The Rejected

About This Item

Please note: copyright to The Rejected is held by WNET. All rights reserved. WNET is the premier public media provider of the New York metropolitan area and parent of public television stations THIRTEEN and WLIW21. The Rejected was originally produced by KQED for National Educational Television (NET) - the predecessor of WNET - and first aired on September 11th 1961, on KQED Ch.9 in the Bay Area.

Introduced by KQED's General Manager James Day, The Rejected is generally acknowledged as being the first ever U.S. televised documentary about homosexuality, broadcast on September 11th 1961. Originally titled 'The Gay Ones', The Rejected was filmed mostly in the KQED studio. Several sources - including co-producer Irving Saraf - confirm that at least one scene was shot on location at the Black Cat Bar in San Francisco (710 Montgomery Street). However, those scenes and others were cut from the film before it aired. Production correspondence written from March to July 1961 between KQED's Program Manager Jonathan Rice and NET's Director of TV Programming Donley F. Feddersen outline this process whereby The Rejected was edited down from it's original 120 minutes, to 89 minutes, then 74 minutes and finally the 59 minute version which aired. You can now view an original draft script for The Rejected in DIVA, scenes from which never aired.

The Rejected is comprised of varied discussions about sexual orientation from: Margaret Mead (anthropologist); Dr. Karl Bowman (former President of the American Psychiatric Association); Harold Call, Donald Lucas and Les Fisher of the Mattachine Society; 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 film was written by John Reavis Jr., produced by Reavis Jr. and Irving Saraf, directed by Dick Christian and features location photography by Philip Greene. Note that Professorial Lecturer of Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies at American University Bob Connelly wrote an informative article about the making of The Rejected for

The Library of Congress's Packard Campus for Audio-Visual Conservation noted that there were several problems with the edited 2-inch quad videotape master preserved at their facility in Culpeper, Virginia. In the summer of 2015 their Recording Laboratory significantly improved upon the audio and picture quality of their first transfer of The Rejected with a full digital restoration of the film. This new version was released to view in DIVA on 7/14/2015.

We'd like to thank WNET and the Library of Congress for collaborating with the TV Archive in making this program available. The TV Archive provided funding and coordination for this access project. Closed captions have been added to this new version of the film in DIVA. Opening graphic designed by Carrie Hawks.

Originally aired on
Date aired
Recording medium
2-inch quad videotape
Rights for this video belong to
WNET.ORG Properties LLC
Type of material
KQ 1020A_iLearn Video 768Kbps - SaS

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Hello. I am a student who is doing a History Fair at my school. It would be appreciated if I could perhaps use this documentary in my project. We aren't really allowed to do anything without citing the source, so of course, I wouldn't use it if it wasn't allowed, but it would be a big help if I could. Thanks!

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A few from the TV audience even wondered if any were ever in a mental institution and thought all homosexuals back then should be behind locked doors and institutionalized, like the mentally retarded. 

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Yes the audio quality is horrible. Probably a kinescope - filmed TV. No videotape yet. Anyway it would have been far better originally.

The clinical, attempted analytical and objective rather than just dismissive viewpoint, but coming from a very hetero normative place, is certainly different from today. For most people, and of course far more typically among younger people, its well, yeah, some people are gay. Some of their friends were out or came out as gay in high school. Gays in the military? Sure, whatever, why not? What's the big deal anyway?

Of course the fundamentlist etc. people are digging in their heels and making a big fuss, but their days are dwindling.

This was done in 1961. It represents the sled pushing to the edge of the hill, just before starting the ride down. It's a different world today, at least in Western and similar countries. Unfortunately in a lot of the rest it's still the year 900. 

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Truly fascinating and remarkably sympathetic!  What a wonderful hour of television.  Amazing to hear us still having the same debate over 50 years later.  

It's great this historic film has been found, but I'm surprised the audio quality is so bad. Isn't there some digital magic that can be done to clean up the sound? If not how about subtitles? When I turn it up loud enough to hear I get a lot of vibration in my speakers. It's completely annoying.

They had a panel of "avowed" male homosexuals.....incognito, in masks, voices distorted in the mid 1960's. They were all petrified of being revealed and it were as if they were convicted criminals, perverts, pedophiles and lunatics ! Male gays were seen as the biggest threat to society back then. Lesbians were basically ignored but also labeled sick, disturbed and just in need of a good dick ! A few from the TV audience even wondered if any were ever in a mental institution and thought all homosexuals back then should be behind locked doors and institutionalized, like the mentally retarded. Why ? Because they were a threat to "normal" people, children and society. This was met with tacit approval by most audience members and the panel. Can you imagine being a gay person back then and having to live in that vile pressure cooker of hate, ignorance, paranoia, mass-hysteria, misinformation and homophobia ? Is it any wonder most homosexuals either committed suicide, became raging alcoholics or joined the priesthood ?

This rare, historical broadcast is important because it gives so many fascinating views into the knowledge, culture, and superstitions of mid-20th century America.  The credits, along with the imitation "Twilight Zone" musical theme, adroitly convey the mystery, suspense, agony, and fear that so many people suffered, in silence, for so long.

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