October is LGBTQ History Month. While pride month is a celebration of being queer today, history month is a celebration of past achievements by the LGBTQ movement. However, many of us were not taught LGBTQ history in school, so it’s hard to know what to even celebrate. Here are some documentaries that can educate you on certain aspects of LGBTQ history.
The 1969 Stonewall Riots is thought of as the beginning of the LGBTQ rights movement, but the lives of queer people before then are not as talked about. The 1984 documentary “Before Stonewall, directed by Greta Schiller and Robert Rosenberg discusses the gay community before Stonewall, all the way back to the 1920s. The film tells a history of gay people we don’t often hear about. A history of not having the word “gay”, and underground communities and clubs. The documentary interviews people who describe their experiences as gay people before there were gay rights. Learning about queer people in a time where their existence was basically illegal, is important
How to Survive a Plague
Directed by David France, “How to Survive a Plague”, follows the 1980s AIDS epidemic and the various activist groups who fought to make the government fund research for HIV drugs. The 2012 documentary features footage of demonstrations and past and recent interviews with activists. At the time, people were dying left and right from HIV because a majority of them were gay males, a cure wasn’t a priority for the U.S. government. The film showcases the bravery and heroism of LGBTQ activists who rose up to fight to find a cure and fight a system that was killing them. To understand LGBTQ history, understanding the AIDS epidemic is critical. “How to Survive a Plague” is available for rent on Amazon Prime.
Paris is Burning
The documentary, “Paris is Burning”, touches on a specific part and time of LGBTQ history: the New York 1980s Ball scene. This film, directed by Jennie Livingston, shows a community that came together and put on events called balls. Balls are events where gay and trans people compete in costume categories. They are places where queer people could be themselves among people like themselves. The documentary features footage of these balls and interviews with numerous participants talking about
The Times of Harvey Milk
“The Times of Harvey Milk”, directed by Rob
The Life and Death of Martha P. Johnson
If you want to be familiar with LGBTQ history, then learning about Martha P. Johnson is a must. A black trans sex worker, Johnson had a huge influence on the LGBTQ rights movement, being a leader in the 1969 Stonewall riots and providing housing for homeless queer youth and sex workers. The 2017 documentary, “The Life and Death of Martha P. Johnson”, directed by David France, follows Anti-Violence Project worker, Victoria Cruz who tries to solve the mystery behind Johnson’s death. While deemed a suicide by the NYPD, many believe she was murdered. Cruz interviews family and friends of Johnson to discuss her life, death, legacy, and the problems facing the transgender community today. “The Life and Death of Martha P. Johnson” is available on Netflix.
These documentaries cover a wide range of subjects regarding LGBTQ history, but they barely scratch the surface. However, they are a good starting point into the stories, struggles, and figures of queer history, and hopefully will make you want to learn more about it. Happy LGBTQ history month!
Featured image from Pexels