Be it Pride or coming out, every affirming step towards self and community resonates with unique meaning to each individual. Yet queer people are all connected, in ways both deeply personal and beautifully universal, to a collective LGBTQ+ history.
Offering an intimate view of that vast shared history, the new FX docu-series Pride, from Vice Studios and Killer Films, makes the universal personal by presenting its multifaceted story of the queer rights movement in six distinct episodes, by six different queer filmmakers.
It’s actually seven directors total, as indie standouts Tom Kalin (Swoon), Andrew Ahn (Spa Night), Cheryl Dunye (Watermelon Woman), Yance Ford (Strong Island), and relative newcomers Ro Haber, and the team of Anthony Caronna and Alex Smith each bring a unique vision to chronicling the queer history you know. Or think you know. Or might be seeing for the first time.
“We as filmmakers were really encouraged to look for what we internally called the B-side stories of queer and trans history,” says Haber, who takes on the 2000s with the finale episode, Y2Gay. “And there is a mixture. In my episode we have mainstream voices like Margaret Cho, but I think that a lot of the stories that we love as filmmakers and that come throughout the series are the stories of folks that you might not have heard from before.”
Those stories in Haber’s episode include profiles of queer punk writer-performer Brontez Purnell (100 Boyfriends), and Dean Spade, the trans activist and attorney who founded the Sylvia Rivera Law Project. David Wilson and Rob Compton’s epic, and successful, fight for marriage equality shares space with CeCe McDonald stating her case for the rights of trans and queer people to defend themselves from violence.
“If you’re doing your sort of traditional gay history series, I don’t know whether someone would have [included] Brontez or Dean Spade, because maybe you didn’t know about those people,” Haber says. “You’ve probably heard of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project,” the NYC-based legal aid organization, named after the trans rights pioneer, and created to serve the trans, intersex and gender non-conforming community. “But did you know how [Dean Spade] started it and the origin story behind that?
“I think what our series does really well is just carefully curate those specific voices, because we as a community feel an affinity towards them. Each director has such a different perspective, and it’s the same with our community. It’s like we’re all really different. And so we’re not trying to say, ‘This is the definitive history.’ It’s a history curated by different members of the community.”
Marking eras of history from the Mattachine Society, Bayard Rustin, Stonewall, Mother Flawless Sabrina, Audre Lorde, ACT UP, DOMA, Pose, and Ceyenne Doroshow all the way to activist Raquel Willis in the finale episode paying tribute to Tony McDade, a Black trans man killed by police in 2020, Pride acknowledges new names and stories among the exalted queer canon.
“I hope everyone watches this because I just think, even when I was growing up in school, we didn’t have anything like this,” says the 37-year-old Haber, who’s already shooting their next film, a feature documentary that looks at the gender-transgressing legacy of the SNL sketch “It’s Pat.” “And I just think it’s kind of insane that there’s no definitive sort of TV history of queerness and transness, as parceled out in these decades.
“Which is not to say that there isn’t amazing work done about that already,” Haber continues. “There’s tons of wonderful docs. But to have something be so mainstream, to have it be on FX, I think that’s massive. And I just want everyone to watch it, because you’re going to find people that you identify with, or that you agree with or that you love in all of those episodes, whether it’s mine or someone else’s. I really hope that folks within our community feel good about it, and that it feels like it’s centered in us — but that it’s for everyone, which I know is a hard needle to thread. But that would be my hope.”
Pride episodes 1-3 are currently available for streaming. Episodes 4-6 will premiere on Friday, May 21 on FX at 8 p.m. ET/PT, and are available for streaming the next day on FX on Hulu. Visit www.fxnetworks.com.
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