LGBTQ Pride Month has been celebrated worldwide for decades, after originating in honor of the 1969 Stonewall rebellion in New York City. To commemorate the monthlong event, UCLA staff members shared recommendations of films to watch, nonfiction works to read and children’s books to share with young ones. The list represents a cross section of the LGBTQ+ cultural tapestry, including historical and contemporary demonstrations of pride among diverse gender and sexual orientation identities.
Kerith Jane Conron, Blachford-Cooper Distinguished Scholar and Research Director at the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law, recommended two children’s books, appropriate for ages 5 to 8:
- “Dazzling Travis: A Story About Being Confident & Original” by Hannah Carmona Dias creates an opportunity to tell our children that they (and others) have a right to express their gender in whatever way feels right for them.
- “Jerome by Heart” by Thomas Scotto offers a way to talk to our children about what love feels like in the context of the love that one boy has for another. It’s not a perfect story — as a mother, I would write a warm and loving response from the parents and requited love from the friend into the story. However, “Jerome by Heart” provides several conversation sparks.
I am relieved that children’s books about LGBTQ people are evolving from stories of tolerance that emphasize similarity between same- and different-gender couples who have children (e.g., “And Tango Makes Three”) to more nuanced stories about similarity and difference (e.g., “A Tale of Two Daddies”), particularly those that move beyond marriage and procreation.
When you’re merely tolerated, you are an object in someone else’s story and not the subject of your own life. I long for the day when children can see themselves represented as actors and leaders in books and other media, where being LGBTQ is a part of their story, not the sum of it. For instance, I would love to see an LGBTQ person featured in the “Ordinary People Change the World” series, which we use at home to talk about the importance of standing up for oneself and others.
Paul Malcolm, film programmer at UCLA Film & Television Archive, suggested “Chocolate Babies” (1995, free on Vimeo):
A fed-up gang of Black queer and trans HIV-positive AIDS activists raise hell for a closeted councilman in the streets of New York for his conscious neglect of the health care crisis facing LGBTQ+ communities of color. The rage so fiercely embodied by writer-director Stephen Winter’s dazzling cast finds its counterpoint — and raison d’être — in the joy, pain and tenderness they share together on the Harlem rooftop oasis where they plot, dream and party together in between their assaults on the system. Between these emotional registers, Winter barely contains multitudes, structuring his feature debut less as a narrative than as a series of episodes that flow like a dazzling and galvanizing montage of the voices, histories and desires that shape the identities of his characters and fuel their commitment to change and one another.
K.J. Relth, the archive’s film programmer, pointed out “The Early Works of Cheryl Dunye” (1991–93, free on Kanopy):
Best known for her landmark independent film “The Watermelon Woman” (1996) — the completion of which anointed her the first Black lesbian to direct a feature — Cheryl Dunye’s self-reflexivity and intimate, lo-fi aesthetic can be traced back to the early 1990s and her experimentation with docufictional videos. These six mixed media works — including, to name just three, “She Don’t Fade,” “The Potluck and the Passion” and “Greetings From Africa” — earnestly interrogate race, sexuality, gender and identity, usually with a wry, winking humor that always centers Black womxn. Dunye, writing in “FELIX: A Journal of Media and Arts Communication” in 1992: “Rather than wait for inclusion, I choose to use my marginality as what bell hooks calls a site of resistance. In Black lesbianism, I become the subject in a world where I am never ‘different’ or ‘other’ but an authority on who I am and who I am becoming.”
Alum Jade Elyssa Rivera, board co-chair of the UCLA Lambda Alumni Association and co-founder of UCLA’s Transfer Pride Admit Weekend, selected two written works.
- “Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good” by adrienne maree brown: Drawing on Black feminist tradition, adrienne maree brown challenges us to rethink the ground rules of activism by exploring how we can make social justice a joyful experience. As someone who has committed myself to collaboratively working to abolish the systems of harm established by white supremacy, homophobia, transphobia and other forms of hate, I am constantly reminded of the disproportionate impact of racism and oppression on our community. Experiencing joy in our movement for all Black lives, especially as a queer and trans person of color, is a radical political act and essential form of community care.
- “The Nonprofit Industrial Complex and Trans Resistance” by Rickke Mananzala and Dean Spade: Taking tools and lessons from antiracist and feminist scholars and activists, and recognizing widespread critique of the co-optation of the lesbian and gay rights movement by neoliberalism, this article highlights alternatives to traditional nonprofit structures. A key part of our work is re-imagining and reclaiming the ways that we care for one another. Trans leaders have always been at the forefront of justice, and this scholarly article outlines some of the ways our community deeply cares for one another.
Rose Troche and Guinevere Turner’s debut feature film is pure joy. The film’s premise is romantic comedy 101: Opposites attract through the matchmaking efforts of their friends, while various circumstantial obstacles prevent the couple from being together before, finally, they arrive at romantic harmony. In the pantheon of New Queer Cinema, “Go Fish” is a landmark for lesbian comedy that foregrounds sex, love and friendship between women with so much charm and charisma. The filmmakers take full advantage of the cinematic form by bringing together the conventional rom-com banter and meet-cute between friends and lovers with an experimental visual style. “Go Fish” pairs queer women’s sensuality with humor to deliver a heartfelt, movie-magic mantra: “Don’t think about it every second, but just don’t let yourself forget, the girl is out there.”
Todd Wiener, the archive’s motion picture curator, championed “Tangerine” (2015, on multiple platforms):
Shot on a shoestring budget with iPhones, “Tangerine” exuberantly focuses on the madcap Christmas Eve events of two best friends from L.A.’s African American and Latinx transgender community. Actresses Kitana Kiki Rodriguez and Mya Taylor were discovered by director Sean Baker near the film’s central Donut Time location at the corner of Highland Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard. These two leads tear up the Hollywood scenery with performances that are as blazingly fierce as they are tender. Under Baker’s empathetic direction, the tale of these two sex worker trans women effortlessly walks a fine line between disarming humor and pathos. Beloved by many critics and awarded by numerous film festivals, this engaging film more importantly provided the trans people of color community a much-needed cinematic platform.