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My Uncle Was Behind The Lavender Scare

From Audio: A Danger To My Country

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station description Stories of the human heart. A candid, unscripted conversation between two people ab... read more
StoryCorps
Duration: 04:31
Peter Shinkle reads from his great uncle's diaries- his great uncle being Bobby Cutler, the first U.S. National Security Advisor and the man behind The Lavender Scare.
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Outed. Ostracized. Out of a job. This was the reality for LGBT government workers during The Lavender Scare, in which "sexual perversion" was deemed a threat to America. The men behind The Lavender Scare and its reactions are long dead, but Peter Shinkle reads from the diary of his great uncle Bobby- this being Bobby Cutler, the first U.S. National Security Advisor
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imagine now how different things were, 50 60 70 years ago. One would simply routinely lie. I mean, it didn't mean anything other than that you were doing what you knew you had to do or you wouldn't be considered for the job. Yeah, that's steven Benedict with Peter Schinkel in Gettysburg pennsylvania Stephen avoided being fired in 1958 but resigned from his government job later that year. Here's Peter again, reading from his great uncle, bobby Cutler's diary. What means so much to me? So incredibly much means nothing to him. But what is important is this? There is no conclusion to be drawn from this difference that I love him, but he does not love me. The man bobby's referring to in his diaries, was actually one of his colleagues named skip coons who died in 2000 and five. So here's Peter with skips, longtime partner Ed Glazebrook at Storycorps. I met skip coons in 1969 and we locked eyes and somehow I felt that this was going to be a night that was gonna change my life forever. You know, another person who loves skip very much was of course bobby Cutler. Uh you know, I never met bobby but I heard a lot about bobby from skip. I knew that bobby had hired him to work for the National Security Council and the staff. So working in Washington with bobby and Eisenhower was terribly exciting for him. But SKIP talked about the danger of being gay in that environment and it took a heavy toll on him. He did eventually come under investigation by the government. Yes, he told me that they were on to him. He had a lover at that time who phoned him from overseas and was indiscreet about their relationship. And skip was horrified because he really is aware that the funds could be tapped and they were so he knew his time was up. How did he feel about that? Well, I think he felt the pain of it because he had always wanted to be in government when he was growing up and he told me that his real ambition was to be Secretary of State. So what he wanted most in the world was taken away from. And that was a great loss and not just for him, but for all the people like him who couldn't continue with what they wanted to do just because they were gay. You know, it was a terrible time and our history. That's Ed Glazebrook remembering his longtime partner, skip kun's at storycorps with Peter Schinkel. It's been more than 60 years since Peter's great uncle bobby Cutler initiated executive order one oh 45 resulting in what's been called the lavender scare. And while his storycorps interviews with steven and Ed helped fill in some blanks, peter is still left with lots of questions. It is extremely difficult to know what bobby Cutler was thinking when he recommended the ban on homosexuals and the federal government, which caused immense pain and suffering to the gay community with thousands, losing jobs and untold numbers committing suicide, terrible, terrible impacts from these rules. I think he was a profound patriot and lover of his country, who would not have been comfortable at all with the idea that he was going to be investigated merely because of whom he loved. So I've spent years trying to understand how this happened. And it's not a simple story. There is a question in my mind to what extent bobby may bear some of the burden for this decision. But what we do know is that there's no record of anybody standing up and saying this ban on sexual perversion, You should take that out of these rules. Nobody did that
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