Two years before the Stonewall Riots on March 7th, 1967, CBS Reports presented an hour-long broadcast “documentary” about homosexuality hosted by Mike Wallace called “The Homosexuals”
Taking three years to make, principal filming took place starting in the fall of 1964 and continued through early 1965. Gay men were interviewed in San Francisco, Philadelphia, Charlotte and New York City. The identities of several of the men were obscured, either in shadow or, in one instance, behind a large potted palm tree.
Also interviewed were psychiatrist Charles Socarides, who strongly advocated the position that homosexuality is a mental disorder, and fellow psychiatrist Irving Bieber, who shared Socarides’ opinion of homosexuality as pathology. Interspersed with these interview segments was footage cinema verité style, of the inside of a gay bar along with shots of hustlers working a street corner and of all things a gay teenager being arrested in a public sex sting..
Charles Socarides, said when he was he interviewed ‘There is no such thing as a happy homosexual’; ‘these homosexuals are by nature unable to form steady relationships, rather their prerogative is a series of one-night-stands and hookups’. Socarides was one of many professional homophobic bigot psychiatrists of the day who earned virtually their entire living by promoting homophobia. (In a sublime irony of history, Socarides’s son, Richard Socarides, is openly gay; he served as a public policy advisor in the Clinton White House.)
And almost all of Mike Wallace’s commentary echoed Socarides disparaging views of homosexuals.
The average homosexual, if there be such, is promiscuous. He is not interested or capable of a lasting relationship like that of a heterosexual marriage. His sex life, his love life, consists of a series of one–chance encounters at the clubs and bars he inhabits. And even on the streets of the city — the pick-up, the one night stand, these are characteristics of the homosexual relationship.
For his part, Wallace came to regret his participation in “The Homosexuals”. “I should have known better,” he said in 1992. Speaking in 1996, Wallace stated, “That is — God help us — what our understanding was of the homosexual lifestyle a mere twenty-five years ago because nobody was out of the closet and because that’s what we heard from doctors — that’s what Socarides told us, it was a matter of shame.”
LGBT activist Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out labels the broadcast “the single most destructive hour of anti-gay propaganda in our nation’s history. ” and that “The Homosexuals’ not only had a devastating effect on public opinion at the time but also was a nuclear bomb dropped on the psyches of gay and lesbian Americans, who, prior to this show, had never been represented as a group on national television.”
The anti-gay arguments made in “The Homosexuals” in 1967 are still used today by right-wing extremist and “Christians” who seek to harm and destroy the LGBT Community today.
“The Homosexuals” is a must watch for anyone interested in LGBT history and how the past still affects the present and our equality to this very day.