then presented the history of Walter Jenkins, who resigned from the Johnson administration after being caught in a sting in downtown DC.

The episode interviews a skater, Garrett, a great nephew of one of the congressmen (McCarthy) who pursued the witchhunts.

The episode interviews author Eric Cervini, 29, about the book The Deviant's War: The Homosexual vs. The United States of America, 2020, Farrar, Straus, & Giroux ISBN 0374721564m 500+ pages. I have ordered a hardcopy from Amazon and will review myself.

Much of the book gives a biography of Dr. Franklin E Kameny, who was fired as an astronomer in 1957. I have met the late Kameny myself at an HRC dinner. The book also ties improvement of gay rights to the Civil Rights movement in general.

My own history, as in my first and third DADT books, fits into this: my expulsion from William and Mary in the fall of 1961 over rumors and bizarre circumstances, feeds the old fashioned narrative that later fed DADT in the military - that when men come together in close quarters the notion that homosexuality is possible is very distracting to their own heterosexual futures forming families. I would get drafted myself in 1968 to continue my own ironic story.

Posted by Bill Boushka at 8:45 PM No comments:

Labels: dadt, lgbt issues, This Is Life