The history of LGBTQ officers in the US intelligence community

It began in the 1950s, during the communist witch-hunt known as the Red Scarf: the belief that homosexuals could be blackmailed.

“Homosexuals should not handle top-secret material,” said former U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy.

It was something that was never proven.

David Johnson is a historian and author of the book “Lavender Scare,” and says the name comes from a color associated with LGBTQ people: stereotypical blue for boys and pink for girls.

“Before Lavender Scare, as far as we know, gays and lesbians didn’t have much of a problem with the federal government. So there was a kind of openness,” Johnson said. “The FBI or the Civil Service Investigators called an employee to their office, swore to them, didn’t allow them to be a lawyer, and started asking questions. And usually the first question was, ‘We have information about you. Homosexual. What comment do you mind?’ “.

Johnson says thousands of gays and lesbians have been removed from government jobs.

“Most of them quietly resigned, you know, instead of suffering some kind of public humiliation,” Johnson continued. “And some of them, we know, committed suicide after savage interrogations.”

Then came the government astronomer, gay activist and veteran Frank Kameny.

“To the best of my knowledge and belief, I was the first person to step out of these huge, large numbers of people released in the 50s,” he said.

He fought in court and on the street, claiming that his civil rights had been violated.

The Lavender Scare ended 25 years later, in 1975, but the cleanup continued in the national security community. For LGBTQ Intelligence Officers, discrimination often began with polygraphs.

Tracey Ballard is a former CIA intelligence officer.

“In 1988, on my polygraph, I decided to come out as a lesbian,” she said.

NEWSY SASHA INGBER: Aupa. How did the polygraph respond?

TRACEY BALLARD: The polygraph said, ‘Ohhh? Okay, ”and we turned off all the recording machines, and we just had a conversation. ‘Well, what did I mean, how did that work?’, So we went through the questions and worked on them again so we could answer them honestly.

Ballard contacted everyone involved in his research to get them to sign and almost two years later, they cleared it. He later formed and led a group of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender officers in the CIA.

“We looked at the regulations, looked at the language, and said,‘ This is how this language affects this officer’s ability to advance in his career, ’” Ballard continued.

The game changer signed an executive order ending President Bill Clinton’s ban on security clearances for gay workers.

“We always said we were the best people to go into hiding because we lived there on a regular basis then. There were cases where we could connect with foreigners, maybe there were others in the LGBTQ community as well.” not reaching. We had the ability to come in and talk to them in a way that others couldn’t, so they could trust us, ”Ballard said.

But working abroad was difficult. Graham Segroves was one of the first intelligence officers to be homosexual during the job application process. She said when she started in 2002 that the CIA would not ask host countries if her boyfriend, now her husband, could help her in foreign positions.

“Let’s be clear. I was talking, ‘Can I go to Europe? Can I go to Australia? Where can I go with my partner?’ And the answer was almost nowhere,” Segroves said.

He says he has never been harassed or harassed, but politics forced him to stay in Washington and silently hindered his career.

“We were willing to spend money to send someone’s pet abroad. But we weren’t willing to send their spouse,” he said.

That was officially changed when the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. When the CIA raised the flag of pride this month at its headquarters, a homosexual intelligence officer clearly sat down with Newsy today to discuss the culture. We are hiding his identity and calling him “Drew” because he is still active in the CIA.

DREW: Have I ever been discriminated against or harassed by people who are completely rude or polite to me? No. Have I heard of times when something insulting can be said? Yes.

INGBER: So what is the agency doing to ensure that the LBGTQ community is not discriminated against in high stress situations?

DREW: Members of the LGBTQ community were offered a seat at the table to discuss their experience with the agency’s top leaders. My experience has been that these top leaders have not listened to what individuals have to say, but have acted on it. And they did, and they picked up the phone and called the appropriate team and said, “That’s the problem we want to address right now.” What can be done? ‘

He says the CIA is working to update the system so that transgender officers can see the names they prefer instead of their names, providing gender-confirming toilets, and training staff to handle medical issues and travel requests.

INGBER: Is the agency hired in the LGBTQ community?

DREW: Yes. We’ve had a presence at DC Pride, for example, and in some cases we’ve even worked with student groups to have an open conversation about what it looks like to be gay in the CIA.

Today, there is an Intelligence Community Pride Network, and this officer says that all their work has been made possible by people who bravely faced adversity before them.

Newsy is the nation’s only free 24/7 national news network. You can find Newsy using your digital TV antenna or free streaming. See all the ways to view Newsy here.

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