Lavender scare

The "Lavender Scare" refers to a witch hunt and the mass firings of homosexual people in the 1950s from the United States government. It contributed to and paralleled the anti-communist campaign known as McCarthyism and the Second Red Scare.[1] Gay men and lesbians were said to be security risks and communist sympathizers, which led to the call to remove them from state employment.[2]

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."[3]

Etymology

The term for this persecution was popularized by David K. Johnson's 2004 book which studied this anti-homosexual campaign, The Lavender Scare. The book drew its title from the term "lavender lads", used repeatedly by Senator Everett Dirksen as a synonym for homosexual males. In 1952, Dirksen said that a Republican victory in the November elections would mean the removal of "the lavender lads" from the State Department.[4] The phrase was also used by Confidential magazine, a periodical known for gossiping about the sexuality of politicians and prominent Hollywood stars.[5]