The Daily Agenda for Tuesday, September 11
September 11th, 2012
TODAY IN HISTORY:
KQED Airs “The Rejected”: 1961. The year was a monumental one as American opened itself to the modern world in ways that it hadn’t done before. The youngest president in history had just taken the oath of office, succeeding the oldest president then in history, Hollywood relaxed its ban on overt displays of homosexuality, and Jess Stearn’s book, The Sixth Man, provided the sensational claim that one in six men in America was “affected” by homosexuality. KQED, San Francisco’s public television station, had a reputation for tackling controversial subjects, and now the time was ripe to tackle what was perhaps one of the most controversial topics of all.
The idea for a documentary on homosexuality came to John W. Reavis, Jr., who spent several months researching and conducting background interviews with experts with backgrounds in medicine, anthropology, religion, law, government and business. He also sought the participation of members of the Mattachine Society. Initially titled “The Gay Ones,” Reavis tried to sell the documentary to the major networks. But finding no backers there, Reavis found a ready reception with KQED’s co-founder Jonathan Rice and general manager James Day.
Over the objections of one of the board members who threatened to resign, Reavis’s documentary project, now renamed “The Rejected,” went forward with a #100 budget and filmed segments featuring interviews anthropologist Margaret Mead (her own lesbianism wasn’t revealed at that time), and Mattachine members Harold Call, Don Lucas and Les Fisher, who spoke openly as gay men. Episcopal Bishop James Pile spoke of gay people as being just like “anyone else with an illness,” deserving compassion and care. San Francisco psychiatrist Karl Bowman countered the idea that homosexualit was an illness, let alone that it was curable. “The attitudes of some people is to try to treat it in an entirely punitive way,” he said. Albert Bendich, a lawyer and former ACLU attorney called statutes seeking to outlaw same-sex conduct “not enforceable.”
Harold Call explained that part of his group’s aims was “to dispel part of this stereotyped picture” and to change the law against homosexuality. Reavis shared the goal of dispelling stereotypes, carefully constructing the program to establish a gay stereotype in the minds of viewers and then methodically destroying that stereotype. According to Reavis’s original proposal for the documentary, “the viewer should be left, if anything, with a feeling he is confused and that society as a whole is confused about homosexuality.” One brief segment was even filmed at San Francisco’s famed Black Cat bar (see Aug 28)
The hour-long documentary aired at 9:30 p.m. on Monday, September 11. Typical of most programs about homosexuality, “The Rejected” did not include lesbians. But it was perhaps the first scripted documentary to discuss homosexuality from a calm and rational point of view. Response was mostly positive. KQED was inundated with letters following the broadcast, with many of them requests for transcripts. Only a tiny minority, 3% according to station officials, wrote to complain. “The Rejected” also received critical acclaim, with the San Francisco Chronicle saying “KQED handled the subject soberly, calmly and in great depth.” It also received national notice, and was broadcast on several other public TV stations between 1961 and 1963, including in Tucson, Los Angeles, Portland and New York. Despite that, no film of the program is known to exist. Only the transcripts and news reports remain.
[Sources: Edward Alwood. Straight News: Gays, Lesbians and the News Media (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996): 41-42.
Bob Connelly. “A television coming out story from 1961.” The Advocate (September 21, 2011): available online.
Stephen Tropiano. The Prime Time Closet: A History of Gays and Lesbians on TV (New York: Applause Theater and Cinema, 2002): 5-7.]
Marc-André Raffalovich: 1864. Born in Paris to Russian Jewish emigrés, Raffalovoch studied in Oxford and settled in London in 1882, where he opened a salon in the 1890s. It seemed only natural for him; his mother kept a successful salon in Paris, attracting such notable figures as Sarah Bernardt, Colette, and Gustave Moreay. But Oscar Wilde found found the younger Raffalovich’s events wanting. “Dear André! He came to London to found a salon and only succeeded in opening a saloon.” Raffalovich, in turn, was uncomfortable with what he took to be Wilde’s wild sexuality.
Raffalovich published several works poetry and fiction between 1884 and 1896. Few were notable except for their ommision of gender when describing the gender of the object of his desires. It was in his non-fiction that Raffalovich established his mark on history. In 1896, he published Uranisme et Unisexualité, which established him as an expert on homosexuality. It is also where Raffalovich laid out his argument that homosexuality was only pure and noble when practiced by a “sublime invert” — who fulfills his desires not through his sexuality but through artistic endeavors and spiritual friendships. This naturally put him on a collision course with other gay advocates such as Edward Carpenter and Magnus Hirschfeld, the latter who Raffalovich accused of advocating for moral decline and the destruction of whole generations. In 1897, Raffalovich started work in Annales de l’unisexualité, and Les Chroniques de l’unisexualité, in which he embarked on an ambitious effort to document everything ever published about homosexuality. These works remain useful to historians to this day, and they remain perhaps his most important work.
But soon after, Raffalovich turned away from the subject. In 1892, he met John Gray (See Mar 2), a young poet in Oscar Wilde’s circle of friends (some say Gray was the inspiration for Dorian Gray). Raffalovich followed Gay into Catholicism, and after Gray was ordained a priest and assigned to a parish in Edinburgh, Raffalovich followed, purchased a home nearby, and provided important financial support for the parish. Raffalovich established another salon there, where guests included novelist Henry James, art scholar Herbert Read, and sculptor Aelred Whitacre. Raffalovich and Gray maintained separate homes, but their friendship was known as something more than that of “just friends,” even though they were always very formal with each other in public. When Raffalovich died suddenly in 1934, Gray was devastated. He became ill and died just four months later.
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And feel free to consider this your open thread for the day. What’s happening in your world?