For decades, the specter of homosexuality haunted Washington. The mere suggestion that a person might be gay destroyed reputations, ended careers, and ruined lives. At the height of the Cold War, fear of homosexuality became intertwined with the growing threat of international communism, leading to a purge of gay men and lesbians from the federal government. In the fevered atmosphere of political Washington, the secret “too loathsome to mention” paradoxically held enormous, terrifying power.
In his new book Secret City, James Kirchick celebrates the men and women who courageously decided that the source of their private shame could instead be galvanized for public pride. He offers a reinterpretation of American history told from the perspective of the citizens who lived in its shadows.
Join Kirchick as he illuminates how the midcentury idea of homosexuality shaped successive presidential administrations, impacting everything from the creation of America’s earliest civilian intelligence agency to the rise and fall of McCarthyism, the struggle for African American civil rights, and the conservative movement.
Kirchick is a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution and a columnist for Tablet.
Secret City: The Hidden History of Gay Washington (Henry Holt and Co.) is available for purchase.
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