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Celebrate Pride Month with diverse queer shows, films

By Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service
Published: June 9, 2023, 5:00am

June is Pride Month, a celebration of LGBTQIA+ pride and commemoration of the history of the fight for gay rights. Pride Month was started after the 1969 Stonewall riots sparked a series of gay liberation protests, and unfortunately, more than 50 years later, Pride Month has taken on a new resonance as the civil rights of queer and transgender people are being rolled back at an alarming rate in the United States.

It’s an apt time to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community as members and allies, but it’s also an opportunity to learn more about queer history, the origins of Pride and the importance of fighting to protect queer and trans lives. Many of the streaming services have collections dedicated to Pride and LGBTQIA+ stories and creators — so here are a few suggestions to help prioritize your streaming, with a focus on history and the fight for gay rights.

Max has a robust library of both narrative and documentary material focusing on queer history and issues. The award-winning docuseries “We’re Here,” follows queens from “RuPaul’s Drag Race” as they travel to small towns around the U.S. spreading the gospel and transformative blessing of drag. “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” the 15-season-long reality series, is of course available to stream on Hulu, Paramount+ and Wow Presents Plus (the international versions). Do yourself the favor if you’ve never sampled the delight that is “Drag Race.”

But drag is an art form with a long history, and the groundbreaking 1990 documentary “Paris is Burning” is required watching for all drag fans. Jennie Livingston’s cult documentary featuring interviews with queens from the New York City ball scene lays out all the lingo and references that queens still use. It’s also streaming on Max. To go back even further, watch Frank Simon’s 1968 documentary “The Queen,” following the Miss All-American Camp Beauty Pageant, newly restored and streaming on Kanopy. There are many fascinating connections between “The Queen,” “Paris is Burning” and “Drag Race” that will enhance the viewing experience.

Also on Max, the Oscar-winning 2008 biopic “Milk,” about Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to public office in California, and tragically assassinated at San Francisco City Hall in 1978. For a nonfiction take on Milk’s life and death, stream the 1984 documentary “The Times of Harvey Milk,” directed by Rob Epstein and also streaming on Max.

Oscar-nominated documentarian David France has directed three searing documentaries about the history of gay rights, including a film about Marsha P. Johnson, long considered the first person to throw a brick at Stonewall, and thus igniting the gay liberation movement. “The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson” (2017) details Johnson’s life as a transgender woman in New York City in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and also follows Marsha’s community as they attempt to sort through her mysterious death.

France was nominated for an Oscar for his incredible 2012 film “How to Survive a Plague,” about the AIDS crisis and the activism of ACT UP, utilizing an incredible amount of archival footage to craft a story of community health activism when AIDS was actively being ignored by the U.S. government. Stream it on Tubi and Kanopy. France also directed a film about the persecution of queer people in Chechnya, with his harrowing 2020 film “Welcome to Chechnya,” also streaming on Max.

While many of these titles are extremely heavy and focus on the struggle for queer liberation, a fight that is still ongoing, the LGBTQIA+ experience is also a joyful one, whether that’s celebrated in the form of drag, or in series like “Looking” (Max), “Queer as Folk,” (the original on Showtime/Paramount+, the remake on Peacock), “The L Word” (Hulu/Showtime) and “Pose” (Hulu).

To shout out a few underrated and underseen indie gems about queer life, watch Goran Stolevski’s “Of an Age,” a stunning Aussie coming-of-age drama, streaming on Peacock, and “Other People,” written and directed by Chris Kelly (“The Other Two”) about a young gay man losing his mother to cancer, streaming on Netflix.

There is a world of rich and diverse queer stories out there, so dive in and celebrate Pride.