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Lavender Scare Plays in Pollak

The University hosted a showing of The Lavender Scare, last Monday, Nov. 5.

The documentary was played in Pollak Theatre, and recounts the story about the tens of thousands of gay and lesbian U.S. government workers fired from the State Department in an effort to rid the federal workforce of homosexuals.

The showing was free admission and open to the public. Many students, professors and faculty, and members from the surrounding community attended the event, and were able to ask the producer and director, Josh Howard, and the historian, David Johnson, questions about the documentary.

The documentary was narrated by Glenn Close and featured the voices of T.R. Knight, Cynthia Nixon, Zachary Quinto, and David Hyde Pierce, recounting the stories of some workers who were fired during the epidemic.

“Historian David Johnson’s book, The Lavender Scare, first brought attention to the long history of government persecution of people who were believed to be lesbians and gay men,” said Katherine Parkin, Ph.D., a professor of history and gender studies who helped to secure Johnson’s attendance to the event.

She continued, “I started corresponding with the film maker, Josh Howard, in 2008, asking that as soon as the film was available, I wanted to show it at Monmouth.  I followed up each year, encouraging him and reminding him of our interest.”

Parkin explained that similar to the Red Scare over suspicions of communism in the 1950s, “gays and lesbians found themselves attacked for their style of dress, mannerisms and interests, and mere accusations.” The allegations were enough to force people to resign, rather than risk exposure of their homosexual identity.

“It was with the leadership of some brave individuals, such as Dr. Franklin Kameny, and organizations that people began to fight back,” said Parkin. “Being attacked for their sexual orientation was only possible if people could substantiate it as a problem. When the courts, bosses, and the public began to support those women and men under attack, the scare tactics began to lose their luster.”

Parkin said that she wrote to Howard when former Secretary of State John Kerry apologized on behalf of the U.S. Government for its abusive treatment of lesbian and gay government workers during the Lavender Scare. Kerry’s statement was listed on the Department of State’s webpage, but the film notes that it has since been removed by the Trump administration.

“The film far exceeded my expectations, with its animated graphics and powerful voices, it clearly conveys the joy, the anguish, and the hatred that gays and lesbians experienced living and working for the federal government in Washington, D.C.,” Parkin concluded.