Satisfaction Month is right here once more. Rainbow-colored merchandise adorn window shows and commercials so far as the attention can see. Firms, nonprofits, and elected officers fall over themselves to affirm that love is love. Enjoyable, feel-good LGBTQ reveals and flicks dominate the house pages of each streaming service possible. It’s a giant queer celebration.
How did we get right here? Why will we have fun Satisfaction each June? The appropriate to inform queer tales and histories in faculties and different public areas is being threatened across the nation proper now, and it’s extra necessary than ever to protect them, if solely to take the teachings our queer ancestors discovered and adapt them for the proper political context. Listed below are 11 important queer documentaries to honor LGBTQ historical past this Satisfaction Month and past.
From the early days of movie and tv, the archetype of a trans individual was a harmful deviant. Fashionable depictions of trans individuals are far more genuine and nuanced. Disclosure offers an in-depth have a look at the best way Hollywood portrays trans individuals has modified over time and the real-world affect that illustration has on the lived experiences of trans individuals. The movie was directed by Sam Feder and produced by Laverne Cox. Disclosure premiered at Sundance in January 2020 and have become out there to stream on Netflix by June of the identical yr. The movie combines clips from historic trans characters and performances with interviews with trans individuals working within the trade as we speak together with Bianca Leigh, Chaz Bono, Alexandra Billings, Jen Richards, Susan Stryker, Lilly Wachowski, and Brian Michael Smith, amongst many others.
Disclosure was critically acclaimed, profitable a number of awards in LGBTQ media. This movie is necessary to LGBTQ historical past as a result of it focuses particularly on probably the most marginalized identities inside the neighborhood: trans individuals. Portrayals of trans individuals have traditionally been both merciless and mocking or extra subtly insidious as with the subtext of casting a cis individual to play a trans character. This casting implies that trans individuals are not who they are saying they’re. Disclosure doesn’t search to exonerate Hollywood for the hurt it has prompted, nevertheless it does keep a refreshing optimism about the way forward for trans illustration.
Not Rated, 100 minutes, out there to stream on Netflix.
The Demise and Lifetime of Marsha P. Johnson (2017)
Marsha P. “Pay It No Thoughts” Johnson is broadly recognized and celebrated because the queen of the queer liberation motion. This documentary, directed by David France, celebrates Marsha P. Johnson’s life and activism: co-founding the Road Transvestite Motion Revolutionaries (STAR) with Sylvia Rivera, collaborating in Stonewall, and advocating so fiercely for queer individuals in her neighborhood that she grew to become referred to as the “Mayor of Christopher Road.” The movie additionally explores the investigation into Johnson’s dying compiled by activist Victoria Cruz, of the New York Metropolis primarily based Anti-Violence Mission. When Johnson was discovered lifeless on the shore of the Hudson River close to Christopher Road Pier in 1992, the NYPD dominated her dying a suicide regardless of suspicious circumstances. The movie debuted on the Tribeca Movie Pageant on April 21, 2017 and was launched on Netflix on October 6 of the identical yr for LGBT Historical past Month.
The Demise and Lifetime of Marsha P. Johnson is important queer historical past viewing as a result of Johnson is the closest factor to a patron saint the LGBTQ neighborhood has. She is an emblem of resistance and pleasure within the face of oppression. Her story facilities Black trans activists who are sometimes disregarded of mainstream narratives about homosexual liberation activism within the years earlier than and after Stonewall.
Rated TV-MA, 105 minutes, out there to stream on Netflix.
Paris is Burning (1990)
Probably the very best recognized documentary on this record, Paris is Burning chronicles the ball tradition of Black and Latinx queer communities in New York Metropolis. The movie got here out one yr after the virality of Madonna’s hit track “Vogue,” and was directed by Jennie Livingston. The movie follows a number of Ball homes, particularly the Home of Xtravaganza, which additionally options prominently within the FX Present Pose.
Paris is Burning Is a critically acclaimed movie, having won film festival and critic association awards across the country, together with Sundance. In 2016, the movie was chosen for preservation in the National Film Registry within the Library of Congress for its cultural and aesthetic worth. The movie was not with out controversy, nonetheless — from inside and outdoors the LGBTQ neighborhood. The homophobic causes are apparent sufficient, however the more controversial criticism of the film facilities round the truth that the director, Jennie Livingston, is a white queer individual making a movie for different white queer individuals about Black and brown queer individuals. Regardless of this consideration, the movie is a basis of queer storytelling and an everlasting celebration of the Ball subculture.
Rated R, 78 minutes, out there to stream on HBO Max.
Learn how to Survive a Plague (2012)
A second entry for director David France, Learn how to Survive a Plague is France’s directorial debut. The movie recounts the early years of the AIDS epidemic and the botched response by the U.S. authorities. Activist teams ACT UP (The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Energy) and TAG (Remedy Motion Group) and the demonstrations of all sizes they organized have been integral to ending the epidemic and saving lives. Well-known activists from each teams, together with Peter Staley and Larry Kramer, function prominently alongside archival footage of demonstrations, information protection, and ACT UP conferences. A youthful Anthony Fauci, epidemiologist with the Nationwide Institute of Well being, makes a number of appearances as effectively.
Learn how to Survive a Plague faced some criticism for focusing virtually solely on the wealthier, whiter, cisgender activists in ACT UP, however this actually didn’t cease critics from showering the movie with awards. It was nominated for an Oscar, won a Peabody and several film festival awards. Learn how to Survive a Plague, regardless of the legitimate criticism of its gaze and exclusion of various voices, is likely one of the most complete depictions of the activist response to the US authorities’s inaction and media’s homophobia surrounding an outbreak that might go on to kill over 700,000 People.
Rated TV-MA, 110 minutes, out there to stream on HBO Max.
The Occasions of Harvey Milk (1984)
Harvey Milk, digital camera salesman turned activist, was one of many first overtly homosexual elected officers in the US when he grew to become a supervisor of the town of San Francisco in January 1978. The Occasions of Harvey Milk, directed by Rob Epstein, chronicles his meteoric rise and cultural affect in each life and dying. As a politician, he prioritized LGBTQ rights and curiosity a lot that he was assassinated alongside Mayor George Moscone inside Metropolis Corridor in November 1978 by fellow metropolis supervisor Dan White.
The Occasions of Harvey Milk debuted on the Telluride Movie Pageant in 1984. It went on to win the Oscar for Best Documentary and the Special Jury Prize at Sundance. Milk’s dying had far-reaching impacts on the LGBTQ neighborhood even past San Francisco. A notable instance is that Gilbert Baker created the first rainbow pride flag for a protest following Milk’s death. Milk’s story impacts present politics by launching Dianne Feinstein into the general public eye, the place she stays as we speak as a member of Congress. Harvey Milk’s bravery in being overtly homosexual within the Seventies is inspirational, as is the optimism with which he carried out his political profession.
Rated TV-MA, 87 minutes, out there to stream on HBO Max
Equal is a four-part docuseries narrated by Billy Porter. Episode 1 focuses on the activism of two revolutionary homosexual rights organizations lively within the Nineteen Fifties, the Daughters of Bilitis and the Mattachine Society, and stars Anthony Rapp, Cheyenne Jackson, Shannon Pursen, and Heather Matarazzo. Episode 2 focuses on twentieth century transgender pioneers Lucy Hicks Anderson (Alexandra Gray), Christine Jorgensen (Jamie Clayton), Jack Starr (Theo Germaine), and the trans ladies impacted by the Compton Cafeteria Riot (Isis King). Episode 3 focuses on the Black queer expertise within the twentieth century and stars Samira Wiley as Lorraine Hansberry, Jai Rodriguez as Jose Sarria, and Keyinan Lonsdale as Bayard Rustin. Episode 4 focuses on the Stonewall Riots and their speedy aftermath, and stars Hailie Sahar, Scott Turner Schofield, and Elizabeth Ludlow. Episode 2 was directed by Kimberly Reed, however the remainder of the episodes have been directed by Stephen Kijack.
With solely 4 episodes, the present is ready to present some data about a wide range of core matters in LGBTQ historical past within the twentieth century. It’s a crash course, nevertheless it’s an efficient one. The topics included in every episode have been deliberately inclusive. The mix of archival footage, authentic audio, and actor reenactments of actual occasions is exclusive and compelling.
Rated TV-MA, 40-minute episodes, out there to stream on HBO Max.
Seen: Out on Tv (2020)
Seen: Out on Tv is a restricted docuseries chronicling the illustration of and alternatives for LGBTQ individuals on tv. Seen is a documentary in 5 elements, all of that are directed by Ryan White. The present options clips from TV reveals and interviews with LGBTQ actors together with Janet Mock, Margaret Cho, Neil Patrick Harris, Wilson Cruz, Asia Kate Dillon, Wanda Sykes, Andy Cohen, and Lena Waithe. Every episode tackles queer illustration in a special part of tv historical past. Episode 1 covers the start of TV historical past by Stonewall; Episode 2 covers Stonewall by the late Seventies; Episode 3 covers the AIDS epidemic and its affect on LGBTQ illustration; Episode 4 covers the late Nineteen Nineties by the 2000s, starting with Ellen DeGeneres’s popping out story; Episode 5 covers the state of illustration within the 2010s.
This sequence doesn’t dive into among the darkest elements of queer historical past; these parts are past its scope. It’s simple to low cost this venture as frivolous when in comparison with another documentaries on this record, however Seen acknowledges and makes specific the direct hyperlink between the best way LGBTQ individuals have been represented onscreen and their therapy by society in on a regular basis life and in coverage. The relative ubiquity of queer characters onscreen as we speak is a revisionist bias this sequence seeks to dispel with important historic context.
Rated TV-MA, 1-hour episodes, out there to stream on Apple TV+
Do I Sound Homosexual? (2014)
Directed by David Thorpe, Do I Sound Homosexual? Is a documentary exploring particular sorts of vocal fry and speech patterns related to homosexual and bisexual males. The movie seeks out an evidence for this shared vocal paradigm in addition to indications in regards to the internalized homophobia and exterior homophobia confronted by the lads who sound “homosexual.” The movie options interviews with linguists and plenty of celebrities together with Tim Gunn, David Sedaris, Margaret Cho, George Takei, and Dan Savage.
The movie was partially funded by Kickstarter; It blew previous its authentic objective and was accomplished with different funding streams. It was launched theatrically in solely 18 theaters nationwide, so it was simple to overlook. This movie is necessary for understanding queer historical past as a result of it seeks to call and hint the historical past of probably the most unanimously acknowledged indicators of queer tradition. That the film’s director was struggling to accept this particular indicator in himself whereas making the movie can be relatable and may mannequin self-acceptance.
Matt Shepard is a Buddy of Mine (2013)
Matthew Shepard’s death is likely one of the most ugly and broadly recognized examples of anti-LGBTQ hate violence in American historical past. His homicide in 1998 ceaselessly modified the best way anti-LGBTQ violence is known and addressed in the US; the primary hate crimes laws particularly defending LGBTQ individuals is named the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and was signed into regulation in 2009 by Barack Obama. Matt Shepard is a Buddy of Mine follows director Michele Josue, a buddy of Shepard’s, as she travels to the pivotal places of Shepard’s life to commemorate 15 years since his dying. She interviews household and buddies to create a celebration of a life lower brief that’s as candy as it’s tinged with grief.
LGBTQ individuals haven’t but been protected by federal hate crime statutes for greater than the fifteen years between Shepard’s dying and the making of this movie. The facility of regressive politics on this nation proper now makes it extra necessary than ever to know the place these protections come from and the struggling the LGBT neighborhood has been pressured to endure to get there. Matt Shepard is the closest factor to a martyr the queer neighborhood has, and his sacrifice ought to by no means be forgotten.
Earlier than Stonewall (1984) and After Stonewall (1999)
This pair of documentaries are companion items and are finest consumed collectively. Earlier than Stonewall traces the historical past of the LGBTQ neighborhood in the US from the Twenties by the Stonewall Riots in 1969. It explores queer persecution, criminalization, medicalization, early homosexual rights pioneers, and the Lavender Scare that drove LGBT individuals from public service and Hollywood through the Chilly Warfare. Directed by Greta Schiller, the movie is narrated by lesbian writer Rita Mae Brown and was chosen for preservation within the Nationwide Movie Registry in 2019.
After Stonewall traces the 30 years after the Stonewall Riots. It was directed by producer of the unique movie John Scagliotti and narrated by rock star Melissa Etheridge. This movie included interviews with LGBT heavyweights like Barney Frank and Larry Kramer. It covers the successes the queer neighborhood had after Stonewall just like the declassification of homosexuality as a psychological ilness and a rise in visibility and acceptance; it covers some failures of queer liberation on this interval as effectively, such because the federal response to the AIDS epidemic and the passage of Don’t Ask Don’t Inform.
These movies are collectively a beautiful primer to American queer life within the twentieth century. Two movies collectively present a way more complete view of the nuances of a wrestle for freedom.
Earlier than Stonewall: Not Rated, 87 minutes, out there to stream on Fandor or to lease/purchase digitally on Prime Video.
After Stonewall: Not Rated, 88 minutes, out there to stream on PlutoTV.
Tongues Untied (1989) and Brother Outsider: The Lifetime of Bayard Rustin (2003)
Whereas these movies weren’t made by the identical filmmakers or cowl the identical matter, each movies aired broadly on the PBS present POV, and are tougher to search out on streaming platforms. Each movies are extremely necessary to LGBTQ historical past.
Tongues Untied is an experimental documentary that blends conventional and non-traditional nonfiction filmmaking with poetry. Created by Marlon T. Riggs, the movie was extremely controversial when it was first launched as a result of it was created utilizing funding from the National Endowment of the Arts and airied a gay kiss on PBS. The movie explores the distinctive rigidity of Black homosexual identities and experiences in a world that has refused to permit a person to carry each. It is likely one of the most in-depth have a look at Black masculine queerness in movie.
Not Rated, 55 minutes, out there for streaming on Kanopy with collaborating library card or college login.
Brother Outsider: the Lifetime of Bayard Rustin was directed by Nancy Kates and Bennett Singer. The movie chronicles the non-public and activist lifetime of civil rights icon Bayard Rustin. Rustin organized with Martin Luther King, Jr. and was one of many minds behind the 1963 March on Washington. Much less well-known, nonetheless, is the complete breadth of Rustin’s profession. He was homosexual, and this created rigidity between Rustin and the remainder of the Civil Rights leaders on the time. The movie additionally explores his relationship with the Communist Get together, his conscientious objection to serving in World Warfare II, and his arrest for being LGBTQ. The film faced some criticism for not focusing enough on the man’s queerness, nevertheless it was one of many first texts to acknowledge this a part of his id in any respect.
Not Rated, 1 hour, out there on Kanopy with collaborating library or college login