Archive Activism: Vergangenheitsbewaltigung!

“Self-admitted homosexual” was the bureaucratic pejorative for Thomas H. Tattersall, certified insane, federal employee, resident of St. Elizabeth’s federal psychiatric hospital during the 1950s in Washington, DC. A destination for the criminally insane, St. Elizabeth’s remains one of the most haunting government complexes in the nation. It was home for thirty-five years to Ronald Reagan’s would-be assassin John Hinckley. Today, it is a shell of its former self, soon to become the Department of Homeland Security. In 1953, it was to become home to Tattersall, fired from his job at the Department of Commerce for the crime of homosexuality. This was the year President Dwight David Eisenhower signed Executive Order 10450, declaring “sexual perversion” a cause for federal investigation and termination. Due to fears of potential blackmail and suspected treason, homosexuals could not serve in government. By declaring him insane, a homosexual like Tattersall could become a resident of St. Elizabeth’s.

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This article originally appeared in QED A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking, vol. 4, iss. 1, Spring 2017, pages 28-41, published by Michigan State University Press.