If I needed any further evidence that my sexual orientation and elected office were incompatible, I received it from one of the most popular political novels of the time: Allen Drury’s Advise and Consent, which I read during my year off from school. It dramatically demonstrated that the six years since 1954 had seen no change in the respective popularity ratings of government and homosexuality. The plot involved an effort by a devious FDR-like figure to press the Senate into confirming his nominee for secretary of state. One target of the administration’s pressure was a bright, conscientious young senator who was highly regarded by his elders. The senator was inclined to vote against the nominee. Then a man came forward who told the president’s people that he and the senator — by now happily married with a young daughter — had had a homosexual encounter during World War II. The man produced a photograph supporting his story. Confronting a choice between voting for a nominee he strongly distrusted and being exposed, the senator killed himself. . . . The contrast between the. . . manly ethos of public service and the shame of homosexuality was clear.Fiction and reality were in complete accord. Following Eisenhower’s example, the Kennedy administration took its own explicit anti-gay steps. The civil service director John Macy stated that homosexuals were not welcome in federal jobs. And the administration took rapid action to avert the possibility that foreign homosexuals might be allowed into the country. . . . Since the word “homosexual” was too shocking to use when the laws were adopted, the phrase used for our exclusion was “afflicted with a psychopathic personality.” Everyone knew that meant us.
March 3, 2015 at 1:40 PM EST