Monday, April 29, 2013

Is The GOP Still In Thrall To The Lavender Scare?


Rep. Aaron Schock's lavender belt

It was historical for Jason Collins to write in Sports Illustrated today that "I'm a 34-year-old NBA center. I'm black. And I'm gay." I bet it will inspire and fortify thousands of young men and women all over the world. I recall, vividly, sitting with Harvey Milk in the backroom office of his Castro Street camera shop right after a flurry of national media coverage of his successful election as a San Francisco Supervisor. He pulled out a mailbag filled with letters from people. There's one he read to me that still makes my eyes well up with tears. It was from a terrified gay kid in Nebraska or Kansas who talked about how Harvey's election had given him the hope that he didn't have to commit suicide. Collins:
I realized I needed to go public when Joe Kennedy, my old roommate at Stanford and now a Massachusetts congressman, told me he had just marched in Boston's 2012 Gay Pride Parade. I'm seldom jealous of others, but hearing what Joe had done filled me with envy. I was proud of him for participating but angry that as a closeted gay man I couldn't even cheer my straight friend on as a spectator. If I'd been questioned, I would have concocted half truths. What a shame to have to lie at a celebration of pride. I want to do the right thing and not hide anymore. I want to march for tolerance, acceptance and understanding. I want to take a stand and say, "Me, too."

The recent Boston Marathon bombing reinforced the notion that I shouldn't wait for the circumstances of my coming out to be perfect. Things can change in an instant, so why not live truthfully? When I told Joe a few weeks ago that I was gay, he was grateful that I trusted him. He asked me to join him in 2013. We'll be marching on June 8.

No one wants to live in fear. I've always been scared of saying the wrong thing. I don't sleep well. I never have. But each time I tell another person, I feel stronger and sleep a little more soundly. It takes an enormous amount of energy to guard such a big secret. I've endured years of misery and gone to enormous lengths to live a lie. I was certain that my world would fall apart if anyone knew. And yet when I acknowledged my sexuality I felt whole for the first time. I still had the same sense of humor, I still had the same mannerisms and my friends still had my back.
I used to think I was colorblind because I started hanging around with a bunch of really over-the-top, effeminate gay guys in Amsterdam. The ring leader-- or den mother-- was the grandson of a very right-wing Republican congressman from Ohio and the family was happy to pay him a-- what seemed at the time to me-- gargantuan sum to stay out of the U.S. Anyway, that's a whole other story. The reason I thought I was colorblind is because these guys used to always be talking about colors I couldn't see: russet, saffron, mauve, cerulean, sable, jacinthe, azure, chartreuse, aubergine, celadon, vermilion, lavender. Eventually I figured out I wasn't colorblind, just ignorant. Eventually I bought a whole set of dishes in Chiang Mai made of celadon and one of the bands on my label named an album Cerulean. And then there was the infamous photo of Illinois Republican Congressman Aaron Schock (above) in his very gay get up-- he tweeted he burned the whole outfit after the picture went viral-- with a lavender (is that lavender?) belt.

Lavender has been tied to the LGBT community long before the Illinois closet case started sashaying around in that belt. In fact, this is the 60th anniversary of what was once known as "the Lavender Purge," perfect for a national debate about passing ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

On April 27, 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued an executive order calling for the removal of homosexuals from all federal agencies. Gay and lesbian government workers were immediately fired or resigned out of fear of being publicly outed.  Even LGBT people working in the private sector whose jobs required them to have a federal security clearance were also fired or resigned.

The supposed justification for the purge was that homosexuals were a godless, immoral group who would work with communists to overthrow the government, thereby posing an imminent threat to national security.

While many remember the “Red Scare” of the mid-20th century, the purging of LGBT government employees, dubbed the “Lavender Scare,” today rarely receives its due as a catalyst for the LGBT equality movement. In 2004, David K. Johnson helped bring the historical moment to light in his book The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government.
Do you think Jason Collins will inspire Aaron Schock? Lindsey Graham? Patrick McHenry? Do you think any of the dozen or so Republican closet cases in Congress will come out? Do you think Josh Howard's film based on Johnson's book will help Miss McConnell reach down deep and find the courage? Dave Camp? Adrian Smith? Trent Franks? Forget it. It's more likely they'll be shuddering in fear behind their closet doors praying it isn't their turn to be caught yet, so have to claim alcoholism and resign in self-imposed antebellum disgrace. It's more likely that they're petrified that a book like David Rosen's Sex Scandal America-- Politics & the Ritual of Public Shaming will one day include a paragraph or two about them. Will one of them be the next Bob Bauman (R-MD) or Jon Hinson (R-MS)? This is how Rosen dealt with the horrors visited on the LGBT community during the '50s.
The social repression of homosexuals during this period took many forms and involved both governmental and civil action. Government repression was implemented in two ways: in actions directed at federal employees (civilian or military) and in actions directed at the American citizenry. Government action took place on many fronts. Congressional and federal officials held hearings and investigations, conducted raids, undertook prosecutions and imprisoned ordinary (and sometimes extra-ordinary) people. Repression was framed as a battle over loyalty and ended in many front page exposés, with Weegee-esque black-and-white shots that gave the event a tawdry sheen. The social repression of this period represented the profound political instability America was confronting in terms of both domestic and international power.

Congressional hearings (as well as innumerable local and state government probes) were directed at perverts-- homosexuals, and pornographers, publishers of pulp fiction, comic books and "adult" photo-magazines. Among these, and probably the most pitiful, was the campaign waged against homosexuals. In 1950, the Nebraska House Republican, A.L. Miller helped write special language into that year's Security Act which legitimized the investigation of those identified as "perverts." At the other end of Congress, the Senate conducted a wide-ranging into the presence of "homosexuals and other perverts" in the federal government. Advocating the removal of all homosexuals from government employment (both civilian and military), the Senate report warned that "perverts tend to have a corrosive influence upon his fellow employees. These perverts will frequently attempt to entice normal individuals to engage in perverted practices. This is particularly true in the case of young and impressionable people who might come under the influence of a pervert... One homosexual can pollute a government office."
That wasn't all that long ago. Today the Senate has gay members but one, Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), was elected as an upfront gay person, her gender preference not even an issue in her election. There are openly gay Members of Congress from Colorado, Rhode Island, Arizona, California, Wisconsin and one, Carl Sciortino, likely to move from the Massachusetts state legislature to Congress in a special election. Still, none of the Republican gays in Congress have the guts to come out-- or to even support and end to discrimination against gays in employment. Jeff Merkely (D-OR) is working on getting some Republicans to help him shut down the '50's era, bigoted filibuster promised by reactionaries like Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Jeff Sessions (KKK-AL). Susan Collins (R-ME) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) are already on board and Rob Portman (the one with the gay son) may be coming along. But does anyone think there's any chance in hell that GOP closet cases Lindsey Graham and Miss McConnell would even consider backing ENDA? The only thing that keeps homophobia alive are gays too cowardly to come out and accept themselves.

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At 12:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lindsey Graham - sucking cock and kicking ass.


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