Skip to main content
Social Sci LibreTexts

6.9: The Lavender Scare

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)\(\newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    During the 1950s, the United States was filled with fear that communism was seeping into the U.S., and the Federal Government began a public campaign to warn citizens that communism had infiltrated the United States. This time period is commonly referred to as the Red Scare. For queer people, this time period coincided with another moral panic, the Lavender Scare. The U.S. government and most notably, Senator Joe McCarthy began to assert that queer people would be more susceptible to blackmail from the enemy, and government employees who were known to be queer were fired from their jobs. During this time, society started to fear and focus on “the homosexual menace” more than prostitution and masturbation as “[they] were, along with communists, the objects of federal witch hunts and purges” (Rubin, 1984).

    Around this time, several organizations were created by LGBTQIA+ people to protect their rights. The Library of Congress has a wonderful history on some of these groups in their LGBTQIA+ Studies Resource Guide. The Mattachine Society - LGBTQIA+ Studies: A Resource Guide and The Daughters of Bilitis - LGBTQIA+ Studies: A Resource Guide.

    "Anti-discrimination laws, Sexual orientation, in the world." by Hentzer is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

    This page titled 6.9: The Lavender Scare is shared under a CC BY 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Susan Rahman with Nathan Bowman, Dahmitra Jackson, Anna Lushtak, Remi Newman, & Prateek Sunder.

    • Was this article helpful?