The Lavender Scare Revisits The Bad Old Days Of McCarthy’s Gay Witch Hunts

At this point in history, even middle-aged LGBT folks are too young to truly remember the daily repression, emotional lockdown and ugly legal consequences of living in the United States before the modern gay civil rights movement picked up steam, a time when a person’s entire life could be ruined if their homosexuality became public.

In the future, when that generation’s gone, we’ll really need documentaries like The Celluloid Closet, Stonewall Uprising and now The Lavender Scare, from filmmaker Josh Howard (based on the book by historian David K. Johnson), to remind us of the people who suffered and struggled before us so that we could live openly. If nothing else, they’ll remind us to be grateful for the accident of being born into an era of relative freedom.

Currently in production (trailer above), here’s more from the film’s site:

THE LAVENDER SCARE is the first feature-length documentary film to tell the story of the U.S. government’s ruthless campaign in the 1950s and ’60s to hunt down and fire every Federal employee it suspected was gay.

While many remember the McCarthy Era as the time of the Red Scare, the headline-grabbing hunt for Communists in the United States, it was the Lavender Scare, a vicious and vehement purge of homosexuals, which lasted longer and ruined many more lives.

Before it was over, more than 10,000 Federal employees lost their jobs. Based on the award-winning book by historian David K. Johnson, THE LAVENDER SCARE shines a light on a chapter of American history that has never received the attention it deserves.

It examines the tactics used by the government to identify homosexuals, and takes audiences inside interrogation rooms where gay men and women were subjected to grueling questioning. These stories are told through the first-hand accounts of the people who experienced them.
THE LAVENDER SCARE shows how the government’s actions ignited an anti-gay frenzy that spread throughout the country, in an era in which The New York Times used the words “homosexual” and “pervert” interchangeably, and public service films warned that homosexuality was a dangerous, contagious disease.

While the story is at times infuriating and heartbreaking, its underlying message is uplifting and inspiring. Instead of destroying American homosexuals, the actions of the government had the opposite effect: they stirred a sense of outrage and activism that helped ignite the gay rights movement.