Essay on LGBT Discrimination in the Workplace
In 26 states, it is still legal to fire an employee for being LGBT (Pieklo). This may seem baffling to many, but during the Cold War, the discriminations faced by LGBT people were far worse and daunting. They were subject to the government’s persecution, firing, and interrogation, strictly on the clause of being LGBT (Krugler). This is now referred to as the Lavender Scare, though many Americans have heard of this horrific witch hunt, for LGBT discrimination is still an ongoing battle, including the omission of it in history books, as there are only two states that require it to be taught in schooling (Adley). The Cold War between Russia and America from 1945-1973, was a time of terror due to the threat of possible communists and a nuclear war. This impacted many lives and ideals of America and its government, including the Lavender Scare. The Cold war impacted this by creating fear of communism in America, distrust between American citizens and the government, and pressure for names of communists.
One of the ways the Cold War impacted the Lavender Scare was by spreading the fear of communism taking root in America. Russia wanted to spread communism throughout the world, and America was determined to do anything to stop that from happening. There were however, some people in America who thought otherwise. When word of spies and communists in America got around, it created a massive fear within its people and government. At the time, people also associated being queer as being a communist, for the both “lacked” moral and mental strength (Gleason). Being homosexual meant having a sickness, or a disease that was immoral, just like communism. Other similarities between both groups included using a coded language, and meeting in secret places (Krugler). LGBT members only had these codes and secret meetings however, because it was too dangerous risking being caught. With Americans pining queer people as communists, there was no choice left but to hide, creating an even deeper suspicion of them. With the instilled fear of communism overtaking America, they were blind to the differences between the LGBT and communists, only seeing the similarities, and at face value. Fear can create a mass hysteria and panic that lead people to making rash decisions and judges, such as persecuting people for being LGBT. That widespread fear of communism taking root in America is just one of the ways the Cold War impacted the Lavender Scare.
Another way the Cold War impacted the Lavender Scare was by creating distrust between American citizens themselves, and the American Government. People were skeptical of each other, and there could be no trust found in one another during the Cold War. The workplace became a blame game for the employees and its employers. For the government especially, LGBT were viewed as a large security risk. If they lived double lives, being queer in secret, how could their loyalty and mental strength be trusted to keep government secrets (Gleason)? Government agents would storm into workplaces, and interrogate anyone who was suspected to be LGBT. If they found any evidence against them, they would disappear. Coworkers had no idea what happened to them for it was covered up by federal agents, but many either ran away to find safety in secret, were murdered, or committed suicide as their life was in ruins. One could also be fired for “guilt of association” with LGBT members, if they merely knew one of them existed (Gleason). This distrust between the government and its American citizens, then lead to distrust between the citizens themselves. People were ordered to turn in their friends and coworkers who were LGBT, otherwise they would face unknown penalties (Out). People who had worked side by side for years, were now turning on one another in the midst of this distrust created by the government and Cold War. This wicked witch hunt continued for decades because the distrust created by the Cold War made America justify turning their backs on one another.
Finally, another way the Cold War impacted the Lavender Scare was by the pressure placed on the American Government to turn in communists. This pressure placed on government officials to name communists, specifically republicans, lead to what’s considered the development of the Lavender Scare - Senator Joe McCarthy’s famous list. He brought to the senate floor a list of 205 people who he claimed were communists, two of which, were homosexual. Those two employees were interrogated, and then discharged from their office (Gleason). While Senator McCarthy had no hard evidence to back his claims up, that pressure from everyone around him to name communists, is when he turned to LGBT people has his scapegoat (Krugler). Americans already viewed them as immoral, and mentally ill, so they were the perfect candidates. By exposing them as a national security risk, there would be little to none backlash, mass American support, and less pressure from the Republicans to give more specific names. Around a year after McCarthy produced his list to the senate, on April 27th, 1953, President Dwight Eisenhower signed executive order 10450. This expanded on Truman’s employment regulations by adding a statement that would ban federal employees from working if they were found of “sexual perversion”. This order is thought to have cost 10,000 civil servants their jobs (Gleason). Again, underneath the pressure to produce more communists, the executive order provided America with a scapegoat to meet and reduce the pressure. This pressure was another way the Cold War impacted the Lavender Scare.
In conclusion, the Cold War impacted the Lavender Scare by creating fear of communism in America, distrust between American citizens and its government, and pressure for names of communists. Strong waves of fear of communism spreading through America can cause panic, resulting the weeding out of LGBT people. The government having no trust in its citizens, and the citizens being unable to trust no one only furthered the persecution of LGBT people. Finally, the pressure placed on government officials to produce names of communists in America made them create rash decisions, including making LGBT people a scapegoat for communism in America. In reality, however, not a single LGBT person was found to have given up secrets or been blackmailed by foreign communists (Out). This type of discrimination in the workplace, while less than during the Cold War era, is still an ongoing problem today, and will not end until there are zero states allowed to fire someone for being LGBT.