June is Pride Month in the United States, timed to celebrate the birth of the American LGBTQ rights movement, which burst out of the underground on June 28, 1969, during a rebellion at the Stonewall Inn in New York City, where patrons fought back during a police raid.
It has been an eventful Pride month already, with Pride celebrations canceled to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and the continued protests of the Black Lives Matter uprising. There have already been many highs and lows: In the same week two black trans women were found murdered, “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling received criticism for a transphobic essay, and just a couple of days after the Trump administration sought to reduce protections for transgender people in health care, the Supreme Court ruled that the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects LGBTQ folks in the workplace. It has been a roller coaster of a month and a reminder that the fight for LGBTQ rights still needs to be fought.
This could not be a more apt moment to remind and educate ourselves about the origins of the LGBTQ rights movement, which was sparked by a riot against aggressive policing, and in which trans black women, including Marsha P. Johnson, were instrumental. Several films about Johnson are readily available to stream right now, including the documentary “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson” on Netflix, directed by David France, who also directed the incredibly urgent and currently relevant film “How to Survive a Plague,” about the AIDS crisis and the importance of the activist group ACT UP (it’s free to stream on Amazon). Also available on Amazon Prime Video is the 15-minute narrative short “Happy Birthday, Marsha!” directed by Tourmaline and Sasha Wortzel, in which the award-winning trans actress Mya Taylor (of Sean Baker’s incredible “Tangerine,” on Hulu), plays Marsha P. Johnson on the fateful Stonewall night.
Debuting Friday on Netflix is the documentary “Disclosure,” directed by Sam Feder, which analyzes the depiction of trans people in media, going back to the earliest days of cinema. Feder has assembled an incredible group of trans actors, filmmakers, historians and advocates, including Laverne Cox, Candis Cayne, Trace Lysette, Alexandra Billings, Jen Richards, Yance Ford, Lilly Wachowski and more to speak about the representation of trans people in media. The film tangles with the problematic images and storylines that have historically represented trans people and underlines the cultural power of an empathetic depiction of a lived trans experience. It’s a fascinating and deeply moving work.
Also on Netflix: Season 2 of the award-winning FX series “Pose” is now available. The series takes a look at the queer ballroom scene in New York City in the 1980s and ’90s, and prominently features many LGBTQ actors, writers and directors. If you can’t get enough voguing, the newly launched HBO Max has the ball/voguing dance competition series “Legendary,” and Hulu has the stunning documentary “Kiki,” a look at ball culture in New York City today. But none of these projects would exist without the landmark 1991 film “Paris is Burning” (free on YouTube), directed by Jennie Livingston, the template for the drag culture and lingo popularized by such shows as “RuPaul’s Drag Race.”
Finally, HBO’s new docuseries “We’re Here,” a drag twist on “Queer Eye,” strikes just the right tone and celebrates living life out loud, wherever you are. In the series, three queens from “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Bob the Drag Queen, Eureka O’Hara and Shangela, descend on a small town in a flurry of glitter and sequins and put on a good old-fashioned drag show. It’s an absolute delight. Happy Pride, everyone.