Homosexual Investigations: The CIA’s Contribution to the Lavender Scare from the 1950s to the 1980s

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This research paper analyzes why and how the CIA participated in the “Lavender Scare,” specifically why and how they discriminated against gay and lesbian employees from the 1950s to the 1980s. The CIA discriminated against gay and lesbian employees because they feared that they could be blackmailed into revealing United States secrets and that they were unreliable and immoral. This justification remained largely the same from the 1950s to the 1980s. Additionally, they were able to discriminate against gay and lesbian individuals for longer than other agencies and departments of the federal government. This is because of their extensive use of polygraph examinations, or lie detector tests, as well as the lack of both internal regulations from the CIA itself, and external regulations from areas like the U.S. government. It’s important to remember this history of CIA discrimination given their recent hiring campaign targeted at LGBTQ+ individuals. This research aims to contribute to the historiography on the Lavender Scare, and specifically the CIA’s involvement in it, both of which are under-discussed.


Winner of the 2023 Library Award for Undergraduate Research.