June is Pride Month, and although there will be no colorful parades, that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate. This Pride, one of the best ways to honor the month is by learning about LGBTQ+ issues and listening to LGBTQ+ stories. Some of these documentaries are old classics, and some are new stories. All of them are worth watching so we can all remind ourselves why Pride is so important.
Paris is Burning
This 1990 documentary explores the vibrant ball culture in New York City in the late 1980s. I’m ashamed to admit I knew exactly nothing about drag balls before I watched this documentary. What I discovered was eye-opening. So much of our terminology and culture that is now so widespread was appropriated from these drag balls.
Not only does this documentary give viewers a glimpse into the wonderful and elaborate world of drag balls, but it also explores how the participants handled intense issues like AIDS, racism, and homophobia, amongst other systemic problems. I highly recommend anyone who finds themselves talking about throwing shade or using any other slang appropriated from drag culture watch this documentary to truly understand the origins of these words and this culture. It’s one of the most beautiful documentaries I’ve ever seen.
Watch it on Netflix.
Circus of Books
This documentary took me by surprise. Everything about this story was so unexpected, and I loved it. This suburban white couple who looks like they could have been part of my grandparent’s book club run a gay porn store and I want to be them when I grow up. This documentary, by it’s nature, is R-rated at best, but somehow still so wholesome. This is a fun, lighthearted, happy documentary celebrating the gays and a place that means so much so the Southern California gay community.
Anyway, if you’re anything like me, this documentary might make you reevaluate your life goals and decide you want to own a haven for hardcore gay porn with your husband when you grow up. I want to put out these delightfully eccentric, all-inclusive, unconditionally accepting vibes into the universe.
If you are in the mood for some unexpected, love-is-love amazingness, watch this on Netflix.
The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson
I watched this documentary as part of an effort to educate myself in honor of Blackout Tuesday. I had heard about Marsha P. Johnson on social media, and I knew her as an integral figure in the Stonewall riots, and a Black transgender woman who is often looked to as one of the founders of the Gay Rights movement. There is so much about Marsha and her ultimate fate that I did not know.
Johnson was a truly remarkable activist involved in many organizations focused on helping gay and trans people in New York City, in a time way before it was even remotely safe to do so. Her body was found in the Hudson river in 1992, and her death was ruled a suicide. The documentary discusses possible theories surrounding her death and why those close to her did not believe her death was a suicide. As they explore the circumstances surrounding her death, they remember her as an almost mythical figure full of power and purpose. This documentary is a moving and sometimes bone-chilling reminder to “remember the T” in LGBT.
Watch it on Netflix.
Matt Shepard is A Friend of Mine
This documentary covers the heartwrenching story of Matt Shepard and his murder. His murder is one of the most well-known hate crimes against a gay man in United States history, but what this documentary does well is tell the story from an extremely personal perspective. Matt Shepard is A Friend of Mine goes deep into Matt’s life, his childhood, and who he was. People who were very close to Matt tell their stories of him, and mere minutes in the viewer feels connected to this young boy. It makes his ultimate fate all the more tragic.
All of these documentaries are tear-jerkers in one way or another. This one, however, specifically pulls at the heartstrings with the way it is made. Plan to watch this film on a day you don’t have anywhere to be because you will be a mess. However, this is such an important story to remind us of the real-world consequences of hate and homophobia.
Rent it On YouTube or Amazon Prime Video
Do I Sound Gay?
This is a truly fascinating documentary about the stereotypes and preconceptions about the way gay men speak. Some very prominent gay men including David Sedaris, George Takei, and Tim Gunn appear in the documentary. These men share their thoughts about their own speech and how it contributes to the way people view them. Do I Sound Gay? also explores internalized homophobia and the way speech patterns might play into that concept.
This documentary is great because it talks about an issue that I’d never really thought about before. As a woman, I knew absolutely nothing of what it’s like to have anxiety over sounding “gay”. It is a really entertaining experience. Something about this documentary was so honest and open. That open dialogue, and lack of violent tragedy, made it a little more uplifting to watch.
Watch it on Hulu