Who would have guessed that the dawn of the gay and lesbian civil rights movement in San Francisco was jump-started by straight ministers at a dance? “On the first day of graduate school a professor told me a story of ministers, drag queens and the San Francisco Police Department that was so compelling, I wondered why I had never heard of it before.” Confessed Jallen Rix, the director and producer of the documentary, Lewd & Lascivious. Dr. Rix, as a Westmont Christian College graduate (’86) had a particular interest in these seemingly diametric groups, and upon completing his Doctorate of Education in Sexology, he used his dissertation to tell this amazing story in a documentary format for today’s audiences.
This little-known, yet pivotal event happened on the first day of 1965, and it was an occasion like never before. For the first time, all the fledgling “homophile” organizations came together as one to put on a costume ball to publicly reveal their community in a thoroughly respectable, yet overtly political, and queerly fabulous fashion! This was a landmark event in American history since just being perceived as homosexual was reason enough to discriminate. It was a time when simply dancing in a bar with someone of the same gender was “Lewd and Lascivious Conduct” and could result in prison sentences.
The twist was that these LGBT groups were rallied by progressive straight ministers who had seen, firsthand, the brutal police violence against this community and they were determined to do something about it. So when the SFPD showed up to try and shut the party down, the results were explosively historic!
“We realized that being ignorant about homosexuality meant that we were ignorant about sexuality in general,” said the Rev. Ted McIllvenna, one of the instigators of the party, who went on to found the world famous Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco, “We didn’t see this as a ‘gay’ issue, per say, we simply saw it as a human rights issue.” Lewd & Lascivious spotlights in lively interviews a number of famous personalities who speak from eye-witness accounts. Long-time lesbian activists Phyllis Lyon and the late Del Martin share their memories of confrontation with the SFPD. Herb Donaldson, San Francisco’s first openly gay judge, thought his legal career was over because he was arrested for obstructing a police officer in the line of duty. Jon Borset recounts losing his job when news of his arrest was published in the newspaper.
“It may have taken seven years to complete the film, but it was worth it to have these important characters in our history tell their stories on camera, especially now that two of them are no longer with us,” - Jallen Rix, sexologist, professor, and director of Lewd & Lascivious. The film pulls together an accomplished set of creators behind the camera as well. The narrator of the film, Sylvia Chase, was one of the original journalists on ABC’s 20/20 and has three decades of experience in network and public television. Executive Producer, Chris Sinton, was a former senior director at Cisco. Associate Producer, Susan Stryker, won an Emmy® for her film Screaming Queens; and many others.
The film had it’s sold-out, world premier in June at Frameline, San Francisco’s LGBTQ film festival. It then went on to garner an Audience Favorite Award at Cinema Diverse, Palm Springs’s LGBTQ film festival. Lewd & Lascivious screens at OUTrageous on November 8th at 6:30pm at the Metro 4 Theatre, 618 State Street, Santa Barbara.
For more information and to view the trailer, visit the website at
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