To celebrate this year’s LGBT+ History Month, we asked RHSU staff members to recommend some of their favourite pieces of LGBT+ media. From film and television to novels and poetry, we’ve put together a handy list of some of the best pieces of LGBT+ work and creators in recent history.
Call Me by Your Name (2017) – A wonderful (albeit slow-paced) film with a powerful story. The simple storyline is enhanced by the stunning cinematography. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in film!
It’s a Sin (2021) – A British drama miniseries first broadcast on Channel 4 in 2021. Written by gay screenwriter and producer, Russell T. Davis (of Doctor Who fame), It’s a Sin is set in London between 1981 and 1991 and depicts the lives of a group of gay men and their friends during the HIV/AIDS crisis in the UK.
The writing is flawless, the character development is stunning, and everything about this show is just wonderful. It makes you laugh; it makes you cry; it is quite the microcosm of what it was like in those days – and it's unapologetic about it. There are some violent scenes, showing the fight against HIV and the experimental nature of the cures that were in use, and the devastating effects that it had on communities. This was a recommendation from multiple staff members so clearly, it’s a must-watch!
Pride (2014) – Another film that touches on the impact of the HIV/Aids crisis on Britain’s LGBT+ community in the 1980s. Set in 1980s London and South Wales, it’s based on a true story about how the Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM) group campaigned to raise money to support the British Miners’ Strike in 1984. It serves as a powerful reminder of the sheer power and importance of collective action.
Boys in the Band (2020) – A Netflix original based on a play of the same name and produced by Ryan Murphy; Boys in the Band is a fantastic film that follows the story of 6/7 different gay characters as they reunite for a birthday party. Taking place across an evening in 1968 New York, each character’s strong, confident façade slowly unfolds throughout the two-hour runtime. It has an exclusively openly-gay cast, featuring big names such as Jim Parsons, Matt Bomer, and Zachary Quinto.
Rocketman (2019) – A film about LGBT+ and rock music icon Elton John, Rocketman reflects on the trials and tribulations of being a gay man in the 1970s, having to hide who you are from the public eye, drowning yourself in drugs and alcohol to cope. The main message of the film is learning how to love yourself for who you are.
Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (2021) – A film adapted from the musical about a boy who wants to be a drag queen, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie is based on a documentary that came out on BBC Three about a British schoolboy Jamie Campbell who wanted to wear a dress to the school prom. It’s a lovely story about a mother and son relationship, but also about finding who you are and growing with the people around you. The songs are written by Dan Gillespie Sells, who is a proud member of the LGBT+ community and the frontman for The Feeling.
Wilde (1997) – A biographical film starring gay actor, comedian, and mental health activist (he is President of the charity, Mind) Stephen Fry as the titular character, Wilde details the life of Irish poet, author, and playwright Oscar Wilde. It depicts Wilde’s relationship with the poet Lord Alfred Douglas which is publicly exposed during a criminal case for libel against Douglas’s father, and Wilde’s imprisonment which occurs as a result.
POSE (2018) – A drama series about the 1980s/90s New York ballroom culture, an LGBTQ+ subculture created by African-American and Latino communities. Directed by Ryan Murphy, POSE has been praised for its highly diverse and inclusive cast, including prominent transgender actors MJ Rodriguez and Indya Moore.
Our Flag Means Death (2022) – A period comedy series starring Taika Waititi, Our Flag Means Death charts a blossoming romance between the gentleman-turned-pirate Stede Bonnet and the infamous pirate captain Blackbeard. The series has received rave reviews for its depiction of multiple queer relationships and non-binary characters. As well, the central relationship of the show is a clear subversion of traditional ideas of masculinity and male relationships.
Blue Jean (2023) - A new film to look out for, Blue Jean is currently having its theatrical release in cinemas. It tells the story of a lesbian teacher struggling under the Section 28 law; a product of Thatcher’s regime in 1980s Britain that forbid the “promotion of homosexuality”. It has been highly acclaimed by reviewers with lead actress Rosy McEwen receiving a British Independent Film Award for her debut role.
Moving away from film and television, some RHSU staff members recommended some great literature to add to your reading lists!
A Dutiful Boy (2020) – The story of how a British, gay Muslim boy comes to accept and converge all aspects of his identity. Far from a narrative that perpetuates racist or Islamophobic tropes about British Muslim communities, A Dutiful Boy is a story that seeks to unpick the complexities of intersectionality and multicultural societies.
Girl, Woman, Other (2019) – Written by British author and academic Bernardine Evaristo, Girl, Woman, Other follows the lives of a dozen mostly Black British women across generations and social classes. The winner of the Booker Prize in 2019, Evaristo’s novel draws our attention to the importance of telling stories that emphasise intersectionality as a defining aspect of women’s experiences throughout their lives.
A Little Life (2015) – An ultimately heart-breaking story, A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara is a critically acclaimed bestseller that details the lives of four friends. The story follows the tragic life of the main character Jude and the male relationships throughout his life. Short-listed for the 2015 Man Booker Prize, A Little Life is a beautifully written novel that creates a hazy atmosphere of life in New York. Set to make its West End debut in the spring, this book has remained popular since its publication. However, if you choose to read A Little Life, be aware that it discusses themes of sexual abuse, self-harm, and suicide.
The Song of Achilles (2011) – A modern retelling of the Homeric Epic ‘The Illiad’, The Song of Achilles written by Madeline Miller centres on the relationship between the heroic Achilles and his close friend, companion, and eventually lover Patroclus. Another tear-jerker and BookTok favourite, The Song of Achilles is a must-read this LGBT+ History Month!
Alok Vaid-Menon – Alok Vaid-Menon’s poetry explores themes of gender, race, trauma, and belonging. Their poetry is available to read on their website, many of which articulate compassion for one another beautifully!
Hopefully, this has provided you with some good recommendations for creative work and media created by or about the LGBT+ community to watch this LGBT+ History Month! To find out what's been happening this month, check out our campaign page.
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