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social sciences

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McCarthyism  
 
page: 1  2  3  

Historical Ironies

Among the historical ironies of McCarthyism is that several of the figures associated with the senator and his movement have subsequently been revealed to have been homosexual, including--in addition to Whittaker Chambers, such individuals as Roy Cohn, the Senator's valued assistant, and J. Edgar Hoover, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The sexual orientation of Senator McCarthy himself has been questioned.

Notwithstanding the fact that it is unlikely that any of these figures accepted a homosexual identity for themselves, the irony of individuals engaged in same-sex sexual relationships persecuting gay men and lesbians on the basis of their sexuality cannot be ignored. In an era when accusations of homosexuality were a potent political ploy, however, it is not surprising that politicians of all political ideologies (and sexual orientations) resorted to .

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The Legacy of McCarthyism

The legacy of the McCarthy era for the gay and lesbian movement is complex and varied. On the one hand, the persecutions spawned by the McCarthy era helped propel a movement of resistance. On the other hand, years of harassment created an atmosphere of suspicion that has been hard to overcome for many gay men and lesbians who came of age in the 1950s.

In her history of American lesbian life in the twentieth century, Lillian Faderman quotes the moving words of a retired teacher who explains the reluctance of lesbians of her age to come out because of what happened during McCarthyism: "there is no guarantee that there won't again be a rush to the documents, and a resurrection of our names from somewhere, with who-knows-what-kind of repercussions. . . . we didn't believe the stuff McCarthy got away with."

Luca Prono

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    Bibliography
   

D'Emilio, John. Making Trouble. New York: Routledge, 1992.

_____. Sexual Politics, Sexual Communities. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983.

Faderman, Lillian. Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers: A History of Lesbian Life in Twentieth-Century America. New York: Penguin Books, 1992.

Hay, Harry. Radically Gay: Gay Liberation in the Words of Its Founder Harry Hay. Will Roscoe, ed. Boston: Beacon Press, 1996.

Loughery, John. The Other Side of Silence: Men's Lives and Gay Identities: A Twentieth-Century History. New York: Henry Holt, 1998.

Timmons, Stuart. The Trouble with Harry Hay. Los Angeles: Alyson Publications, 1990.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Prono, Luca  
    Entry Title: McCarthyism  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated December 7, 2006  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/social-sciences/mccarthyism.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  
 

 

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