10 Documentaries That Highlight LGBTQ+ Rights, History And Representation

Documentaries

Rainbows and parades aside, Pride Month is about honouring those who paved the way for LGBTQ+ rights. With queer history lessons still absent from our schools, education about LGBTQ+ history generally comes from the media and incredible queer icons, writers and filmmakers. Whether it’s turning a lens on the Stonewall Riots of 1969, how the AIDS epidemic impacted the community or the representation of transgender people in mainstream media— we’ve compiled a list of 10 educational and moving documentaries that you can watch for all of the pride month and beyond.

Documentaries Tracing LGBTQ+ History

1. Disclosure

Disclosure breaks down Hollywood’s depiction of transgender people and the impact it has left on both the transgender community and American culture. Through interviews with Laverne Cox, Susan Stryker, Alexandra Billings, Jamie Clayton, Chaz Bono and many more, we learn about the off-screen repercussions of inauthentic representation.

2. Paris Is Burning

Focused on New York’s drag scene in the 1980s, Paris Is Burning showcases the ‘house’ culture, which provided a sense of community and support for the often socially shunned performers. Groups from each house competed in flamboyant balls that took cues from the world of fashion. The documentary also touches on issues of racism and poverty, and features interviews with a number of renowned drag queens including Willi Ninja, Pepper LaBeija and Dorian Corey.

3. How To Survive A Plague

How To Survive A Plague is a moving documentary about the AIDS scourge and the history of gay activism. It follows the efforts of activist groups ACT UP and TAG as they battle hostility and indifference in the late 1980s to bring attention to the disease while hoping to lead the drive to find a cure.

4. Breaking Free

Filmmaker and gay activist Sridhar Rangayan exposes human rights violations suffered by India’s LGTBQ+ community in his seven-year passion project Breaking Free as he explores the ancient laws and patriarchal society that influence Indian society.

5. Stonewall Uprising

Stonewall Uprising highlights the societal attitudes toward homosexuality in 1960s America and examines the events surrounding the Stonewall riots that began during the early hours of June 28 1969, when police raided New York’s Stonewall Inn. 

6. Before Stonewall

Before Stonewall intends on giving a better understanding of the experience of being gay in America over the course of the 20th century. The documentary looks back on previous decades and investigates national cultural perceptions of homosexuality before the 1969 Stonewall riot, particularly in regard to conflicts with police and censorship. 

7. Welcome to Chechnya

Welcome to Chechnya shadows a group of activists who risk unimaginable peril to confront Russian leader Ramzan Kadyrov and his government-directed campaign to detain, torture and execute LGBTQ Chechens. The documentary follows LGBTQ Chechen refugees (filmed using hidden cameras) as they made their way out of Russia through a network of safehouses aided by activists.

8. The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson

The documentary investigates the mysterious 1992 death of black gay rights activist and Stonewall veteran, Marsha P. Johnson who was found floating in the Hudson River. Originally ruled a suicide, many in the community believe she was murdered.

9. Do I Sound Gay?

Is there really such a thing as a ‘gay voice’? Do I Sound Gay? explores this question and exposes the existence of stereotypes about the speech patterns of gay men. The documentary also explores ways in which one’s degree of conformity to the stereotype can contribute to internalized homophobia.

10. Visible: Out on Television

Visible: Out on Television explores the history of the American LGBTQ movement through the lens of TV. Archival footage is combined with new interviews, for a look at homophobia, the evolution of LGBTQ characters, and coming out in the TV world. An expansive list of notable LGBTQ celebrities, from Billy Crystal to Tim Gunn and Ellen DeGeneres, candidly discuss how storytelling and portrayals have changed over time.

Also read about 5 LGBTQ+ Organisations In India Working Towards Queer Liberation

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