Directly after taking office, President Dwight D. Eisenhower ordered that all homosexual individuals working for the United States government were to be fired. The thought was that it would be easy to blackmail a gay man or lesbian, however there was not a single example of this being the case. Many men and women resigned quickly to avoid being publicly fired or persecuted by their own government.
The Lavender Scare tells the true story of individuals persecuted by their own government. Less than five minutes into this documentary I was so angry, I was raging. The fact that you could be fired because you acted “manish” or wore “very little lipstick” is horrifying. No review process. No proof of evidence. Nothing. One of the investigators or “hatchet men” is quoted as saying “so he’s on the breadline, that son of a bitch. Who cares, put him on the breadline.” People began to inform on their coworkers for having a “girlish walk,” “a jelly handshake,” or claiming they “must be a lesbian” because a woman was not particularly “feminine looking.” This would bleed out into local police stations and suddenly arresting everyone at a gay bar appeared to be doing a service for your country.
You will not come away from this documentary feeling trust for the United States Government, I can tell you that. This film hurts, but if you truly want to celebrate the reason for the Pride season, know that this film tells so much of the LGBT history that you may not know. Footage and recordings from the time period will likely make your blood boil. Glenn Close, Cynthia Nixon, Zachary Quinto, T.R. Knight, and David Hyde Piece also provide their vocal talents to read real documentation from the time period.
The Lavender Scare will open theatrically in New York and Los Angeles this Friday, timed to the 50-year anniversary of Stonewall. The nationwide premiere of The Lavender Scare will be on PBS on June 18, 2019 at 9:00pm.