50 Years after “The Homosexual” aired on CBS

On March 7, 1967, 40 million Americans tuned in to watch CBS Reports: The Homosexuals, network television’s first documentary on homosexuality. Near the top of the program, host and interviewer Mike Wallace calls homosexuals “the most despised minority in the United States.” The hour that follows is filled with salacious location footage, sermonizing therapists, and shadowed interviews with distraught homosexuals.

But The Homosexuals is not without virtue. Wallace interviews Warren Adkins, an untroubled 28-year-old homosexual who capably breaks the 1960s gay stereotype with an attitude of positive self-reflection. Adkins talks about his “warm and understanding family” and addresses Wallace’s implicit nature-versus-nurture question by saying, “I never would imagine that if I had blond hair that I would worry what genes or chromosomes caused my blond hair… My homosexuality to me is very much in the same category.”

Unbeknownst to Mike Wallace and the producers of The Homosexuals, Warren Adkins’s real name was Jack Nichols, and he would continue his fight for LGBT equality for the rest of his life. In 2003, a couple of years before he died, I interviewed Jack from his home in Florida about his appearance on The Homosexuals, his co-founding of the Mattachine Society, an early gay rights organization, and his friendships with Randy Wicker, another prominent gay activist, and Frank Kameny, who petitioned the Supreme Court in 1961 after he was fired from his government job for being a homosexual.

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