If you were to recommend one piece of media pertaining to LGBT+ History or even just the lives of LGBT+ people in general to someone who knows nothing about it and may even have little interest in it, what would it be?
For most, the obvious answer is Jennie Livingston’s 1990 film Paris is Burning, as it shows real-life experiences of black and Latinx queer people within the New York ball scene. But there are so, so many others- imagine you’re trying to describe the struggles and everyday lives of LGBT+ people, both then and now, to a straight, cisgender person who knows nothing about it. It is often questioned why so much of LGBT+ people is so focused on the past and our struggles throughout history and the things and people that we have lost. However, for me it is about looking at where we are now and where we have come from. We can’t look at the future without looking at the past.
Here are some examples of some of my favourite LGBT+ media:
Pride (2014, Dir. Matthew Warchus)
Pride is my favourite film, and for good reason. Depicting the real-life story of a group of lesbian and gay activists during the miner’s strike in 1984 and the solidarity between the miners and the group, called LGSM. If you haven’t seen it it is a must-watch, it is currently on Netflix or you can buy it from Amazon for around £5.
Milk (2009, dir. Gus Van Sant)
Milk is one of the most incredible stories I have ever seen, depicting the true-life story of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person to be elected into public office in California. I have only been able to watch the film once due to the difficult subjects it explores, so be aware that it contains death and suicide.
The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (2017, dir. David France)
I will admit I have yet to watch this at it needs to be the right time and such for me, but the reviews I have seen of it seem to be positive. Exploring the life of the transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson and her mysterious circumstances of her death, the film features interviews with her family and friends and archival interviews with Johnson herself.
When We Rise (2017, dir. Gus Van Sant, Dee Rees, Thomas Schlamme and Dustin Lance Black)
When We Rise, created by the incredible activist and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, is an eight-part miniseries concerning LGBT rights and the fights that orchestrated them. The series is based on the life of activist Cleve Jones and tells the story of the civil rights movement after the Stonewall Riots in 1969. When We Rise, to my knowledge, never premiered on UK TV and was only on the US’s ABC, so if you cannot find it, the book the TV series is based is, also titled When We Rise by Cleve Jones himself, can be purchased on Amazon.
Pose (2018, FX)
I’m still not-so-patiently waiting for Pose’s UK premiere and do not wish to watch it illegally, but I just know this show is fantastic. Even though the TV series is entirely fiction, I still felt it important to include as it is the show with the largest cast of transgender characters and depicts the lives of trans people, mostly trans women, within the African-American and Latino ball culture. The show, like Murphy’s AHS, is on American TV Channel FX and will hopefully be available on UK TV sometime in 2019!
Queer Britain (2017, presented by Riyadh Khalaf)
This one isn’t about history, but more modern experiences for LGBT+ individuals. The series, with six episodes in total and each exploring a different issue that affects LGBT+ people within Britain, premiered on BBC Three and is still available on BBC iPlayer. Issues discussed include homelessness within the LGBT+ community, body image within the gay community and racism within the community.
The Laramie Project (by Moisés Kaufman and the members of the Tectonic Theatre Project)
I’m going to begin by saying this film, available on YouTube here, will shatter your heart into a million pieces. The film tells the real-life story of a young gay man, Matthew Shephard, and features real interviews with members of the Laramie, Wyoming, where the murder took place and even features interviews with his killers. I recently read the play for my course at university and barely made it through each page without tearing up, but considering Shephard was only killed in 1998, the story is still so relevant.
What are your favourite pieces of LGBT+ Media? I hope you enjoyed this as it isn’t drag-related, but it was something I thought about doing and want to do more of- maybe some specifically looking at non-fiction LGBT books.