Mug shot of an unidentified man, no. 4679, arrested for “sodomy” in New Castle, PA. Courtesy of Rich Wilson.

Gay in Post-War America:

Fear and Intimidation in the 1950s and ’60s

On December 7, 1941, a Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor drew the United States into World War II. As young men and women flocked to cities for war work or joined the service, they met people from all over the country. Many LGBT individuals began to realize that they were not alone. But after the war—as an awareness of homosexuality grew—anti-gay sentiment grew, too. Mainstream society saw LGBT Americans as sick and immoral. The climate of fear and intimidation ruined lives and reputations. It also ignited a movement to demand equality.

“Two out of three Americans look upon homosexuality with disgust, discomfort or fear.”

—survey conducted for the 1967 CBS documentary, The Homosexuals

“From kindergarten to high school, I walked through a hail of catcalls and taunts in school corridors. . . . It was so hard to be a masculine girl in the 1950s that I thought I would certainly be killed before I could grow to adulthood.”

—activist and author Leslie Feinberg recalling the 1950s in Transgender Warriors, 1997