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Gay History 1961 – WATCH: “The Rejected” The Long Lost First Aired Television Documentary About Homosexuality

The Rejected is generally acknowledged as being the first ever U.S. televised documentary about homosexuality

While there were  a few previously produced television panel discussions about homosexuality  The Rejected was the first ever full-length televised  documentary about the then controversial subject.

Originally produced and broadcast  by KQED for National Educational Television (NET) – the predecessor of WNET – and first aired on September 11th 1961, on KQED Ch.9. it includes discussions about sexual orientation from: Margaret Mead (anthropologist, pictured aboved); Dr. Karl Bowman (former President of the American Psychiatric Association); Harold Call, Donald Lucas and Les Fisher of the Mattachine Society;

“We think the swish, or the queen, represents a small minority within the homosexual grouping,” Call states. “These people in most cases are not even liked by their homosexual brethren because they have perhaps rejected themselves and they feel society has rejected them.”

Call calls for a change in laws and restrictions that put the lives and livelihood of gay people in danger, while Lucas emphasized the number and ubiquity of homosexuals living in America, not just clustered within large cities.

But it’s  Call’s closing remarks that resonate most deeply:

The homosexual is no different than anyone else except perhaps in his choice of a love object. He desires the same kind of right to live his life freely and without interference, to pursue his happiness as a responsible citizen and to receive the benefits of constitutional rights, due process and protection of the law that all of us enjoy.”

The documentary also includes: San Francisco District Attorney Thomas Lynch; Dr. Erwin Braff (Director of San Francisco’s Bureau for Disease Control; Al Bendich; Mr J. Albert Hutchinson and Mr. Morris Lowenthal (who engage in debate); Bishop James Pike and Rabbi Alvin Fine.

This documentary was written by John Reavis Jr., produced by Reavis Jr. and Irving Saraf, directed by Dick Christian, with location photography by Philip Greene.

This copy of The Rejected was lost for many years and has been restored as much as it could.  The Library of Congress states that there were several problems with the edited 2-inch quad videotape master. Many different tape stocks were used to create this program and the quality of these was often poor. The base of the tape is slippery at times, which causes an unstable control track. The stock was also physically heavy, which causes tension during take up. The audio quality is consistent throughout but there are three extended sequences – noted onscreen by subtitles – which feature bad picture quality.  The Library’s Recording Laboratory remastered these 2-inch tapes onto digital.

You can watch The Rejected in its entirety here.


Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, journalist and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story,

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3 thoughts on “Gay History 1961 – WATCH: “The Rejected” The Long Lost First Aired Television Documentary About Homosexuality”

  1. It’s wonderful that this program was saved/restored, and surprising to see the burgeoning enlightenment that was taking place at this early date. Many thanks for bringing it forward and sharing it!

  2. It is fascinating listening to this rather enlightened group of people who formed their opinions without letting their own religious beliefs to taint their opinions. It would be interesting to study how over the past 65 years religious bigotry has grown as gay rights has gained momentum. It almost seems that when homosexuality was listed as a mental illness acceptance was less of a problem. When the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from it’s list of mental illnesses and gay liberation and gay rights started to gain speed, the opponents of gay rights started to turn to their bible as justification to hate us.

  3. This is an important historical video. It’s interesting how the initial narrator introduces the subject as a “problem”. It’s a shame that a video discussing the “problem” contains interviews with homosexuals wearing masks as if they were hideous or criminals. This is a disturbing display of how ashamed society was (and still is) of its own fellow human beings. Straight people always seem to miss that point. They arrogantly assume they’re “normal” so they retain the right to determine if being Gay is good or bad. This is an ignorance that fancies it knows something therefore giving itself the right to do harm. Thanks Will.

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