Film | Frank Kameny | News

'The Lavender Scare' Documents Government's Witch Hunt Against Gays in the 50's and 60's: TRAILER


A new documentary in production documents the government's 'witch hunts' of the 50's and 60's and efforts by early gay activists like Frank Kameny to put a stop to them.

K Write the filmmakers:

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 the McCarthy Era is remembered 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.

Watch a first trailer, AFTER THE JUMP...

Feed This post's comment feed


  1. Id like to see a hollywood film depicting this!

    Posted by: Gay American | Jul 14, 2011 1:13:53 PM

  2. I've been reading the book off and on. It's good read, but a little dry.

    Posted by: Dairyqueen | Jul 14, 2011 1:39:44 PM

  3. The self-proclaimed land of the free...

    Posted by: borut | Jul 14, 2011 2:18:40 PM

  4. This is a very important story. Not just for Frank Kameny -- who is a hero-- but also because of the villains.

    To go iver the history of the "Red Scare" and "The McCarthy era" it's pretty obvious that "Comminist" and "Homosexual" were not only foled into one another but that the latter was seen as more dangerous than the former. True none of us went to the chair like the Rosenbergs, but many were driven to suicide -- so it's six of one half a dozen of the other.

    Never forget that the major villains in all of this were sef-loathing gays: Roy Cohn, Joe McCarthy, Whittaker Chambers -- the list goes on and on. I do hope this film deals with them.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Jul 14, 2011 2:35:47 PM

  5. It's amazing to look back and realize how it has gotten so much better.

    Posted by: william | Jul 14, 2011 2:44:47 PM

  6. In the 50s, the trend was to link homosexuals to Communists - the most scary thing available in the era. Today (in the enlightened 10s), Gays are routinely compared with Terrorists and anti-gay legislation is wrapped with anti-Muslim legislation. Gays and lesbians still have no real protection from employment discrimination and still have the government telling us how we should want to live our lives. How far we haven't come.

    Posted by: Chadd | Jul 14, 2011 2:48:53 PM

  7. @ Chadd ; even more disturbing is that we are lumped with paedophiles (Eng Sp) by the extreme right wing, which includes the evangelical lunatics, for their own warped ideological reasons.......when they know damn well that the vast majority of such creatures are hetros.
    It's the same attempt to marginalise us and alienate the public from us.....that's why we have to keep in the public view as a legitimate minority demanding simple equal rights.

    Posted by: JackFknTwist | Jul 14, 2011 3:14:35 PM

  8. You see, this is why I keep coming back to Towleroad. HISTORY!!! Even when I've fantasized murdering some of the posters here (usually over the issue of race) it's information like this that makes this blog important.

    I will always admire Gay folks who came out of the closet when it was still so dangerous to do so: Frank Kameny, Harry Hay, Bayard Rustin, Barbara Gittings--and also Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams and James Baldwin.

    Of course, the very Gay people who are despised by many Gays today were the ones who couldn't get into any damn closet: the Fems and Drag Queens and Butch Lesbians. We had to be out of the closet and paid the price for decades.

    Little Richard couldn't get into any closet so he went to church instead....on and off.

    Posted by: Derrick from Philly | Jul 14, 2011 3:48:48 PM

  9. Lets start a campaign/petition to get this PBS. People need to see this.

    Posted by: Lazlo | Jul 14, 2011 4:48:03 PM

  10. Can't wait to see this- and yeah it belongs on PBS or HBO

    Posted by: jaragon | Jul 14, 2011 5:42:18 PM

  11. While I appreciate the momentous change that having the President recognize Kameny represents, it sure would be nice to live a truly great and just country that would try to make amends to these people. It's not like we don't have any way of finding out who they were.

    Posted by: BobN | Jul 14, 2011 5:44:26 PM

  12. "Lavender Scare" was an excellent book and this looks like an excellent film.

    I am reading David Oshinsky's biography of McCarthy and what he makes clear in the updated preface is that by the time McCarthy began his Red hunts, communists had largely left the American Communist Party or their jobs in the US government. The peak of communist infiltration ran from 1933 to 1945, according to the Venona Cables, which were Soviet messages that were intercepted and decrypted by the US government.

    While McCarthy made a lot of noise about hunting Reds, he found very few. What happened in that era was an all out war on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans. We were hunted in federal agencies, in cities and towns by local cops, as the data in William Eskridge's "Gaylaw" shows, and in private industry. That story is never told in popular fiction or films. It is never discussed in the mainstream press. It is not described in histories about that era.

    It was reported in detail in David Johnson's book and it looks like we'll see it in this documentary. It's about damn time.

    Posted by: Duncan Osborne | Jul 14, 2011 6:05:10 PM

  13. As an adjunct to this movie, if you would like to experience what the "Average" Homosexual had to deal with in REAL life middle America in the 30's, 40's and well into the 60's, read "Sex-Crime Panic" - A journey to the Paranoid heart of the 50's.

    If you think we have it bad today with so many Anti-Gay orgs and politicians etc, this is a must read......Not for the faint hearted and truly what Mr Kameny, Harvey Milk, Bayard Rustin and a host of others, were fighting for at a time when being "Gay" might mean a life sentence in a Mental Hospital JUST FOR Appearing Gay!!

    Posted by: alexInBoston | Jul 14, 2011 6:48:21 PM

  14. Thanks for the great comments on the book and film. Best way to get involved is to go to and join the mailing list, friend the FB page, and spread the word. Cheers.

    Posted by: David Johnson | Jul 14, 2011 7:48:24 PM

  15. Being gay in the Secret Service, then Homeland Security was a constant stress on my former partner, who eventually killed himself in 2009. He was tolerated, but was always looking over his shoulder. The last straw was not being able to immigrate his new partner from Europe, the way a straight person would have been able to.

    Rest in Peace, Officer Joe. You served our country well and it grieves me that they treated you so poorly.

    Posted by: Rob | Jul 15, 2011 7:14:39 AM

  16. Homosexuals:

    The last 'minority' group it's still LEGALLY [and still among a sizable section of the population] OK to discriminate against. Probably the sole remaining 'minority' group it's still OK to ridicule and mock in 'polite' society.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Jul 15, 2011 7:25:08 AM

  17. Thanks so much for your comments about our film. Please join us at, on Twitter and on Facebook!

    Posted by: LavenderScare | Jul 17, 2011 11:21:57 AM

  18. I've always been struck by the self-confirming nature of the "target of the blackmailer" argument. Our society thought homosexuality was scandalous; blackmailing was based on this fact. Recognize the common humanity of gays, remove the stigma, and the risk of scandal and blackmail disappears. What could have been easier -- and more humane?

    Posted by: Chuck Mielke | Mar 5, 2012 5:03:42 PM

Post a comment


« «Immigration Judge Halts Deportation in Case of Binational Gay Couple« «