The Historic LGBTQ Trump Appointment that got OvershadowedBreaking News
tags: gay history, queer history, LGBTQ history, national intelligence
James Kirchick is a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution and author of “The End of Europe: Dictators, Demagogues, and the Coming Dark Age.”
Last month, President Trump named Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, acting director of national intelligence. The move immediately sparked criticism as the latest example of Trump choosing a political loyalist for a nonpolitical job. But amid the controversy concerning the prudence of the appointment, its historical import has been obscured. For the first time in American history, an openly LGBT person will lead the intelligence community, a remarkable development considering that, until relatively recently, it not only denied employment to gay and lesbian Americans but thoroughly purged them from its ranks.
Beginning in 1953, when President Dwight Eisenhower signed an executive order denying work to those suspected of “sexual perversion,” thousands of gay men and women were forced out of the federal bureaucracy. While the exact number of victims claimed by this “lavender scare” is difficult to quantify, one scholar estimates that 5,000 to 10,000 people were affected, far exceeding those expelled in the simultaneous (not to mention much more extensively documented and remembered) red scare.