The LGBTQIA+ community representation in media has improved in recent years, though there’s still room for progress. Whether it’s to gain better understanding or to become a better ally, it’s essential to know how far we’ve come and what efforts were made. There are various documentaries available on various streaming platforms that showcase both the challenges and achievements of the LGBTQ community. You can use a streaming device to watch them with friends. We have compiled some noteworthy documentaries that you can watch.
The Times of Harvey Milk (1984)
Harvey Milk made history as the first openly gay elected official in California’s history. This documentary follows his journey to be elected as a member of San Francisco’s board of supervisors. After three unsuccessful attempts, he finally got elected in 1977 after a shift in San Francisco’s voting methods. Milk had a tumultuous career and clashed with fellow supervisor, Dan White. In 1978, White murdered both Milk and Mayor George Moscone. In 2014, this film was entered into the National Film Registry due to its historical and cultural significance.
A Secret Love (2020)
A Secret Love is a film that explores the relationship between Terry Donahue and her longtime partner, Pat Henschel. Terry was a player in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, and they met in 1947. They kept their relationship hidden for 65 years, and the movie documents their difficulties and successes. It uses several archival materials, such as photos and home videos, to narrate the tale of the couple’s lives. The couple finally came out in the 2010s and were eventually able to celebrate their relationship publicly before Terry passed away in 2019 after marrying Pat in 2015.
Paris is Burning (1990)
In the 80s in New York City, the gay and Latino communities participated in Balls, contests where they had to walk like a runway model while judges rated them based on certain criteria. Paris is Burning explores Ball culture and the people involved. It uses archival footage from actual balls and interviews with key figures such as Angie Xtravaganza and Pepper LaBeija. The film examines the issues these communities faced at the time, such as homophobia, racism, and violence. The film won many awards in the early 90s and was preserved in the National Film Registry in 2016.
Before Stonewall (1984)
Before Stonewall: The Making of a Gay and Lesbian Community is a documentary film that examines the LGBT community before the Stonewall Riots, which are considered the beginning of the gay rights movement in the United States. The film portrays a candid look at people’s lives before Stonewall and within a culture where being out was far from the norm. Although the film is from the 80s, its message remains relevant today in highlighting the struggle for LGBTQ+ people to find acceptance and belonging. The film was archived in the Library of Congress due to its cultural significance.
The Sons of Tennessee Williams (2010)
The film, The Sons of Tennessee Williams, is about five decades of gay carnival balls in New Orleans. Although the events center around Tennessee Williams (best known for A Streetcar Named Desire), they do not relate to his work. The film depicts how gay participants faced discrimination and police prejudice in celebrating Mardi Gras the way they desired.
Matt Shepard Is A Friend of Mine (2014)
Matt Shepard was a 21-year-old gay man who was murdered while at school in Wyoming in 1998. This tragic incident drew national attention to the hostility that LGBT people faced daily. Matt Shepard Is A Friend of Mine documents Matt’s life, as friends and family remember him. The documentary provides an intimate, tragic, and hard-hitting look at the pain inflicted by bigotry and intolerance on LGBT people. The film received several awards when it came out in 2014.
Disclosure: Trans Lives On Screen is a Netflix documentary that explores the depiction of trans people in film and television, for better and worse. Key trans artists and academics such as Laverne Cox, Susan Stryker, Chaz Bono, and Lilly Wachowski, among others, are featured in the documentary. The film shows how media can shape young minds and cultural views on different groups, highlighting the importance of positive representation.
How to Survive a Plague (2012)
How to Survive a Plague follows the activist groups ACT UP (The AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) and TAG (Treatment Action Group) as they sought help for afflicted gay people during the AIDS epidemic. The film highlights how the United States government failed to treat something they considered to only affect gay people. It covers the early years of the AIDS crisis through the mid-90s, showing how activism from ACT UP and TAG improved conditions, despite the lack of concern for human life. The documentary was nominated for an Oscar and won several accolades upon its release.
See queer representation all around
Learning about the struggles and successes of the LGBTQ+ community is essential, as is watching such documentaries highlighting their journey. Along with this growing list of films, several other LGBTQ+ inclusive media genres are worth exploring. You can begin your journey with a collection of our favorite LGBTQ-inclusive games in the Play Store.