Five 2SLGBTQ+ films to watch this Pride month
There are some queer cinematic staples you should familiarize yourself with
There’s no denying that representation of marginalized communities has come a long way since the Hays Code was abolished in 1968. From Black Panther to Crazy Rich Asians to Encanto, we see more diversity in the stories being told and who tells them.
Representation of the 2SLGBTQ+ community is no different. Steven Universe helped pave the way for queer kids to see more of themselves, while shows like Gentlemen Jack and Our Flag Means Death have told historical tales of queerness that were previously omitted from the conversation.
However, like many marginalized communities, film representation of the 2SLGBTQ+ community is far from a recent phenomenon. While it may have been more niche in the past than now, there have been cinematic depictions of queerness going back to the golden age of Hollywood.
After the death of the Hays Code, filmmakers had a lot more freedom to stretch the boundaries of the stories they told, including about the queer community.
This Pride Month there are some queer cinematic gems worth checking out.
This Canadian indie gem is from 1977, eight years after homosexuality was decriminalized in Canada. The film follows Robin, a hairdresser living in Toronto, as he develops a career as a drag queen with the help of his schizophrenic friend and roommate, Liza.
The film was one of the first gay-themed films to receive a widespread theatrical release in North America and has left a sizeable impact on both the Canadian 2SLGBTQ+ community and Canadian culture. While physical copies of the film are not easy to come by, ClassicCanukCinema has uploaded the entire film to YouTube for your viewing pleasure.
Paris is Burning
This classic 1991 documentary follows drag performers and their houses as they compete in balls in New York City.
These drag balls are a little different in that competitors are judged on their dance talent, their beauty, and the “realness” of their drag — in other words, how well they can pass, whether as a man or a woman or as a member of high society.
Since many of the performers at these balls were transgender people of colour, the film explores the intersection of race, class, gender, and sexuality that gave rise to these balls. As such, the film has inspired many facets of queer culture, most notably serving as the inspiration for the FX series Pose. So, if you are interested in learning a little bit of queer history this month, Apple TV has this film available to rent.
But I’m a Cheerleader
Made in 1999, the film follows Megan, a “perfect” high school girl sent to a conversion therapy camp after her parents suspect her of being a lesbian.
While the pseudoscientific practice has seen a lot more coverage in recent cinema, this film puts the subject in a gleefully irreverent lens, as Megan and her fellow campers are subjected to the most absurd “reorientation exercises” in quarters that suggest a dollhouse more than an actual camp. So, if campy satire is your thing, you can catch it — and some superb queer content — on Crave if you have a subscription. If not, Apple TV has it available to rent.
Famous Oscar gaffe aside, this movie is well worth the hype. Released in 2016, the film follows Chiron as he grows up in late 1980s Miami. The film is arguably one of the more prolific ones centred around a Black queer person, a perspective even the queer community had long neglected.
Aside from that, however, it is also a masterful exploration of family and the struggle of trying to find your place in the world, with beautiful cinematography to boot. If you want to check it out for yourself, you can find it on any digital movie rental platform.
Queer people have had a long and storied history of finding themselves in characters normally depicted as “monsters,” which makes this 2019 indie flick a perfect addition to this list. The film follows Lauren, a trans teen who is turned into a vampire after moving in with her brother in Los Angeles.
The bloodsucker who bit her turns out to be a member of a gang of lady vampires led by Duke, who forbids her followers from turning any men, believing they should not have that kind of power.
This is a fantastic piece for folks who want something a little meatier or spookier than the traditional Pride fare, with some fantastic characters to boot. And if you’re one of the few unlucky souls who know of the existence of Lesbian Vampire Killers, renting this movie may be the perfect way to wash that foul taste out of your mouth.
In these modern times, these are thankfully not the only options for queer cinema lovers. Films like Booksmart, Love Simon, Call Me By Your Name, and Rent have shown that queer stories can have widespread appeal beyond a niche audience.
There are so many more films that I couldn’t add to this list, and hopefully there will be more to come. My hope is that you can use this list as a starting point for your queer cinema journey, and then continue exploring from there finding stories that stay with you on the way.