The Boys of Boise and LQBTQ life in Idaho

The Boys of Boise and LQBTQ life in Idaho


Annette wrote her letter just five years after Idaho underwent a massive “sex panic,” known today colloquially as the “Boys of Boise.” During this period, state officials charged sixteen men with committing “infamous crimes against nature” with teenage boys. The accused ranged from working class men to influential businessmen; thus the vision of the “homosexual menace” perpetuated by the media inundated all layers of Idaho social life. The history of anti-LGBTQ+ persecution in Idaho, of course, runs much deeper.


In 1864, one year after Idaho became a territory, the state enacted a law against “Infamous Crimes Against Nature," which included sodomy. The punishment for being charged with sodomy was to serve anywhere from five years to life in prison, at the court’s discretion based on the “contexts of the crimes.” While at their origin, sodomy laws were put in place to enforce a historically Christian, European ideal of the family unit, in the late 19th century as religiosity rose among Americans, more people began being prosecuted for sodomy on the basis of degeneracy and homosexuality. In 1925, Idaho passed a sterilization law, alongside many other states in the United States that were heavily influenced by eugenics. The law authorized the forced sterilization of select people, including “habitual criminals, moral degenerates, and sexual perverts.”[1]


A few decades later, local newspapers provided almost daily coverage of the “Boys of Boise” scandal, transforming innocent acts, such as men watching high school football together, into deeds that were potentially nefarious. “Crush the Monster,” an editorial published in the Idaho Statesman the day after the scandal broke on November 2, 1955, declared: “It seems almost incredible that any such cancerous growth could have grown roots and taken place in our midst.... Until the whole sordid situation is completely cleared up, and the premises completely cleaned and disinfected, the job is one in which the full strength of city and county should and must be enlisted.”[2] The tone was emblematic of the moral panic surrounding sodomy and homosexual perversity in 1950s Idaho.


In 1955, there were three reported decisions by the Idaho Supreme Court as a result of the “Boys of Boise” scandal. All of the men had been found guilty of the crime of sodomy and sentenced to time in prison. In one case, State v. Moore, the conviction of the banker Joe Moore was upheld with the justification that Moore had been involved in homosexual relations for 12-14 years, even though Moore testified that all of these relations were consensual.[3] In 1971, a new criminal code that repealed the sodomy laws was adopted, but an outpouring of opposition from the Mormon and Catholic churches and Republican political forces led legislators to rescind the new provision and reinstate the sodomy laws just one year later. It was not until 2003, when a U.S. Supreme Court case led to a 6-3 decision that invalidated all state sodomy laws in the United States, that Idaho had to stop enforcing its sodomy law.[4] As of 2022, there are 41 people in Idaho who are still on the sex offender registry based on antiquated sodomy charges. Read more about the history of sodomy laws in Idaho here.[5]


I try and picture Annette sitting cross legged at the kitchen table reading articles such as these that condemn homosexual life, and then taking off her long white dress and earrings and going out into the world as a man named Sheldon, knowing that she could likely face similar levels of anger and villainization if people knew about her secret life as a woman. Seeing evidence of what the political climate towards sexuality and gender was like in Idaho in the late 1950s, I am touched by the bravery she displayed in her letter; describing coming out to her friends and then going out in public with them as Annette, sharing with the people around her and the readers of Transvestia her desires, feelings, and questions about her identity.


[1] George Painter, “Sodomy Laws in Idaho,” The History of Sodomy Laws in the United States,

[2] ”Crush the Monster,” Idaho Statesman, Nov. 3, 1955.

[3] George Painter, “Sodomy Laws in Idaho.”

[4] Lawrence v. Texas, 23 U.S. 47 (2003).

[5] George Painter, “Sodomy Laws in Idaho.”