Here are 12 films, docs and series you need to watch to learn more about LGBTQ+ history
School taught us nothing but these are here to help
It is a shameful but widely accepted fact that queer people are taught precisely nothing about our own history in school. Like, not a single thing. Until the education system catches up with the 21st century, it’s pretty much up to us to find out about LGBT history for ourselves – and, thankfully, these films, documentaries and TV series are here to help us.
Here are a load more films, TV series and documentaries you can watch to learn more about LGBTQ+ history. Whether you’re queer or an ally, you need to educate yourself.
Here are more films, documentaries and TV series about LGBT history, to watch after It’s A Sin:
It’s A Sin
Channel 4 series It’s A Sin follows five friends living out their 20s in London, amidst the backdrop of the 1980s AIDS crisis. It’s been hailed as a “masterpiece”, with people saying It’s A Sin taught us far more about queer history (and sex education) than school ever did. The story is obviously fictionalised (though parts are loosely based on the creator’s own friends), but it shows the experiences shared by many queer people of the time.
American series Pose has been called “groundbreaking” drama about drag balls in New York, during the 1980s AIDS crisis. These balls brought community to people who felt none, and importantly features several black transgender characters played by black trans women.
The series shows real queer identities and includes open dialogue about living with HIV. You can watch Pose on BBC iPlayer and Netflix.
2014 film Pride is based on a true story of a group of LGBT activists from London in 1984, helping a Welsh town of striking miners and their families. This campaign was named Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) and raised thousands of pounds. I can’t tell you what happens because of spoilers, but it’s an outstanding film. You can watch Pride on Amazon Prime and Apple TV.
The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson
Netflix documentary The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson is about the death of Marsha P. Johnson, a black gay rights activist who was prominent in the 1969 Stonewall riots and whose body was found in the Hudson River after Pride in 1992. As well as investigating what happened, the documentary celebrates Marsha’s life and achievements.
A Secret Love
Another Netflix doc, A Secret Love, is about two women called Pat and Terry, who fell in love in 1947. They told their families they were just good friends who lived together and kept their relationship secret for decades before coming out. The documentary is about the shame, prejudices and homophobia gay people faced, as well as telling the lives of Pat and Terry.
The Imitation Game
The Imitation Game is a 2014 film about Alan Turing, a gay man who is hailed as the father of computer science and cracked the German Enigma code in WW2. In 1952, Alan Turing was convicted of “gross indecency” for being in a relationship with a man, and he was forced to undergo chemical castration. He died two years later.
It was only in 1967 that consensual sex between men was decriminalised in England, and in 2001 that the age of consent was reduced from 21 to 16, as it is for straight people. Reportedly 65,000 men were convicted under these laws, and it was only in 2017 that a new law meant these previous convictions could be pardoned. Four years ago. This also means that in your parents’ lifetime it was illegal for gay men to have sex, and in your lifetime it was illegal for gay men under the age of 21 to have sex.
You can watch The Imitation Game, which is about Alan Turing’s life and explores some of what gay men at the time were subjected to, on Netflix.
Disclosure is a Netflix documentary about the impact Hollywood has had on the trans community. It features many trans actors and filmmakers, including Laverne Cox, Alexandra Billings and Jamie Clayton. They talk about the importance of positive representation, but also the dangers that may come with this.
Dance of the 41
A new film on Netflix, Dance of the 41 is set in 1901. It is based on a true story and shows the real-life events that led to the gay rights movement in Mexico. A gay congressman marries the daughter of the president, but spends his time at a secret club for the upper-class elite men, which is eventually raided by police – finding the men dancing with each other, many in drag.
2008 biographical film Milk follows the life of Harvey Milk, a gay rights activist and politician. He was the first openly gay person to be elected to public office in California, and the film shows what life was like for gay people in the 1970s. The film is free on Amazon Prime.
1984 documentary Before Stonewall: The Making of a Gay and Lesbian Community shows the hidden history of the LGBTQ+ community before the 1969 Stonewall riots. It uses footage from archive, film and personal interviews, and has won multiple film awards. Before Stonewall is on Amazon Prime and Apple TV.
Netflix series Hollywood is about a group of aspiring actors and film makers in the post-WW2 Hollywood Golden Age. The series focuses on several queer characters who are faced with homophobia, sexism and racism, and shows what the time would have been like.
Kinsey is based on the true story of Alfred Kinsey, a biology professor who researched human sexuality. He was the first person in the scientific community to see there’s more to sex and attraction than just being straight or gay – and these theories became incredibly significant for the LGBTQ+ community. The Kinsey scale describes someone’s sexuality on a spectrum, showing sexuality is fluid. You can watch the film on Apple TV.
The Tab’s Pride reporting series is putting a focus on highlighting LGBTQ+ issues and celebrating queer voices across UK campuses.
If you’ve got a story you’d like to tell us – whether it’s an incident of homophobia on campus, an experience you’d like to share, or anything you think we should hear, get in touch in confidence by emailing [email protected]
Read more from The Tab’s Pride series:
Featured image via Channel 4