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Buried deep within the archives of influential LGBTQ programming is a bold, barely-remembered local-access TV documentary entitled The Rejected.
Produced by the San Francisco public broadcasting station KQED in 1961, The Rejected is widely considered to be the first piece of American non-fictional programming to ever delve into the then-taboo topic of male homosexuality. The film, in which a panel of male speakers discuss the daily oppression they face within their openly gay lifestyles, depicted the controversial "issue" with what critics considered to be a thoughtful and totally progressive take that was also wildly radical and ahead-of-its-time. It was also, sadly, widely believed to be lost to history.
It seems that after airing The Rejected, KQED neglected to archive a hard copy of the program, which has nonetheless gone on to become a teachable artifact within any number of queer studies courses thanks to the availability of scattered transcripts. The film, however, remained frustratingly unattainable.
But now, decades later, and following a difficult, six-year, cross-country search, several university archivists have uncovered the full, missing film deep within the annals of — unsurprisingly — the Library of Congress. Finally, a full fifty-four years after its release, The Rejected is now available for online viewing here. And you can read the full account of the film's re-discovery on KQED's website here.
Sure, we may never recover that long-lost, never-aired footage shot on location in San Francisco's Black Cat Bar, which several sources such as co-producer Irving Saraf claim was always shot with the intention of featuring into the final program but was ultimately scrapped for fairly obvious reasons. But this is still a fascinating and momentous discovery, a worthy reminder of progress made and progress delayed that humbly demands both our attention and our appreciation.
In this month of gay pride and celebration, let us remember to embrace the opportunity this occasion provides us to learn from, grow from, and talk about the profound gratitude we owe those who came and endured before us. Know your history. Know your debts.