THE RISE UP EXHIBIT at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., begins when you step off the glass elevator on the sixth floor with a video showing mostly young people introducing themselves as nonbinary, cisgender, gender-fluid, etc.—O brave new world!—but on the other side of that display is a wooden wall inscribed with headlines from earlier times.
“Perverts” seems to have been the most popular term. “Perverts Called Government Peril: Gabrielson, GOP Chief, Says They Are as Dangerous as Reds” on a 1950 issue of The New York Times. Or, in the L.A. Times of March 29, 1950: “Congress Hears 5000 Perverts Infest Capital.” The verb “infest” seems to allude to rats or cockroaches, but there were other terms as well. In The Atlanta Constitution on Nov. 6, 1954: “1500 Sex Deviates Roam Streets Here: Alverson and Hoover Warn Parents on Child Molesters.” The Chicago Daily Tribune on April, 2, 1953: “Begin Purging State Dept. of Homosexuals: Wasters, Subversives, Target of Senators.” The Atlanta Constitution in 1958: “Doctors Look on Sex Deviation as Sickness Like Dope Addiction.” In 1961, the PBS station in San Francisco broadcast a show called The Rejected, which seems sympathetic in comparison. So, summing up, we have: perverts, Reds, wasters, subversives, sex deviates, child molesters, dope addicts, and an allusion to rodents and/or insects. It’s a relief to laugh at The New York Daily News’ metaphor for the Stonewall riots: “Homo Nest Raided, Queen Bees Stinging Mad.”
Andrew Holleran’s fiction includesDancer from the Dance, Grief, andThe Beauty of Men.