LGBTQ+ History Month
February marks LGBTQ+ History Month, a time to educate ourselves on the history of the gay rights movement and identity. Here at Fever, over the past month we have been discussing and sharing movies, TV shows and books that have helped shape our understanding, and here’s some of our team’s favourites. We hope you enjoy them as much as we have!
It’s a Sin
If you haven’t yet heard about Russell T Davies’ ‘It’s a Sin’, then we really have to question where you’ve been this month. This five-part miniseries is set in London betweeen 1981 to 1991, and depicts the lives of a group of gay men and their friends who lived during the HIV/AIDS crisis. In an interview with TIME this week, Davies noted “We’re getting two reactions, which are people of my generation, remembering people they haven’t spoken about for a very long time, very often because the death was considered to be so secret and tragic. At the same time, you’ve got a younger generation who … cannot believe that the gay or queer life in any shape or form was once treated so badly in a very recognizable world.” This is a series filled with as much joy as it is tragedy, and is one that’s not to be missed.
‘Pose’ is also set in the 1980s but has an entirely different theme – the series focuses on the evolution of ballroom culture in New York City and was created by Ryan Murphy. It follows Blanca Evangelista, a ball fixture who decides to leave one house to form a rival one. Love, family, loyalty and glamour are central themes in Murphy’s depiction of the ballroom scene, which involves mainly (but not always) trans performers competing / ‘walking’ for trophies. If you enjoy this series, we’d recommend also watching the iconic 1990 documentary ‘Paris is Burning’.
The Unlimited Comms Division had a watch party for this film not too long ago, as well hosting a talk from bestselling novelist Juno Dawson. We’re recommending it here again because unlike some of the other recommendations on this list, ‘Disclosure’ takes a much broader stance on trans history, interrogating how trans lives have been represented on screen as far back as the early silent era. Including contributions from Jen Richards and Laverne Cox, ‘Disclosure’ challenges us to think about the history of film and tv itself, as well as encouraging us to consider how we can more meaningful represent trans lives in the media.
Oscar-winning ‘The Favourite’ is a dark comedy set in the late Stuart era, and is loosely based on the true story of the love triangle between Queen Anne and her two favourites – Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough, and Abigail, Baroness Masham. Although some historians have read Queen Anne’s letters to her favourites as evidence of close friendship only, finding concrete evidence for romantic relationships between women in the past is difficult. Relationships between men in history have been criminalised and prosecuted, leaving behind legal records as evidence, but the same is not true of women. In that context, ‘The Favourite’ is a good example of film-makers and history-makers attempting to recover a lost culture through telling Queen Anne’s story.
Although gender roles in Western society have historically been presented as binary, that is not true of Native American cultures, many of which hold two spirit people in a place of the highest honour. This documentary interweaves the moving story of a mother’s loss, with a closer look at what it means to be two spirit. Fred Martinez was Navajo, and one of the youngest hate-crime victims in modern history when he died in 2001. This film keeps alive his spirit, and also confronts the influence of colonialism on which LGBTQ+ stories we choose to remember.
An Observer 2020 Top 10 Debut, ‘Rainbow Milk’ is a semi-autobiographical novel that tells two distinctive but overlapping stories. The first is set in the West Midlands in the 1950s, and focuses on ex-boxer Norman Alonso and his wife Claudette following their arrival from Jamaica as part of the Windrush generation. The second is set almost 50 years later, and explores the story of 19-year-old Jesse. Coming to terms with his racial and sexual identity, he leaves his life as a Jehovah’s Witness and moves to London, where he meanders aimlessly in a haze of drugs, looking to fill the void left by his family. Then, a twist of fate changes everything.
We Are Everywhere: Protest, Power, and Pride in the History of Queer Liberation
This is a history of the Queer Liberation Movement told through photographs, expertly curated by Matthew Riemer and Leighton Brown, creators of the instagram account @lgbt_history. A visual record and celebration, it traces activism from late nineteenth century Europe through to today, through the use of over 300 images and 20 archives. This book challenges our assumptions and shows us how we can honour the past in order to shape a brighter future for everyone.