News coverage of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community has been guided by changes in social tolerance, legal proscriptions against homosexual acts, and therefore the desire of gays to cover their sexual orientation to avoid the social stigma attached to homosexuality. Until the mid-twentieth century, the term homosexual was considered obscene, and mainstream newspapers shunned the topic for fear of offending readers and alienating advertisers. In rare instances when the importance of a story overrode these concerns, newspapers couched any regard to homosexuality in obscure terms that eluded the typical reader.
When Oscar Wilde was placed on trial for “gross indecency” in 1895, he offered the primary public defense of homosexuality in England, but The ny Times, for example, never expressly stated the playwright’s offense. By the 1940s, newspapers and magazines highlighted the military’s efforts to comb out homosexuals and other “undesirables” from the armed forces.
The Washington, D.C., Hesperus celebrated the policy during a 1943 feature headlined “How the Navy’s Mind Detectives Seek Men of Sound Nerve for Warfare.” Newsweek explained in 1947 that military psychiatrists detected homosexuals by their effeminate looks or behavior and by “repeating certain words from the homosexual vocabulary and expecting signs of recognition.” However, many other publications continued to avoid the topic .
In 1948, the Raleigh Times for example, refused to print a news agency report on Alfred Kinsey’s Sexual Behavior within the Human Male, although they did inform readers that the story might be ordered by mail. Depictions of velgenklere homosexuality grew even darker in the 1950s, as newspapers relegated homosexuals to the crime pages. A string of articles within the Miami Herald, for instance , described a crackdown on undesirables along a strip of beach.
One official explained that the world had acquired a reputation as a “congregating place for males who try hard to look and act like women.” Similar stories were seen in ny City; Atlanta; Denver; Dayton, Ohio; and Washington, D.C., to call a couple of. These instances are often defended under the guise of press freedom.
Homosexuals garnered greater negative attention as they became easy prey for Senator Joseph McCarthy and other politicians who were wanting to capitalize on the nation’s postwar paranoia. “Perverts Called Government Peril” blared a replacement York Times article that described concerns that homosexuals had infiltrated the federal workforce.