When New York City police raided a gay club in June 1969, it led to six days of violence and protest, which became known as the Stonewall riots. That event marked the beginning of the national gay rights movement and is the reason why Pride Month is celebrated in June.
For those who want to learn more about that landmark moment, as well as other historic moments in LGBTQ history, “In the Life” is an indispensable resource. The series, which aired from 1992 to 2012, was the first nationally broadcast LGBTQ newsmagazine on public television. Created by film director John Scagliotti, the respected, award-winning series was unique for its focus on the LGBTQ community, which was often ignored or misrepresented by media at the time.
“‘In the Life’ represents a one-of-a-kind moving-image record that is invaluable to researchers and scholars interested in understanding the history, struggle, courage and contributions of LGBTQIA people in the latter half of the 20th century,” said Mark Quigley, UCLA’s John H. Mitchell Television Curator, using the term for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and/or queer, intersex, and asexual and/or ally.
“At a time when LGBTQIA people were mostly invisible from television, the landmark series covered crucial topics, such as the fight for gay marriage rights and the tragic murder of Native American transgender teen Fred Martinez,” Quigley said. “‘In the Life’ served to give voice and visibility to LGBTQIA people from all walks of life and to educate those outside of those communities, helping to build bridges, understanding and allyship.”
In 2012, the producers of “In the Life” approached the UCLA Film & Television Archive, a division of UCLA Library, to be the caretakers of the series’ 208 episodes and make them available online for free to students, researchers and the public. The endeavor, funded by the estate of Ric Weiland, the Arcus Foundation and Henry van Ameringen, became part of the Outfest UCLA Legacy Project, the largest publicly accessible collection of LGBTQ moving-image materials. Managed by the archive and Outfest, the project’s collection features more than 41,000 holdings.
“The greatest reward surrounding this initiative is to hear from teachers and professors around the globe about how this historic content is being utilized in the classroom to support diversity and equality in education,” said Todd Wiener, the archive’s motion picture curator.
He notes that the archive continues to work with the “In the Life” collection to discover and digitize interviews and outtakes from the series.
“The collection is so vastly rich in scope that we happily still uncover treasures, such as an unedited 1992 interview with filmmaker Marlon Riggs,” Wiener said. “Riggs’ statement, ‘We are not going to go back into closets to bow our heads,’ is a presciently rousing and timely testament to today’s current struggles for human rights.”
Among the series’ two decades of episodes, there are many highlights. These include:
“March on Washington”
In season one, an entire episode was dedicated to 1993’s landmark March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation, one of the largest rallies in American history, with an estimated 1 million people in attendance. Host Garrett Glaser described the event as “a very loud knock on the door of Washington’s power elite,” as activists and community organizers demanded an increase in AIDS research funding and civil rights for LGBTQ people.
“40th Anniversary of Stonewall”
This episode from season 17 examines how the LGBTQ movement has developed since the 1969 Stonewall riots. During an interview with playwright and activist Larry Kramer, he contemplates, “This is supposed to be in honor of Stonewall? And have we made any progress? Of course we’ve made progress.” He then adds that there are “certain things we’ve lost,” noting how the AIDS epidemic has had a great psychic effect on the LGBTQ community.
Several “In the Life” episodes are focused on AIDS, which, when viewed sequentially, illustrate how our understanding and treatment of the disease has evolved. The 1996 episode “The State of AIDS” looks at protease inhibitors and profiles AIDS activist Michelle Lopez. Ten years later, the 2006 episode “The Changing Face of AIDS” explores the advances in HIV and AIDS treatments since the 1990s, and a 2008 episode looks at the current state of the epidemic.
Although the last episode aired nearly 10 years ago, people continue to watch “In the Life” to better understand the history of the LGBTQ movement and how it relates to today.
“The stories that ‘In the Life’ covered decades ago represent issues, challenges and dangers that sadly still exist and, in many instances, have worsened,” Quigley said. “For a new generation of students and scholars, these episodes provide an unparalleled historical context to a struggle that continues. The series illuminates that LGBTQIA rights are human rights and that the cultural contributions of LGBTQIA people run deep into the fabric of the world.”