First Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Kerns

Date of Award

Spring 6-2024

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in History and University Honors

Department

History

Language

English

Subjects

Homosexuality, Idaho, Boise, Sexuality, Queer, Scandal

Abstract

On October 31, 1955, three men were arrested and accused of performing homosexual acts in the quiet, suburban community of Boise, Idaho. The arrests set off a sweeping investigation of Boise’s “widespread homosexual underground” that made national news and resulted in more than one thousand police interrogations and the conviction of fifteen homosexual Boiseans. Though Boise’s moral panic and the ensuing investigation are among the largest of the sex panics of the 1950s, the city’s 1955 homosexuality scandal has attracted relatively little scholarly attention. An in-depth analysis of the social, economic, and political forces that combined to produce hysteria in the community is necessary to properly situate the scandal’s victims in their historical context. Decades of public discourse that gradually supplanted pre-war notions of same-sex sexuality with the medicalized, nefarious figure of “the homosexual” primed Boise’s residents for a negative response to homosexuality in the city. Powerful post-World War II cultural imperatives concerning suburbanization and reproduction further contributed to Boise’s panic once news broke of the city’s ongoing homosexuality investigation. Additionally, a variety of factors unique to Boise, such as local economic concerns and Mormon advocacy groups, ensured the scandal’s longevity and massive scope. These overlapping historical forces and their role in Boise, Idaho’s 1955 sex scandal provide crucial insight into early American understandings of homosexuality and homophobia.

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